Most common PP for portraits?

stsinner

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I'm trying to get better at taking portraits, and from what I'm reading just about all of the seasoned people on here seem to do some sort of PP to every single shot.

What is some good advice for make portraits look good? I've read some multi-step guides to taking good portraits, but it talked mostly about position of the subject, background, etc.. Is there one or two or more techniques that every good photographer knows about that is done in post to portraits to make them studio quality, or is that just the multi-thousand dollar camera the studios use?

I bought Portrait Professional, but it just made my kids look like Barbie Dolls. I used umbrella flashes, but it washed out the color.

Thanks for the info.
 

ANDS!

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Flashes shouldn't wash out color. Saturation can be added in post.

I would imagine someones post depends on what results they want. Are you asking what kind of retouching people do, or what kind of artistic effects (like blurring, edge softening) they use?
 
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stsinner

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Flashes shouldn't wash out color. Saturation can be added in post.

I would imagine someones post depends on what results they want. Are you asking what kind of retouching people do, or what kind of artistic effects (like blurring, edge softening) they use?

Well, I look at the portraits that are on my walls, and they just look so good. I thought they were just taking the picture, but reading in here, it seems post work is almost always done with people shots-weddings, portraits, etc.. I thought taking a good picture was just a matter of knowing what settings to set on your camera, but post work is turning out to be much more prevalent than I expected. I just wondered if there are certain filters or actions that everyone knows can take a portrait from okay to wow.. I guess I really don't know how to ask the question, so I hope someone can translate my thoughts..

Looking at my portrait shots, I think I had a white balance issue, as well in my latest bunch, but the color just looks so blah..

11_28_2008_4886.jpg


In this picture, the flashes hadn't charged up yet when I shot, resulting a more underexposed picture where the colors weren't so washed out:

11_28_2008_4896.jpg




I'm admittedly very new to Manual, and I know these pictures are terrible, but I usually shoot in one of the program modes-either Shutter or Aperture priority, but usually AUTO. Manual is the only way I can get my remote flash to fire at the right time, but the rest of the settings are not cooperating.

Thanks for the help.
 

Big Mike

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Good portraits (or just about any photography) is all about light. If you can use the light effectively, you can go a long way. Post processing can help but probably can't save a shot from poor lighting.

It appears that you are having white balance and exposure issues. Work on that before getting on to PP.
 

tsaraleksi

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It's good your staying with manual, remote flashes really do not work in any other mode. The big thing to understand here is that your shutter speed matters very little for strobe/flash photography. As long as it's not slow enough that ambient light can enter the image and blur, and not so fast as to exceed your sync speed, you can just set it and forget it. The fact that the non-flashed image is so well exposed means it's not going correctly. Stick with 1/125 for your shutter speed. I can't remember what flashes your working with, but they should have a manual mode. Once you start thinking carefully about your settings, it will slowly begin to be a bit easier. For practice, try the following:

Get one subject, preferably someone who will sit stillish. Take one flash, set it to say, half power. Set your camera based on what you see when you take the first picture, until it looks pretty much right in the LCD (ideally you would have a flash meter but that's neither here nor there). Now, just play with where you put the light and see what happens, how it changes the way it looks. Once you are comfortable with one light, bring the second one into play. Set one on full, the other on half, and expand from there. The ability to craft the way the light works is the joy of studio work, and playing with it is the only way to learn.

I don't really care for heavy PP in general, on little kids you probably do not have to do anything-- kids have great skin, usually.
 

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+1 to Big Mike. White balance should at least be in the ballpark (you'll often find yourself doing small adjustments in post), focus, lighting, exposure.

For the more portrait-ish images that I produce, my process is usually the following:

1. blemish correction - pimples, wayward hairs, etc -- it's usually kids so food-removal (grin)
2. Exposure correction - if needed, small bumps to things like shadows/highlights -- these are often artistic choices rather than fixing something intrinsically wrong with the photo
3. Color correction
4. Contrast (curves mainly)
5. eye work -- I almost invariably apply a very tiny amount of dodging and burning to the eyes on an overlay layer.
6. Sharpening
7. Special effects -- This, for me, is almost always limited to duplicating the image into its own layer with a multiply blend, and then running an extremely feathered selection to barely burn the edges of the image.

Sometimes before 6, I'll make artistic choices (cross-processed, black and white, desaturated, what have you.)
 
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stsinner

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I appreciate the helpful post, tsaraleksi, but my problem might be that I'm working with very cheap flashes-the $20 Quantaray MS-1, which has only an on/off switch. What I do is stop my sb600 all the way down and fire it up, which is enough to set off the optical strobes, because I have a relatively low white ceiling, and the Quantaray's fire at full power every time.

Now, let's go from there-if there's anywhere to go with such a cheap setup.

Thanks for the help.

12_04_2008_4984.jpg


12_04_2008_4985.jpg
 

tsaraleksi

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You should be able to do everything I suggested with them in that case as well, except that the way you'll have to adjust the light ratios is by moving the flashes around. Light's intensity falls off fast, so you can just move them back a ways and you should be alright. Obviously it's not going to be the same as working with monolights but you should be able to get some pretty nice results with practice.

example: I shot this with a single light with the power turned all the way down:

421207997_4Lcyk-M.jpg


You should be able to shoot something like this with your set up, I think.
 

Johnboy2978

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I think I might take the SB600 and attach it to the umbrella and learn to effectively light with only one and use a reflector for fill in. Can you not use the SB600 off camera? Check out the strobist.com and this may be helpful as well: http://www.lowel.com/edu/foundations_of_lighting.html
 
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stsinner

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I think I might take the SB600 and attach it to the umbrella and learn to effectively light with only one and use a reflector for fill in. Can you not use the SB600 off camera? Check out the strobist.com and this may be helpful as well: http://www.lowel.com/edu/foundations_of_lighting.html


Thanks, but the D50 doesn't have capability for off-camera flash.. I would imagine there's some sort of hot-shoe mount cabled thingie I can buy, I don't know.. I think I would be doing all right if I could just get the white balance figured out, because it's not real straight forward. For example, one time when I was photographing our training at the fire department, neither fluorescent or incandescent worked-I had to set it on cloudy for the colors to be true, which doesn't make sense to me at first thought because we were indoors at night.. I am going to check out the link you provided.
 
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stsinner

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You should be able to do everything I suggested with them in that case as well, except that the way you'll have to adjust the light ratios is by moving the flashes around. Light's intensity falls off fast, so you can just move them back a ways and you should be alright. Obviously it's not going to be the same as working with monolights but you should be able to get some pretty nice results with practice.

example: I shot this with a single light with the power turned all the way down:

421207997_4Lcyk-M.jpg


You should be able to shoot something like this with your set up, I think.


Chalk this question up to being new and not criticizing your work, but is that considered a good portrait, even though half of his face is so dark that it's unseen? Again, I'm honestly asking and learning what's considered good work.

Thanks.
 
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stsinner

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And do most people fire through their umbrellas or use them as reflectors? I'm pretty sure your next question would be what kind of umbrella, as I'd imagine that matters. Mine are translucent white.
 

tsaraleksi

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Chalk this question up to being new and not criticizing your work, but is that considered a good portrait, even though half of his face is so dark that it's unseen? Again, I'm honestly asking and learning what's considered good work.

Thanks.

What does the side of his head contribute to the image? Flat even lighting is uninteresting.
 
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stsinner

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What does the side of his head contribute to the image? Flat even lighting is uninteresting.

That's a good point, but I was just wondering if that black area would be considered an oversight, inadequate lighting, or perfectly acceptable. Again, I'm not criticizing, but asking in order to learn.

I think I'll try some portraits tonight if my two little models are in the mood... With a 1 year old baby, it's so hit or miss...
 

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I believe your umbrellas are designed to shoot through, not bounce.

My 13 month old is my subject most nights also, and moods vary often and quickly!

GL!
 

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