"I like high contrast portraits" ???

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by ryan_warner, Nov 8, 2010.

  1. I recently had a client tell me this. I didn't get a chance to talk to her in depth about it, but hope to in the coming days. My questions are the following:
    1. What do you think she means by this?
    2. How would you approach this situation?
    When I think of high contrast portraits the solid color backdrop (usually a white or black) comes to mind. But this shoot will be outdoors in a very scenic location. So my next though is to the contrast slider in Photoshops RAW Editor, all the way to the right, but I don't think that's what she had in mind ;-)
    The client is a senior in High School and her school doesn't approach the year book the same as schools usually do. So I will be shooting not only her photo for the year book, but also her Senior Portraits.
    Any advice or thoughts on the subject are welcome, really looking to bounce some ideas around.
  2. 1. What do you think she means by this?​
    What I think hardly matters at all. What any of us think isn't going to matter. The only opinion that is going to matter is the clients. SO you will need to get examples from the client and what they like. Only then can you begin to answer #2.
  3. I agree. She came by this opinion while looking at something. If she's in high school, she's completely web savvy. As her for a couple of links to images that have the look/mood she's after.
  4. @John Deerfield: This may be true, but I want to make sure that when I do speak to the client that I am as well informed as I can be. And for me to do that I would like to get other professionals opinions on the matter. That's what I thought this place was for, the sharing of ideas to furtherer our knowledge. If I was mistaken please forgive me. Otherwise if you feel you have nothing positive to add to the conversation please do not waste my time.
  5. Perhaps she prefers low key lighting to high key? Ask her for samples :)
  6. Matt Laur & Alvin Yap. Thank you for the suggestions and information.
  7. If anything, I have learned that what people say to describe what they like means nothing without reference. She might mean High Key, she might mean saturated, she might mean blow out detail in my skin, cross processed look--who knows. Bottom line really is she hired you to do your thing, so it doesn't really matter unless she is specifically referring to something in your portfolio.
    On the other hand, if you want to try to accommodate her, which might be problematic if she is after something you don't do as a matter of course, you need to get an example--probably several--from her. I have seen people post in these threads asking "how did they do this technique" and post 4 photos. There is nothing similar between the 4 they post, except they are well done.
  8. @ John A: Catering to people has never been a strong point for me, and I always though that was a bad thing. But, I'm starting to think that if you try and fill everyones needs you'll never find your niche (unless that niche is filling everyones needs) So I've always operated on the guidelines of do what I do best and the client will be happy. It's nice to hear that I am no alone in that train of thought.
    I had planned to to approach this situation with that mentality in hand, but felt it might not be the right way to go...for some reason. Maybe the lesson to learn here is to always go with your gut instinct.
  9. Ryan, John D. did have a point, so I wouldn't brush him off too quickly if I were you :)
  10. He did. but to word it in such a "your post is pointless" manor in my opinion was, well pointless. Source for that opinion
    The only opinion that is going to matter is the clients​
  11. The truth is really annoying at times.
  12. Ryan. Your self portrait is certainly high contrast. When I had my photo business I had earlier retired from an executive job. I had to change from one who was quite aggressive and persuasive to someone who stood in the background to photograph weddings and one who catered to brides and their relatives expectations. If one has rapport with the client and there is a bit of warmth between the client and the photographer the pictures are better IMO. Even today when I do a rare job I do my best to establish a communicative bond between the client and me. I believe it is truly my job to to deliver what the client envisions they want. So my suggestion would be just to ask her what she meant in a face to face conversation. I have enough large photographs of different types including what I think to be high contrast that I could show her a few and ask her what she likes. I think it is really good to have a meeting of the minds before shooting. Your post is not pointless but goes to the relationship, however brief, that I feel important between photographer and subject. I am a father who has raised a few 18 year olds and who knows what the hell they mean. At least with mine it was sometimes hell to get at the truth. You can do really high contrast with the Lucis plug-in. Good luck my friend.
  13. I think that with all the posts here and with your original thoughts you are on the right track. High contrast really is one thing but can be displayed in a variety of ways. Like other posts state, ask her if she has any photos that you can see for reference of what she is hoping to achieve. This will be good to develop that good level of understanding with her so that she knows you are interested in attempting to do the best work you can for the client. From that, you can either say "awesome, we can do that" or go home and find similar shots and see if you can find out how they were shot. If you are shooting outdoors you will probably find plenty of photos that mimic this. If she is high school there are countless photographers that do senior portraits, look at some of their work as well. You may need to shoot at a different time of day...find a specific location that has good separation between the subject and the surrounding background, that kind of thing. Like previous posts mentioned, she has to have an idea of what she's looking to achieve based on seeing a photo(s) that represented what she likes.
  14. Funny, after reading some of the follow on comments here, I went to your photos here. Although limited, all but the shot of the dog seem to be on the contrasty side. Possibly her comment was nothing more than acknowledging the reason she hired you in the first place.
  15. I want to make sure that when I do speak to the client that I am as well informed as I can be. And for me to do that I would like to get other professionals opinions on the matter.​
    in that case you should start by doing your job. John Deerfield gave you the only possible answer to a naive question. The fact that you don't understand that is obvious but answering him the way you did doesn't belong here.
  16. @Ton: So now I'm naive because I wanted the opinions of other professionals? BTW Thank you so much for shedding light on the topic at hand, your opinions have been so helpful in this matter.
    @John A: The few photos I have posted on here are a poor representation of my portfolio. Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I'll upload some more topical appropriate photos.
  17. Don't take this personal Ryan because it's not intended to be but if you ask a question like this
    1. What do you think she means by this?​
    while taking on clients than yes, I think that's a naive question.
    What John already told you:
    What any of us think isn't going to matter​
    still stands
    Most people are quite helpfull here but not if you dismiss them like you did John.
  18. Ryan, my comment wasn't a negative, just possibly some insight--hope that was clear.
    Like I said above, people don't always see work in the same way. I remember an art director looking at a shot I had done for him and saying it was "just like" one he saw in a magazine. He sent it to me and all I could think was what planet was he from............the only similarity was that they were both shots of cellphones, not the same one or the same angle or the same process or or or.....Even my best friend, a designer was scratching his head when he compared the two. People are just imprecise when describing things, I am sure there was something important to him in both photos that he saw as similar even though most anyone else could not see it.
  19. Ryan. One thing I would like to add. I think every job I have had whether it be a wedding, a portrait, PR or a golf tournament started with a negotiation. When I didn't do an effective job of negotiation I lost money or pissed off a client (only twice in seven years). It is important to sit down and find out what she wants and what you want and come to that meeting of the minds that is so critical to a successful arrangement. That can only be done between you and your client. I have never been ashamed to tell someone that I was not clear on what they meant and that I wanted to understand their needs better. I have also been clear about explaining my limitations so as not to produce unreachable expectations. I do not sincerely believe that if I do my best it will come out all right. I think parties have to agree on the product. I do think a couple of posts on this thread have been rather abrupt but knowing photonet I think they are trying to help you. You notice that I am not trying to tell you what to do rather I am just sharing my experience; perhaps it will be helpful.
  20. @ John A: I understood that it was insight and appreciate it. I do know what you mean about some peoples ability to explain what they see. I work full time as a graphic designer and print manager so I've experienced first hand that "lack of knowing" and it can be very frustrating. So you can kind of see why I wanted as much information as I could get on this subject. I want to make sure I know all the possible pages she might be reading from.
    @Dick Arnold: I completely agree that you have to know what they want in order to provide them with just that. My goal as a photographer is to first be affordable, so I always talk price and what they would like to spend or what they where hoping to spend before I get into what they are looking for. The majority of my clients are happy with letting me put my creative twist on the job. However, occasionally I'll have someone ask for something specific, such is the case here. And usually I know just what it is they want and we are able to work from there. However, in this case it is the first time I've had someone suggest that they like "high contrast" without going further into detail. Although, I do plan on discussing this further with the client, I first wanted to see what other professionals do in this situation and how they think I should proceed. Mainly because I want to know if I am doing it correctly, seeing as how I've been flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants I always find it helpful to have as much input as possible.
  21. Ryan,
    When I hear high contrast, I think of one of the following:
    1) unsharp mask, 35% effect, 250 radius, 0 threshold.
    2) duplicate layer and set blending mode to soft light.
  22. @Yoav Epstein: Thank you for the input. Those effects are one of the "styles" I had in mind.
  23. bms


    I think if you have her email I'd take a few or maybe even just one portrait from your portfolio, run it through whatever action makes it high contrast IN YOUR OPINION, and ask her is that is what she means.
    If you are right, you have your anwers, if not... well, you need to find out...
    My 2 cents
  24. R. Hi
    Great advice all around. I am sure she can show you online.
    i am guessing but I believe it may be something like a gritty type image I have been seeing that Seniors are liking. such as the " John Hill" look or "Jill Greenberg look" , There is a plugin for lightroom that is somewhat similar. Take a look and see if it is what they want.
  25. Hi Ryan, as you probably know contrast is an interplay of lights, separating your subject from background since this is a location photo shoot it might be a challenge. The color of your subjects hair, the dress she will wear (high contrast colors) Lighting control is the key and you might need to bring your equipment on location. But all this must fit the price you will ask from her. So at this point you need to do your math and consider different scenarios to fit her budget. You will be the camera man, lighting director, prop stylist and fashion advisor. I hope this doesn't scare you. There are things you can do in photoshop but nothing beats the original negative, digital or film.
  26. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "Any advice" or thoughts on the subject "are welcome", really looking to bounce some ideas around.
    Thanks Ryan​
    If catering to people has never been a strong point for you and you intend to continue driving your business in this manner; then any in-depth conversation with the client beyond establishing that you either do, or do not make a style of image she is after, seems pointless to me.
    It would be better not to shoot the job, than to shoot it half heartedly and as a result, not accommodate what the Client was seeking.
    As to what she means by her comment: I think the overwhelming opinion is you need to ask her – and – rather than provide concrete Post Production methods of attaining what she MIGHT be meaning: my advice is more catholic and wholistic - as you are a designer you should jive with this concept - you need to think like an High School Student and envision what mediums she uses to expresses herself.
    I would be sourcing past year books and studying those.
    I would also know what, if any, role the Student has in the Production of the Yearbook.
    I would initially assume that she is the Co-ordinator or Art Editor of the School Magazine / Yearbook or similar or if not then she has the ear of the Editor or the Teacher in Charge. If this is the case, then she likely will be an Art Student or a Photography Student or a Literature Student or all three . . . I mention this because I teach High School Students and some (many) Senior Students are quite precise in their views and some most inflexible: and good communication is easy, but needs attention IMO, I guess if she does have a position of power within the Editorial of the School Year Book – you should consider what value the School, being your Major Client, has to your business.
    At the meeting with her, I would suggest that you have a tone and timbre of voice and social intercourse, more in accord with building client relations (even if you hold the view that you will not cater to her desires) and less akin to the style exhibited by some of your retorts to “advice” given to you here; as those retorts seem more in accord with the diminution of Professional Relationships.
  27. 2. How would you approach this situation?
    "I like high contrast portraits" ???

    I'd immediately respond:
    Lucky for you so there's always someone to mistake bad technique for hip and edgy.
  28. @Jill Bingham: Never even though of those two "styles" as high contrast, but the case can definitively be made that they are. Thank you for your input.
    @Eduardo Flor: Yes once I know what she wants I will probably have to re-adjust my pricing, or inform her that what she wants is not in her budget.
    @William W: I do see how it would seem pointless to meet and discus further in-depth when you consider my past record. However, maybe it's time I start to change my approach, or maybe this will be a one time exception. Only time will tell and I prefer to be flexible as my normal ridged stance might be holding me back.
    Completely agree that furthering the discussion with her is my best route. Like I said in my initial post...
    I didn't get a chance to talk to her in depth about it, but hope to in the coming days.​
    Both the year book and the finding out her role in the year book comity (if any) are excellent suggestions that I would not have thought out.
    The value of this school being a major client is immense. Currently the school runs their yearbook in the following manor. All seniors are required to provide their own photos for the yearbook. The school in no way provides a photographer, they do however recommend some. If I can get on that list I know it will generate enough business to make any "hassles" of this first shoot worthwhile. This is also another driving reason for me to consider changing my stance on client catering.
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom, I greatly appreciate it.
  29. @Kris Bochenek: Thank you for sharing. You have some really great captures in there. I would also consider them High Contrast, more specifically Mid Key High Contrast. Out of curiosity what was your lighting solution?
  30. Ryan, I used small speedlights to light this session. For this particular shot I used an SB600 off camera with a shoot trough umbrella (typical strobist stuff) to the camera right. I shot RAW and did basic PP in ACR.
  31. I though it looked like a defused single light source. Excellent results!
  32. By contrast do you mean a 5:1 ratio or greater ?
  33. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "The value of this school being a major client is immense. Currently the school runs their yearbook in the following manor. All seniors are required to provide their own photos for the yearbook. The school in no way provides a photographer, they do however recommend some. If I can get on that list I know it will generate enough business to make any "hassles" of this first shoot worthwhile. This is also another driving reason for me to consider changing my stance on client catering."​
    Then, I would not meet with "her" I would meet with "Her Group".
  34. Since your client is quite young you may want to show her examples of high contrast and high color saturation, she may be confused in what she is asking you to do.
  35. @ Harry Joseph: That's part of my issue. I'm not sure if she means < 5:1 or 1:0.
    @WW: Well I've been in contact with the teacher in charge of the yearbook and she is pretty set in her ways. So I'm just going to advertise in the yearbook and keep my fingers crossed.
    @ Jim Ducey: Very true, thank you for the input.
  36. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "1:0" is reasonably "High Contrast".
    Meeting the freinds of the girl is still, not time wasted IMO - you did say they all choose their own photographer... and anyway - you need the people skills practice - go on - be brave push the envelope a bit.
  37. Well I finally had a chance to speak with her again. And we sorted everything out as to what she meant by high contrast. Basically, she is looking for Mid-Key High Contrast more along the lines of 1:0 like this
  38. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    no image yet?
  39. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks, having a look now
    Good luck for the weekend - break a leg.
  40. Legs already broken, so I think I'll pass ;-) Thanks man, I appreciate it
  41. You may want to consider a shoot through umbrella, because being a soft large surface gives it a high contrast?
    John Zhao
    Signature URL removed. Not allowed per photo.net Terms of Use.

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