Need a Quick, Specific Critique

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by mbbrown, Jul 12, 2009.

  1. The image is driving me bananas. I love it, so I'm not looking for "like it/don't like it" kinds of critique. I'd like to know the following:
    1. Does it immediately strike you as flat?
    2. Do the darker chairs in the background detract from the image?
    I've been futzing with it for nearly an hour and my eyes are about to pop out of my head.
    I've recovered as much highlight area I possible before it goes flat(ter).
  2. OK, I'm going to answer my own questions...
    Yes, I think it's flat, but not necessarily in a bad way.
    Darker chairs in b/g offer some separation between b/g and subject.
  3. Yes, and yes, particularly what looks to be the beginning of a 'halo' around her head. However, the face (especially mouth corners) strikes me as too contrasty in comparison to the rest of the image, so if you up the contrast even more, I think this area is going to look unnatural.
  4. Back to the drawing board...
  5. Quick response.... yes, it's flat. The image lacks dimensionality and lacks light direction. I don't really enjoy it as you've presented it, as to my eyes it looks a little plastic. The eyes are over-sharpened relative to the rest of the image; they have a high level of contrast in an image where relative contrast is very low. That immediately looks wrong, at least to me.
    If I were looking at this image I'd want it to look something closer to this, with more contrast and dimensionality. And quite probably with even more contrast than I've shown here, as I've been pretty restrained with this in recognition of your starting point.
  6. It is a very strange looking image, synthetic is a good descriptor for it (as has been said).
  7. I'm not keen on it - looks really flat and not very attractive to me... if you post the orginal - I'm sure some of us will take a whack at it...
  8. Couple things:
    Made it a B&W because of mixed light sources. Church gymnasium was converted to sanctuary for ceremony. Big sodium vapor lamps directly overhead, plus some window light and some flourescent thrown in for good measure. Not the best situation. Dominant light source is obviously flash with one at (approx.) a 45 degree angle serving as main, and on-camera serving as fill. Went for a 3:1, but it seems to be a bit higher than that. Not happy with the mish-mash of colors, nor the harsh shadow on bride's chest.
    Got about 600 more from this wedding to get through and find I'm spending too much time on an image that is no longer exciting me like it did when I first saw it.
    But, here's the orig. in JPEG form, minimal processing. Have at it.
  9. here's my 5 minute fix on it... for b/w
  10. I like the original before all the voodoo that made your eyes go buggy. Leave it alone and love it.
  11. Boom. I'm done. My brain hurts.
    Thanks to all who contributed.
    I'll save the story about how my 9 year old daughter managed to change the monitor calibration while looking for a video game she plays on this computer.
  12. I still do love it.
    And now I love it even more because I'm done with it.
    Again, thanks to those who responded!
  13. Here is my try:
    Gradient map B&W> Shadow/highlight adjustment> Local (face) curves and healing.
  14. The colour original is the best because the skin tones are great and contrast well with the white chairs. A good example where fiddling makes it worse. You could run it through Portrait Pro to smooth out the skin textures on the face, but thats all.
  15. one last shot at it... I like it in color and cropped closer
  16. Most of these sample tweaks make me go "Ouch!" The skin gradation has gone from delicate to over the top. I see what Michael likes about the first monochrome version. It has a classic old school appeal, very soft and romantic. Any global tweaks will overdo it. You'll need to do some very selective tweaks to specific areas, otherwise that delicate gradation in her skin will suffer.
    Don't change the skin tone in her face, neck, arms, etc. at all. That includes the gradations from highlights to shadows. Don't mess 'em up. The first version at the top of the page is perfect. Ditto the chairs. Leave 'em as-is.
    Just work on separating her gown from the surrounding chairs, and flowers from her gown - both gown and flowers need more detail. Tweak the eyes carefully, lighten the pupils to get some separation from the irises. Maybe the hair as well.
    I wouldn't attempt this with just the small JPEG here.
  17. This is great, all these different opinions and visions. I love seeing how our styles differ, but not seeing a right-or-wrong viewpoint. I liked all the versions posted of this image, though some would be uncharacteristic of my style.
    The first version, at the top, I still think is flat, but I'm still drawn to it. It has such an odd quality to it. I like my final version of the B&W (and thank the posters for inspiration), and will be showing that, as well as the color version, to the bride.
    I cropped in a little myself, but liked the sea of chairs as a b/g frame, so I left enough to still get the effect.
    But I will say that it's easy to go overboard with an image. The original version is often your best version.
  18. Man, you guys are good at photoshopping! I actually like about every variation!
  19. Yeh, I should modify my "Ouch!" comment a bit. None of the tweaks here are bad. But the effect Michael wants is like holding a snowflake without melting it, or a thin sliver of frost without breaking it. I have old family portraits from the 1930s-'50s with this effect - very low contrast, high key, very soft, romanticized effect. It seems unfamiliar now, but was once considered state of the art for professional portrait and wedding studios.
  20. Here's what I would do with the image.
    I saw it as more of a high key, so I played with it towards that end.
    I took the original jpg and did a little skin smoothing.
    Switched it to LAB colors, took the "lightness" channel and used that as my BW image.
    Played with the curves a bit to make it little brither. Then I dodged the eyes like 10%
  21. I think the original one is the best. I would keep it that way from what I've seen.
  22. Michael,
    "Kinda where I was headed originally."
    This is the best version for my taste, although I like the 'flat' first also.
    It's hard if you are run into it to come out clear - a) I often take my first gut feeling and b) a timeout.
    Nice thread - good idea to come out with the question as it focus us also.
    Regards Axel
  23. I was happy to do it! I have always enjoyed and repected the opinions of my peers.
    Although I do think the "kinda where I was headed originally" version was best. <snicker>
    But, if not for the inspiration and ideas...might not have gotten there as easily.
  24. NICELY done David! Great B&W
  25. Regarding the image I like number 5 from the top.
    What I dont like is her smile, too much for this part of the world where I live, but my guess is that it is just fine for the US?

    Other opinions regarding her smile?
  26. Haha! M M! What sad corner of the world do you live in where a big smile is frowned upon?
    Just kidding.
    But, seriously...this was her real, natural smile. I do not attempt to control such things.
    I don't know why that comment made me giggle. :-D
  27. No worries Michael, well not frown upon... looks not real and natural, but I do believe U on this one :)
    yeah, just recently I was walking down street and noticed that everyone is sad, not people were laughing or even smiling, too much concern over a cresis? Nah, cant be :)
  28. I like the color original color version far, far better than any of the black-and-whites.
  29. Arie has a point. The warm tones overall work together well, though I don't care for the shadows between the chairs. Interesting to rework the color original with selective desaturation. Lex's comment about choosing manipulations carefully to enhance tonal separation is more than a point--it's key to transforming our snapshots into photographs, and we'd do well to remember it.
    Michael's observation that with regard to subject expression, "I do not attempt to control such things," puts him outside the realm of portraitist and into the realm of candid snapshooter. We accept natural expressions in the ordinary process of everyday life, but they acquire a different dimension when frozen in a photo, and here I'd say the subject looks tense rather than natural. It's certainly possible to deemphasize the lines under the eyes and around the mouth and make the catchlights a little larger, and still have the subject say, "That's the real me." Hard to do convincingly, but an excellent skill to have.
    Of all the monochrome variations suggested, I prefer the original. There is a slight dark halo around the head that might be lightened, and the dress at the bottom of the picture can use a little more darkening, simply to make these areas consistent with the rest of the picture.
  30. I'm with Martin. High Key is the way I'd go. I added a vignette around it and in a beautiful frame the high key image can be stunning. Give them the color version without the highlights on the forehead and they should be happy. Bill
  31. Charles, I won't continue to argue the point that the smile on this bride in particular, in this shot in particular, is the same smile she had through the entire wedding, including the reception when she was much more relaxed, engaged and mostly camera-unaware. I find it odd you label me a "candid shooter" and not a "portraitist" based on one image, and one comment. Of course I offer verbal ques to tweak a smile if I feel it's forced or unnatural. But what I do not do is attempt to change a person's natural smile to suit an image. This was her natural smile. This is what I don't attempt to change or control.
    My goal with any bride at any wedding is to capture them at their best, their most natural and most representative of their true self. My intervention on any bride's smile is limited to drawing-out a natural expression, creating a relaxed atmosphere and taking several images of each set-up to get the best representation of mood.
    I do a very healthy Senior Portrait business, as well as countless bridal and engagement sessions (despite not being a "portraitist") and apply these same principles to those, as well. Although I do take a bit more time to tweak the set-up as much as possible.
    I have now said all I will say on the subject of her smile. I find it incredibly judgmental for anyone to critique that. It was not solicited, nor is it in any way helpful, post-event. She is a client of mine and I proudly defend her unique look as I would any of my clients. Additionally, I feel good about how she was represented in all of her wedding images; I feel like I captured her mood and spirit, and that is what a true "portraitist" does.
    Gee, I almost feel like I should post transcripts from college where I obtained a degree in Photographic Science with a Major in Portraiture.
  32. It's an interesting style, it brings attention immediately to the eyes and then to the flowers.
  33. I agree that the original color photo is the best of all. Nicest textures in the dress, and the color
    in the flowers seems to add an innocence to it...just an opinion, mind you.
  34. "It's certainly possible to deemphasize the lines under the eyes and around the mouth and make the catchlights a little larger, and still have the subject say, "That's the real me." Hard to do convincingly, but an excellent skill to have." -Charles Heckel​
    In the interest of taking into consideration the comments of my peers, I've prepared a quick mock-up of just such a suggestion, cropped a bit tighter for viewing. To me, it looks a little unnatural. Granted, I went beyond subtle, but the idea is represented, I feel.
  35. By the way, I've already presented the B&G their images. Now we're just having funzies. :)
  36. My Idea on your photo. I really liked the Black and White that you did. Although I don't much care for this latest rework, mostly because it looks a little too unatural to me. I really liked your original crop too. Anyway, I ran an edit for what I would do if it were mine. I used a Green filter in the BW conv. A little Diffuse Glow filter blended to help give a bright, soft feel. I also reduced the dark contrast around her eyes and mouth as many people pointed out. I lightly Gaussian Blurred around the Bride to help draw a little more focus toward her. Last I added a Sepia photo filter at 25%, layer blend 10% to help with skin tones. Just my take on your great shot... :)
  37. It looks like you used the red channel to do your b&w conversion. If so, try adding in a little of the blue and green channels as well, maybe 70% Red, 15% each blue & green. That will keep the freckles to a minimum but still retain good contrast and separation from the background.
  38. Like this...
  39. Michael, Here are my versions in mono and col. My fix took around 5 minutes each shot. healing some blemishes on the brides face, then lo opacity cover to smooth skin and remove the shadows created by the flash. I actually added a little eye liner to the bottom of the eyes, whitened eyes and in the col version boosted the hair saturation and lips a little. In both cases added diff glow then erased effect on bride, cropped shot done. Good luck with the other 600 shots. Thanks for sharing. Clive
  40. and mono version
  41. I like the cropped color version best I know that it supposed to be about the bride but the flowers pop in the color version
  42. My take on the bride -
  43. Usually I am the type that agonizes over a decision like this as well but for me this one is obvious: Stay with the color. I think the chairs are the most interesting part of the image and when you convert to B&W they start to lose depth and definition. It's almost like she's sitting in chair in front of a chair-painted backdrop. I would keep the color.
    I think the best picture on this page is the un-touched original color.
  44. and for the color
  45. Hey, I'll also have a shot at it. Kept it in color but high keyish.
    The mixed lighting is not good though Michael. Have you thought about gelling your flash with a CTO?
  46. I'm sorry but here's another one...
  47. Close cropped and in color as it's her skin than makes her seperate from the background. I wouldn't call it flat as there was good contrast in the first B&W just a lot of the same tone. Take a break and go back to it lots of good suggestions.
  48. Pete S.'s 10:46 pm edit is very Vargas girl-like.
  49. Thanks Lex, I'll take that as a compliment.
  50. As it was intended, Pete. I like it. Not sure about the effect for this particular photo, but overall I'm a big fan of Vargas! You might consider developing this as a signature style to offer clients for special occasions.
  51. I love the original. It's high key, low in contrast, and that's how it should stay. Many of the other versions are almost cartoonish. Keep it as it is. I love it (Oops, you didn't want anyone to say that!).
  52. Here's one more idea that popped into my head right away. Crop a little, but also vignette. This way you don't have to worry about the dark chairs at the top, as they become a part of the effect instead of a problem. The B&W conversion ca be done to taste. This was just a quick one to give an idea of what was in my head.
  53. I prefer the original by a large margin. The only adjustment that I would recommend is to desaturate the color slightly, and I mean SLIGHTLY. She's looking a little bit too tan. Other than that, the original is fine.
    I like the crop that someone suggested, but it's not better than the original, just a different look.
  54. Michael, you offered not merely a comment but a particular philosophy about your work, and I remarked that it put you outside the genre of portraiture and into that of candid photography. You apparently meant not that you don't attempt to control expression, but that you accept the natural expressions of your clients. This is something portraitists do (as if they had any choice in the matter), but it also makes expression fair game for the thousand-and-one tweaks that are the subject of this thread.
    You demonstrated strong skills in modulating your client's expression, producing a look you yourself don't much care for, in which the no-doubt-superficial appearance of tension was gone. I don't know which version your client would prefer, but I suspect she would reserve the strongly character-driven version you like for friends and family, and present the more modulated version for public consumption. You yourself made the important point here: your modulated version is an extreme, and there are countless intermediate variations between the senior-portrait look and nature in the raw. However you feel about such modulations, they do put you in control.
  55. Mike !! Leave the Original....... It is just fine.... Awesome Job ! Well Done !
    I would leave it just the way it is.
    Darrell <^..^>
  56. Charles, you are correct, though I haven't much to add other than to say my level of intervention both during set-up and post-event is decided upon a case-by-case basis. Putting aside my contention the expression on this bride is natural based on my all-day interactions with her, and seeing her, as I stated "camera unaware" and still seeing a very similar expression, I felt like any additional tweaking of her expression would have produced an uncharacteristic look. That said, I agree the modification image produced a more relaxed expression.
    The issue is where do all these tweaks cross from aesthetic modifications to character modifications. It's a thin line. This bride hired me based on my work and I feel like strong mods are uncharacteristic of my style and would be a misrepresentation of my style.
    I'm happy to do mods like that, and I do more for, say...senior portraits, engagement portraits and the like. But I also don't want to risk setting a precedent for heavily modifying a wedding that consisted of over 500 images.
    If I could, I'd retract the comment, "I do not attempt to control such things." as it was too broad a statement for something that is so situational. What I should have said was "I do not attempt to alter what I perceive to be a natural expression during set-up." Post-event? As we've seen, there are a bazillion different takes on any one image. None of them necessarily right or wrong, but I do need to be true to the photographer hired by this bride and deliver to her what is expected and what is, to the best of my abilities, a true portrayal of her on her wedding day.
  57. And lastly...
    This one is my final attempt. B&G already have images. Delivered both the original (a bit cleaned-up) and the B&W I offered somewhere mid-way in this thread.
    But I like toying around in Lr and Ps and came up with a softer, desat version. I kinda like it...kinda on the fence with it. But, it's fun to play and you can never get too much Lr and Ps time.
  58. Micheal, I love the pastel ish one... perfect. as I was reading the thread, it was the image that poped into my head, and here you've gone and done it!
  59. Michael, my take is either stay with the original colour version or the B&W version you posted (image 5 from the top). The rest, although expressions of others' opinions, look overcooked in one way or another. This image can definitely hold its own as is, so IMHO I think only minimal tweaking is required.
  60. Wow, we went from a cool photo to plastic to wash out and back again.

    Charles H. said:
    "Michael's observation that with regard to subject expression, "I do not attempt to control such things," puts him outside the realm of portraitist and into the realm of candid snapshooter. We accept natural expressions in the ordinary process of everyday life, but they acquire a different dimension when frozen in a photo, and here I'd say the subject looks tense rather than natural. It's certainly possible to deemphasize the lines under the eyes and around the mouth and make the catchlights a little larger, and still have the subject say, "That's the real me." Hard to do convincingly, but an excellent skill to have."

    So I am wondering if we catch the "real" personality of the individual are we nothing more than a "snapshooter"? There is no reason to over process this one. She is one of those gals with a big "oh my gosh" grin. The color version of the original is best maybe a light vignette, but not that over processed Barbie doll plastic stuff. Bring the levels up a tad and call it a great catch. I love it!

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