photo critiques help follow up

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by anda_m, Sep 5, 2010.

  1. Hi all
    A couple of weeks ago I asked for help concerning my outdoor portraits on this forum and everybody agreed : my pics vere bad because of the lighting (I didn't use flash and I "boxed" my models).
    I have tried to apply the advice and I came up with the photos here
    . While in my opinion they are better than my first try, they still lack...something. For example, in some pics, I have the feeling the models look "glued" to a fake backround, like in the early movies... How could I change that?
    It was my absolute first try with the flash outdoors: I set it (an sb600 on a d700 body) to TTL BL MODE, I took a few test shots and I tried to lower the output. Have I done it properly, should I've done it differently? What is still missing? I feel discouraged because I tried and read and practiced, but the portraits (which are my fave subjects btw) still miss something...
    Many thanks for your help!
  2. It would be so helpful to be able to see the EXIF data for your shots. Why don't you post your photos on
    What exposure mode did you use? Program with Auto white balance gives me my best results for flash photography. Did you compensate the exposure on the camera as well as on the speedflash?
    I'm not sure why you're even using a flash outdoors on these shots to begin with. Please explain. Set to Manual exposure mode with a shutter speed of 60 and a low f-stop, you should get fantastic outdoor and indoor photos in very low light.
    My eye says your lighting is still flat and that you have focus issues. You don't appear to be focused on THE element that will engage the viewer. For example, on bebs web sz the focus seems to be on the hat brim and not the child's face.
    Look forward to more information -
  3. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I'm not sure why you're even using a flash outdoors on these shots to begin with. Please explain.​

    Why wouldn't one use flash outdoors? Outdoor fill is quite common, I use it all the time.

    Going back to the original photos, it feels to me like there isn't enough flash, there's barely a catchlight in many of the eyes. Also, they desperately need post-processing, they feel washed out, white balance needs to be adjusted and contrast increased. Finally, they seem noisy. You should be able to shoot at fairly low ISO if you're outdoors with flash.
  4. Thanks, Alberta! Indeed, the one with the baby is wrongly focused (but I hope the only one :)). Well, I used flash because backlit subjects are too dark without fill flash. I used matrix metering, aperture priority, here is the exif data
    Camera Nikon D700
    Exposure 0.004 sec (1/250)
    Aperture f/6.3
    Focal Length 112 mm
    ISO Speed 254
    Flash On, Return detected
    X-Resolution 96 dpi
    Y-Resolution 96 dpi

    Date and Time (Original) 2010:09:04 09:29:50
    Metering Mode Multi-segment
    Focal Length In35mm Format 112 mm

    And Jeff, they are super-compressed that's why the noise. Thanks, I also feel they are washed out, I used a "neutral" setting! This could be fixed. Indeed, I feel more flash is needed, but I didn't dare do that on my first try! thnks
  5. Anda, almost without exception - (perhaps not as much as the one of the baby), if you process these images to darken the midtones, and then add some contrast, for starters, I'm sure you will start smiling about those images.
    Try that, and tell me if that doesn't make you a lot happier. :=)
    (PS. Why don't you post your photos on
  6. thanks, Mike, it's exactly what I am doing, I can't believe I didn't see that!!!!And, yes, I am smilling (about some). Thanks a lot!
  7. PS: I am really new to photonet and, by habit, I uploaded them to flckr.. Next time. Thanks
  8. Hi
    They are nice enough pictures, but like you say they lack something. You complain that they are flat which I agree with.
    You use the sb600 on your D700 which is a great combo. If you really want to get the best out of your portraits then you'll have to get your sb600 off the camera. Your D700 will trigger it remotely - learn how to do this (it's dead simple to grasp the basics) and a whole world of possibilites will open up to you. To begin with find the Strobist blog and learn what you can from that.
    With your flash sitting on the camera you will always get that flatness, because you will be unable to create shadows. Shadows are your friend. honestly, i'm not a fan of on camera flash except in a very few circumstances - like mugshots, or for fill in a formal portrait. Oh yes, and shoot manually because the auto modes tend to play it very safe which contributes to the flatness you mentioned. And use manual mode on the flashes too.
    Find pictures by other photographers that you love and then deconstruct them - where is the light coming from, what angle is it at, is it hard or soft etc.
    As for post production, youtube is a great resource for learning tricks and techniques. But the best thing to do is to try everything. If there is a slider, then slide it and see what happens. But (IMHO) the golden rule about photoshop is that the final product shouldn't look photoshopped, it should just look like a great photo.
    don't get discouraged, i think cartier bresson said to don mccullin that if you take one good photo in a year then you're doing well. just keep practising and trying new things.
    best of luck
  9. Wait for the moment. Push the button. Learn to look for emotion or somthing that makes the picture worth taking. Subjects are still underexposed. Pic of the baby with the black furry is real nice!
  10. I don't like the picture of the guy with the orange thing on his head because he is kind of caught in the middle of saying something. The light is kind of flat and boring but the exposure is good and it probably looks better with the fill flash you used than it would have without. Contrast this with the first pic of the old woman which is really nice. The light is similar but you caught her at the right moment and that makes it a nice picture.
    The pic of the guy singing is nice. Good timing. Your composition which includes the guys behind him also singing adds depth and interest to the picture. Light is still flat, low contrast. Then the pic of the two women... the background is bright, lit by sun, and they are in the shade. I would try to avoid this for the time being. It will never look natural trying to balance the exposure with fill flash. As is the bright background distracts from the women. You could balance with your on camera flash but it would be obvious.
    It's possible to find good natural light. One way is to look for big bright white things which reflect lots of light. A big white truck or side of a building reflecting sun. Then try to use those to your advantage. You can learn a lot from the strobist website but flash is not the only way to get good light.
  11. A big thanks, David and Rob! Exactly, the light is flat, this is one wrong thing. "Shoot manually", this is not a problem, but I just bought the flash and don't know how do any settings manually! Looks dead simple if you're used to it, when I saw that equation about how to choose the flash output in manual mode...Do you guys really use that? I can't agree more: subjects are still underexposed (less than in my first tries, but still) and I did not catch a worthwile moment, except in very few cases! Exactly, the pirate (with the read thing) was caught in the middle of something- singing that was- but still bad capture. The old lady is also my favourite! The quote from Bresson is really encouraging and these critiques invaluable! Ok, I have to admit I would have liked more info on how to use the manual mode of my new flash :), but can't abuse your time! Thanks!
  12. Rob is absolutely correct, flash is by no means the only way to get good light. In fact it is probably the last resort.
    Don't worry too much about the equation for flash output. Set it at 1/32 and take a test shot and then judge from it whether you need to add or take away. When you have found the right amount then go and find the composition and the moment.
    Using your D700's spot meter and spot focusing will allow you to take well exposed photographs - one thing I do is focus on the face and take the meter reading from there, then refocus on the eye. Sometimes it helps to add +1 to your exposure compensation (although that varies in different light). Personally I don't mind a blown out background, it's just down to taste I suppose, but a well exposed face stands out, get that right and you most of the way there.
    I hope that helps
  13. Thanks a lot! I can't wait to try spot metering, but, as you said, the background could be blown out...Again, it's a great idea and, for a beginner like myself, it really saves me a lot of research time and hopefully your comments will get me quicker to better pics. Thanks God though I don't make a living from photography :)! If I did and had only one good per year, it should be at the very beggining of the year :)! Thanks for your time. I understand that flash should be the last resort,and will try to remember that next time!
  14. Generally
    1. Flat lighting-- the light should sculpt the face giving a feel of three dimensions
    2. Skin tones in many of them don't look right (white balance)
    3. Not enough contrast
    4. Expressions bland to ok
    5. For the back light images, foreground subject will tend to be under exposed. Learn to balance the light with the use of off camera strobes or seek different positions/locations.
  15. one thing i should clear up - the exposure compensation will have no effect in manual shooting, it only works for aperture priority or shutter priority. but you can just lower your shutter speed by a stop.
  16. thank you!
    Steven: you are right about points 2-3, but I am not that worried because that can be fixed in post-processing. Point 1: just take the flash unit off the body and hold it to the side to have the "sculpting" effect? Or is there another technique? Point 4: I can only wait for a better moment and 5."Learn to balance the light with the use of off camera strobes", it's easier said than done :), how?
    David, thanks so much for the tips!
  17. I think you are missing some basic knowledge of lighting. Find a shady place and put somebody there. Put your camera in manual and the flash in manual. Leave the flash on the camera for now to make it simple. First take a picture without flash. Adjust the exposure so that the background looks good, make sure the shutter speed is below the max sync speed (1/250 for the D700).
    Now ask yourself how the light on the subject looks. Is the subject brighter or darker than the background? If the background is good but the subject is too dark turn the flash on and adjust the power manually until you think it looks good. Maybe the light is ok but there are shadows under the eyes. Then you might only need a tad of flash to fill them in. Maybe the background is too dark. Then change your angle or composition or move the subject to a different place. Normally what you're looking for is your subject to be slightly underexposed when the background looks good, then you add the flash at the right level to balance.
    The next step would be to get the flash off of the camera, and then to increase the size of the flash by using an umbrella. You can experiment by holding the flash or just placing it somewhere that is eye level or higher and at about 45 degrees to the subject. But it's a pain to hold the flash and shoot at the same time. With one flash and one umbrella and a stand you can take some great portraits. Of course you can take great portraits with just your camera but you need to have some feeling for where to find good light.
  18. Exactly, Rob: "I think you are missing some basic knowledge of lighting.", I am. In theory, I know what I should avoid but I definitely don't have enough practice to have the "feeling" of light you are talking about! Thanks, invaluable critique and help and as soon as I will have another opportunity I will try step by step what you just said! I can't thank you all enough!
  19. Exactly, Rob: "I think you are missing some basic knowledge of lighting.", I am. In theory, I know what I should avoid but I definitely don't have enough practice to have the "feeling" of light you are talking about! Thanks, invaluable critique and help!As soon as I will have another opportunity I will try step by step what you just said! I can't thank you all enough! It might look simple to you, but when you're trying to learn, when you have only a couple of months photography experience, it doesn't come natural! Sometimes you feel discouraged, frustrated, want to throw in the towel..You might know what I'm talking about :).
  20. Anda,
    I am really a beginner also particularly with regards to portraits and even moreso with my most recent gift of a shiny new flash!
    So my advice more in how I have approached learning to look at light and using flash, particularly fill which I think is quite difficult as a beginner to feel more comfortable with. My suggestion is along the lines of what Rob advised, but really take it back to basics to get that 'feel' of the light.
    Firstly, I would suggest finding some great blogs and tutorials (and threads) on how flash works and particularly how it translates to your camera settings. Then, grab a friend who will be patient and take Rob's advice. Outdoors, where there is both shade and full sun and start applying the knowledge from the blogs as you move around. Don't worry about the photo content or composition, just the lighting - use different settings and start taking photos, making mental note of what you're doing and using as many different settings even though it's the same photo - ie, if i add X amount of flash what affect is it then dial it up or down and if I move the person over here or there, facing the light, away from the light, angles of light etc. Then when you download them you will be able to see what gave what results. I'm a very hands-on person and for me, this approach helped me learn a lot about how my flash worked for me.
    Another suggestion, something I learnt as an art student which has helped me in photography is to always look at shadows and highlights... a great way to practice that in your photography is to go and literally take photos of shadows! Not only do they look interesting and can give you great affects, you can start to see how the light & dark works on the objects and how that can affect the result of your photos.
    Hope that helps!
  21. thanks, Kylie! It's a great approach and this is what I plan to do. Unfortunately, I don't have as much time as I'd like to practice, but I would definitely print out :) what Rob said and then try different settings/positions and see what works best!
    Thanks for your time

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