Why does this fashion photo look "more professional" than this photo?

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by brittany_hansen, Jan 3, 2011.

  1. Here's the "more professional" photo:
    Here's the "non-fashion" photo:
    I love the first photo, and I was trying to find a "non-fashion" photo to compare it to that had similar lighting (based on the shadows on the neck). It doesn't look like either have "assisted" lighting. Just natural sun.
    I love how the professional fashion photo is more gritty and has a loss of detail. I know film gives this look, and I know some fashion photographers still use film, but many do not and they still achieve this look (especially in magazines like Vanity Fair and Vogue). How?
  2. To the contrary, I would say that the "professional" shot absolutely has the aid of subtle fill from an artificial light source, or from a reflector (probably the latter). There is also the substantial difference in composition, in subject/background separation, in the subject's deliberately elegant and facially relaxed pose, vs. the snapshot subject's sun-induced squint with no thought given to her chin position, or her eye level, relative to the camera. There are many, many factors that make these images so wildly different.

    One thing I'm not seeing is any grittiness or loss of detail. It's very hard to say, since that's obviously a scan from a magazine, badly downsized for web viewing (which is causing that grid pattern). There is plenty of detail in the swimsuit textile, hair, etc. In fact, the snapshop of the girl in the jersey is showing some loss of detail because of the blown-out highlights. The "pro" shot is much more carefully exposed and has been gently handled in post.
  3. My 2 cents worth -
    The "fashion" photo was probably shot on film or with a medium format DSLR - whereas the snap shot was probably a compact p/s digital.
    I can almost guarantee that the fashion photo was not shot in natural light by itself - there were probably at least 1 - 2 reflectors and auxilary lights in combo.
    Also - don't under estimate the power of a good stylist and makeup artist - I'm assuming the 2nd photo didn't have the benefit of either whereas the fashion photo most likely had at least one of each.
    I'd suggest looking for a copy of SI's making the swimsuit edition - I think I remember seeing it on DVD - while we can have a debate over the subject matter - there isn't much debate on the quality of the photographers from SI and they show that getting the right shot isn't all luck - it deliberate planning of poses, wardrobe, lighting and timing.
  4. It doesn't look like either have "assisted" lighting. Just natural sun.​
    One of the signs of a proper light setup: it looks natural even if it's not (entirely). Reflectors were used in the "pro" photo.
  5. Why does this fashion photo look "more professional" than this photo?
    The fashion photo is effectively selling a product- bikini for plus girls- attractive, tastefully styled, appropriate model -very straightforward framing and naturalistic lighting, typical editorial style catalog shot.
    The other is a candid in all ways, not selling or presenting anything well, of some squinty eyed bottle blond who, from the angle is likely way too short to even be a legitimate model. And too old.
  6. Concept, model, make up, styling, pose, lighting, background, color correction, retouching, equipment use, photographer's knowledge, working with model... everything. Photography is a process, not good luck and equipment.
    Compare regular toyota to porshe 911..... why are they different?
  7. yes, one is a staged photo with a model in an appealing environment, with carefull lighting, good composition/posing and the other is just a snapshot of a beautifull young woman.
    the two shots can't be compared on any level, except maybe the facial beauty of the models.
  8. Sorry, I should have been more clear. I know the composition, make-up, pose, model, background, etc. is totally different. I'm not at all concerned about that for this question. I'm trying to figure out what fashion/portrait photographers do to their photos that make them look gritty, grainy, not as crisp. Digital always looks so "hyper-realistic" to me and sometimes as if the subject is illuminating more light than they actually are. They look too clear, too crisp, too detailed. But the "pro" photo looks muffled-er, less detailed-er, smoother, less realistic? The "un-pro" photo looks like a casual snapshot, and I can see fine detail on her face. Granted, the "pro" photo is not a close-up, but it's less realistic looking maybe? Yes, the photographer may have been using film, and yes, lighting counts for a lot, but there's something in post that I'm dying to learn about.
    Like this photo, there some "haze" or something over the image. And I love how 2D it looks. Yes, I know it IS 2D, but it's so flat - like a painting. And many amateur shots looks more 3D...
    I don't know...I give in....
  9. I have been concerned about the same problem myself and have developed some work-arounds that help matters out. However, since neither of the example shots that you cited appear to be yours, it's against photo.net rules for me to post examples of post production techniques that reduce the "digital look" that you don't like, so I summarized my tweak below and am sending you an email about this.
    To summarize, while one can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, I took the "bad" digital example you cited, switched out the background, reduced the contrast on the face (including lightening the deep eye shadows), applied selective smoothing to the skin, and used what amounts to "negative clarity" on the skin (as can be done in ACR), you come up with something that is clearly in the "less digital" direction. Unfortunately, I had very little time to devote to this exercise, so the result now looks obviously like it had been processed, but at least it's no longer quite so "snapshotty". :)
    However, if the 2nd photo you cited had used careful control of contrast and other aspects of lighting, appropriate makeup, a better background, etc. in the first place, vastly less PP fudging would be necessary, even though the 2nd image was shot with a digital camera.
    Tom M
  10. Brittany, this photograph looks VERY 3D! Besides it is lit and composed to make the 3D look stronger.
    I suggest you to study painting (painters), colour, composition and all your questions will be answered. There is no magic to it, just knowledge.
    Very often images in the internet dispaly more like paintings because they are simply scanned from magazines, they are not made of original camera files/film scans.
    Digital files very often look artificial on the screen but when you print them in a magazine it is very hard to say if film or digital were used. On the contrary film scans look good on the screen but printed in a magazine look outdated very often or they look about the same as digital files.
  11. Are you talking about saturation?
  12. First of all....the woman in the second photography IS a model and a well known one at that, her name is Kendra Wilkinson, most famous for her work in playboy and now has her own tv show.
    As you can see number one reason the two photos don't appear to be of similar quality is the post editing process....if you want to get professional results one of the BEST things you can do is take a college course on Adobe Photoshop CS5 or similar....i recommend using adobe products.....CS5 and their newest program Lightroom is also a great investment.
    Reflectors and diffusers appear to be in use for the professional shot. A large rice diffuser probably to the upper left hand side of the model to soften the overall hard light from the sun and a white reflector on the right hand side of the model.....I would've used a silver reflector personally to give it a harder look and a white reflector in front of the model to soften the shadows under her neck... but the result is quite beautiful using just the white reflector.
    I can promise you that the model used in the photograph is also older then Kendra based simply on her body composition. There is a reason professional studios pay exorbitant amounts of money for high end photoshop wizards....I had the lucky chance to intern with a professional photographer in L.A. two years ago and the before and after prints were astounding. I can definitly tell you it's worth paying the money for excellent editing software and taking the time to really learn and understand how the programs work.
  13. Short answer - Common production-art skin-smoothing retouching for fashion / glamour work. The process takes about 5 minutes or less for both the bikini shot and Kendra using no actions or plugins.
    The resource - Google search for Suzette Troche-Stapp, Glitter Glamour Guru book.
    I was able to match Kendra's photo to the bikini in 3 minutes but since those images are owned by others, I can not upload them here. Let's try one of yours?! If you're game, upload one using NO reflectors in full, harsh sunlight.
  14. Hmmmmm. Well, I think Igor and Matt are right about the "pro" photo being a scan, and that's what's contributing to the "gritty" effect.
    Rose - I'm definitely trying to find a good Photoshop course. I took one in college as a requirement for my undergraduate art degree, and it went over the basic stuff. It did not even come close to covering what I am trying to learn. I will keep searching or buy a good book on CS5. I like the photo you posted. Definitely what I'm aiming for (for certain looks) in terms of photoshop-abilities.
    Stephen - I will look into the book, but I'm afraid it's a book on how to "make someone look slimmer" or "change out the background" et cetera. I want to learn how to change the overall look - not individual items.
    I feel like I'm going to give in and shoot in film again, but that's just way too damn expensive. I just can't stand the way digital looks sometimes, but I know I can remedy that if I'm proficient in Photoshop - and now I've come back to my initial question. There's gotta be something in post. It can't all be on set. Yes, lighting counts for a lot, but there's something else. Again, I repost the pic from Vogue...
    The Vogue and Vanity Fair look is definitely what I'm going for. Also, I love "the movie look" especially with films like the recent Sherlock Holmes. Desaturated, deep blacks, yes - but also an overall grit. It doesn't look like real life!!
    By the way, thanks for all the posts. I appreciate any help.
  15. Brittany Hansen <--> Olivia Stats
    Are you the same person?
  16. oh yeah, that's weird. haha. yes, that's me too. i think i forgot the password to one and just got lazy and made a new account. sorry for the confusion! olivia is my bogus whatever name...
  17. Brittany -
    If you want to add film effects - you might try ColorEfx Pro/SilverEfx Pro from Nik Software - it has a number of customizable pre-set effects that mimic certain film processes (cross processing, bleach bypass, etc). It also has some interesting auto selection capabilities ("control points") that work pretty well in a lot of circumstances to target modifications to particular elements of the image.
    I would also recommend Natalia Taffarel's Beauty Retouching DVD. Even though it focuses a lot of beauty retouching (skin, hair, eyes, lips, etc), the concepts that I've learned from it really helped me in other areas of PS manipulation.
  18. Hi..my 4 cents on the images...
    I agree with others, there's little to compare with these images...the first is marketing, digitally altered, and professionally composed with reflectors. The second is a snapshot.
    1) Notice the shadow that her head makes on her neck and the very slight shadow her nose makes...she would have to be looking up and to her left to remove the shadow but she's looking straight ahead. This is done with a light source to her top-right directed down at her.
    2) This second light source also pops her out of the drab blue background by making a slight silhouette on her right side which cannot be achieved with the sun blaring on her from her top-left.
    3) All these are either achieved digitally or using a reflector...probably both. I think it was assisted digitally because she has almost a cartoon-like smooth skin for a 1950s models look, probably with a botox or airbrush action in Photoshop. You can also estimate this by the high fidelity crispness of her figure and the blurriness of her facial features.
    4) Finally, there is a crosshatch that is intensified by the scan on the page. This was either caused by the printing process or most likely added to cover up the airbrush. This is also sometimes exchanged with a film-grain effect.
    If you want to learn more about lighting, I suggest finding a book on 3-point-lighting for film or photography. Its a skill that can be learned by anyone.
    If you want to learn Photoshop, you should probably take a course on it as it takes a lot of practice.
    If you want a film-grain effect when shooting on the fly, crank up the ISO to 1600+ on your SLR even in good lighting conditions. You'll need a sharp lens, and of course, as in all photography and evinced by the first model, lighting is essential.
    Best Regards,
  19. First of all....the woman in the second photography IS a model and a well known one at that, her name is Kendra Wilkinson, most famous for her work in playboy and now has her own tv show.
    There are models and there are models. Maybe if I was a 13 year old boy with a stack of Playboys under my bed I'd recognize her for all modeling fame and glory. The thread was about fashion, not short strippers with store- boughts who became celebrities for posing naked (and not even as a Playmate) and being an old rich guy's girlfriend.
    Next time I will be sure to repeat the words "legitimate fashion" before each use of the word "model" on this web site.
  20. There is a great different in light quality, on the bikini shoot there is less difference between the light and the shadow the light is coming more from the side and it´s less diffused. one like this will get you you closer to the result you want In daylight.
    For a softer look on digital just buy a bad zoom lens.

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