Why some studio portrait are so terrible?

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by pawel_baranski, Jan 5, 2018.

  1. Hello!

    I often stubmle upon on photography, sometimes made by beginners, sometimes full time photographers, that look just terrible.

    There is example number one - Magdalena Grycza Make Up Artist & Stylist

    And there are plenty of more examples - FOTOGRAF | Paulina Lupa

    And i always thought that this must be mostly about the lighting, that is too hard and too flat, and partially about the post-processing.

    However, right now I'm watching Nick Knight tutorial on lighting.

    Imgur: The magic of the Internet - this was done with one bare flashbulb. And it looks decent.
    Imgur: The magic of the Internet - this is with huge softbox, looks even better.

    And i don't get it. I'm looking at an image made with bare flashbulb, which is the hardest lighting source imaginable. And it looks decent.

    Then i look at images from example 1, and they are absolutely terrible but i can't understand why they are so awful.

    Can anyone solve this mystery?
  2. Problem #1: "Where is whose screen?" i.e. someones might be calibrated, someone else's isn't and if we are unlucky an apparently well done edit looks entirely bad on a certain other screen.
    Related to that: We are supposed to shoot / tweak / print for the eyes. Mrs Grycza's model competes with a snowman (traditionally carrot nosed & coal eyed). I see a faint hint of a catchlight, can somehow figure out that those eyes might be brown but am unable to differentiate the iris from the pupil. <-Bad! I guess that fact displeases me as a viewer.
    Skin tones? - From my vocational training as a pressman: There can be 3 ultra sensitive colors in an image, betraying your tiniest mistakes to a spectator: gray, skin and food. The first is physically very complicated to hit the other two happen to be the ones a spectator's brain is sensitive for. (Test / exercise: Find a delicious looking slice of bread (not toast!) photograph it and convey "delicious!" in a print.) I was told to get my cyan - magenta balance right first and mess with give & take yellow next.
    IMHO using Xrite's passport color checker and Lightroom can get you pretty far, 2nd and 3rd opinions can be really helpful but in the end of all days there are lots of chances to loose hair over attempts to straighten out color images and B&W might be the sane way out.
    Professional color management? - IDK if it exists at all. Do not assume to be fine because you are on a Mac. Don't procrastinate calibration attempts till you own a fancy branded screen. Even if you own a yesterday calibrated top of the line Eizo; doublecheck your results on a few different ordinary devices. Don't trust your calibration devices, at least try to compare their results against somebody else's. Make sure to judge prints under proper light. - Best of luck.
    I have no clue how far Mrs Lupa went with her beauty retouching software. - Frequency separation? - Tastes vary, paying customers rule.
  3. Simple, terrible portrait photographers.
    PapaTango likes this.
  4. The images you say look decent don’t look so great to me. The lighting on her upper chest is pretty hot.
  5. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator Staff Member

    What are you saying here? That beginners shouldn't show their photos if they aren't good enough?

    I agree. They look poorly lit to me.The bright spot on the chest/shoulder is completely wrong.
    1. There is no disputing taste
    2. Benedetto Croce suggests that quality has to be assessed in terms of purpose
    3. Some people just don't know how to make portraits clean and plastic appearing
    For example note how unpleasant the original photos (left) appear compared to those with the wrinkles and the like smoothed out (right)

  6. I think those aren't technically meant to be artful portraits but demonstrations of the appearance of the make up applied. That FB page specifically indicates Magdalena is a make-up artist, not a fine art portraitist.
    starvy likes this.
  7. JD, the Hemingway shot is the inspiration for my selfie , white beard emulated by kickers a tad hot, trade mark shirt. An homage to both Hem and Karsh. When I look at Karsh's shot of Churchill with missing cigar, I can't help but think of how Karsh got that belligerent expression, grabbing Churchill's cigar at the last moment.
  8. I was, of course, inspired by the April Fool's joke of PS editing of Lange's Migrant Mother by Popular Photography (LINK).

    I sort of go for the Karsh Hemingway look myself. :rolleyes:
  9. I've never cared for the idea of taking out all the wrinkles and other features. It's often what makes people interesting.

    Rick H.
  10. Just did a shoot with a 69 yr old lady. Had the eliminated wrinkles on a layer and started pulling back the opacity slider and she did not want it a zero, but she didnt want it at 100% either. Eliminating the wrinkles makes the shot not resemble the subject for folks who know them. Reducing them and leaving at least some vestige is preferable for me.

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