Criticize this, please

What you see is what you get, including photography, displays, and video equipment.

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Criticize this, please

Postposted on Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:30 am

Long story short, the parent company decided that for the holidays this year, instead of the usual gift boxes to the vendors etc., they would ask the employees to vote for their three favorite charities and make a contribution to each. Our local division VP (center) has seen me running around with my camera kit, so he asked me to take the press photo for our contribution to the American Cancer Society. I had the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 mounted, and for the best image of the eight or so I shot, it turned out I was running 42mm, f/4.0, and ISO 800 in aperture priority. I also had my Speedlite 550EX installed and running at 1/16 second, card diffused. The camera metered at 1/160 second. Here is what came out of the camera:

Image

After post processing, here is what I submitted to HR for use in the next company newsletter (and probably some investor relations brochures that will be dreamed up in the future):

Image

So, TR photo enthusiasts, do your worst. For this type of photo, how should I:

1. Improve the composition?
2. Improve the lighting?
3. Improve the color toning?
4. {Insert grievance here}?
He who laughs last, laughs first next time.
ludi
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Re: Criticize this, please

Postposted on Sat Dec 18, 2010 1:48 am

Two days, nearly seventy views, no takers? Come on, it can't possibly be perfect :P

Maybe some clarification is in order: I generally like how the photo turned out, but every time I look at it, I get this feeling that 10% of something is missing and/or should be improved for the next time. What is it?
He who laughs last, laughs first next time.
ludi
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Re: Criticize this, please

Postposted on Sat Dec 18, 2010 2:05 am

Needs more chicks in bikinis.
xtalentx
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Re: Criticize this, please

Postposted on Sat Dec 18, 2010 2:09 am

I prefer the amount of dynamic range in the second picture. I would have used a larger aperture and brought the ISO down as much as possible to minimise the noise in the clothing. If you can, I think you should give the skin-tones a warmer colour. The highlights on the peoples foreheads got blown out by the exposure, not much you can do to fix that now - that's why I always shoot a touch under-exposed. Not much you can do with composition, these kinds of situations are pretty "no frills" I guess.
cappa84
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Re: Criticize this, please

Postposted on Sat Dec 18, 2010 4:09 am

The thread title reeled me in.

Now I'm not a photography professional by any possible stretch of the modern human imagination, but I think there's too much blue in the picture. Sure, the processing made it brighter and clothing isn't just a blotch of black anymore, but it also looks faded, and the skin tones are lost almost completely.

Also, you might want to save space by cutting off more from the top and bottom of the picture, there isn't really anything there. Try to keep face heights around where they are now (in proportion) though, it looks stupid if they're on top unless it's a fashion publication.
Meadows
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Re: Criticize this, please

Postposted on Sat Dec 18, 2010 4:28 am

I prefer the first picture for its warmer tone and better highlight preservation. The second picture is too bright and also looks abit washed out to me. However, I have to say you made the right choice to crop out distracting background images (like the ceiling and doorway). The picture also doesn't look fully sharp, which is surprising, given the shutter speed and aperture. As to warm/cool vs 'accurate' white balance and color temperature, that is largely a matter of taste, but sometimes 'accurate' can look too cold. I tend to err a bit on the warm side unless I'm aiming for a surreal look (works for me with insect macros and some wideangle architecture).

As cappa says, the flash highlights are overexposed, and makes their heads look greasy. It's especially tricky with balding men - normal tricks to reduce flash higlights like bouncing off the ceiling can actually make things worse! General tips (not specific to this pic):

1. Set negative EV compensation on the flash. It's usually easier to bring up shadows than de-burn highlights, especially spot highlights.
2. Always try to shoot in E-TTL mode if possible, not X-sync.
3. Use a card diffuser - this creates a more even source, as opposed to a point source with a normal flash, and evens out the reflected highlights. Which I see you already did.
4. Use off-body flash. This is a biggie if possible (for social and corporate functions, it's not always possible). I'd have the flash on a tripod to the side, pointed at the subjects. This would retain even lighting (as opposed to side flash or side bouncing) but make the reflections offset from the lens. Check to see what functions are preserved with a wireless/IR trigger, I'm a bit rusty on Canon flash specs these days.

Another bad habit DSLR users often get stuck on is shooting from eye level. Shooting from chest or waist height can create a more pleasing perspective of subjects - this is why fashion photographers loved TLR cameras and/or waist level viewfinders. Ppl make fun of japanese photographers for the "bend over and shoot" posture, but it can actually produce some nice images. You'll also see wedding photographers crouch a lot, but then maybe a pro like jobo can give you better advice on that than I can.
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Voldenuit
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Re: Criticize this, please

Postposted on Mon Dec 20, 2010 12:32 pm

Thanks, this is all helpful. The crouch-shot is a great idea, I did feel like too much of the image had extraneous space yet I didn't want to shoot all the way down to the feet, either. That would probably help a lot.

Regarding the color toning and contrast in particular, the problem I ran into with the balding guys is, not only did I get a reflection, but the faces and the bald-spot reflections were heavily yellowed (combination of overhead fluorescent lights and the card-diffused flash) and stayed somewhat yellow even when the rest of the image looked comparatively balanced. I tried to cut back on the jaundiced look by de-saturating and de-contrasting quite a bit, but maybe went too far?
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ludi
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Re: Criticize this, please

Postposted on Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:39 pm

ludi wrote:Thanks, this is all helpful. The crouch-shot is a great idea, I did feel like too much of the image had extraneous space yet I didn't want to shoot all the way down to the feet, either. That would probably help a lot.

Regarding the color toning and contrast in particular, the problem I ran into with the balding guys is, not only did I get a reflection, but the faces and the bald-spot reflections were heavily yellowed (combination of overhead fluorescent lights and the card-diffused flash) and stayed somewhat yellow even when the rest of the image looked comparatively balanced. I tried to cut back on the jaundiced look by de-saturating and de-contrasting quite a bit, but maybe went too far?



Hehe. The simple things are the hardest to get right, and flash portraits at functions is definitely one of those. You can't control composition, as ppl get sick of you motioning them to shift all the time, you have limited control over lighting, and you're operating under time pressure.

Re: yellow highlights, you might be able to fight these by selectively controlling the yellow saturation level, or if you're using Lightroom or a workflow program, doing a spot saturation/exposure Adjustment Brush on said highlights. In Photoshop, you can also try adjusting the curves to clip the color curve a bit early. Gentlemen's trousers also often show unsightly creases, this can be made worse by flash, so I try to aim for waist or hip-up views.
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Voldenuit
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Re: Criticize this, please

Postposted on Mon Dec 20, 2010 11:41 pm

Voldenuit wrote:Gentlemen's trousers also often show unsightly creases, this can be made worse by flash, so I try to aim for waist or hip-up views.

Good point. I tried to tone that down here by adding some rectangular vignetting with PSE9, but it could have used more. I probably should have applied a bit more with two or three layers and different amounts of blending, instead of just one layer and a partial multiply.
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ludi
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