One of the last photography projects I did at the end of 2015 was for a client who send me an email telling me that he really liked my creative portrait photography work, and he wanted to have a similar portrait done. This was all fine, but there was a challenge in his request and this is what I like to cover in this post.
The challenge came from the fact that he sent me two images, from my creative portrait photography portfolio, asking me to achieve the same look, he described it as “HD”, also he wanted one photo shoot done in a studio and the other one on location like one of the references. You can see the two images, he used as reference, bellow.
The one common thing about the two images was that they were taken under similar lighting conditions:
In the example of the Cuban fisherman – the image was captured outdoor under cloudy sky, providing very flat light all over the scene. The only exception is off course the sky.
In the example of the Gypsy portrait – the image was captured indoor, in a first floor room with a balcony and a large double windowed door. Natural light of a beautiful late afternoon sunlight, with low density as he was sitting in the middle of the room away from the window. So again one large light source, but this time with slight punch to the highlights and the color.
So what I needed to do in the studio was to recreate similar light to the one on the image of the Gypsy. By the way so far I haven’t mentioned anything about Photoshop yet, this is fine as I still have to show you the before and after version of the images. My editing workflow consists of balancing good lighting and just enough editing done in Photoshop to help, otherwise good capture, stands out. Speaking of good captured moments of people but under not so perfect lighting conditions, I have to say that in situations like this a well balanced editing workflow can really make the difference of a good capture being left forgotten on the hard-drive or included in a portfolio. To get the same look I really needed very flat lighting in order to process the image the way I know in order to get the look, I can not use the same editing technique on a image lighted with proper studio lighting setup.
For the photo shoot I hired a local studio in Brixton (south west London), and for simulating the window like natural light I used a large octabox, positioned above my camera, also behind me I had two white boards into which I bounced two Canon speedlites, with which by the way I was triggering the studio Bowens flash, mounted on the octabox, they were set on very low power as all I wanted from them was to give me a small and even feel. Also under his face I had a reflector – the speedlites and the reflector were both providing me with very gentle touch of feel light.
Below you can see the image before and after, but keep in mind that if my client didn’t ask me for all of his specific requests I was going to build different lighting setup, and this is one of the reasons why the before image looks so flat. But then again this is what I needed so I could apply my retouching workflow in Photoshop. Now here I like to say that I have seen so many photographers out there trying to achieve some cool or perhaps different look and by doing this, very often they overuse or over-process the image in Photoshop – and the worst thing is that some of them seem to like the effect, as these images are part of their portfolios. The best practice for when you want to create something more fancy will be to know exactly what you want to achieve as a final look and then light and capture the image in the right way so it can provide you with the right amount of data/information to work your magic in Photoshop.
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