Apr 232011

My Orbis Ring Flash came in the mail earlier this week and by Friday the need to play with the new toy reached a breaking point. I asked Katy to pose for me while I tried it out in several different settings. The verdict? I can’t really say I liked any of the shots I took with it. Clearly, I need to practice a little more and experiment with settings and distances. I know it can produce some great looks, I’m just going to have to figure out how to get that with my equipment.

Fortunately, the session wasn’t a total loss as I took a few shots outside without the flash. Here’s the one I liked the best.

This shot came out of the camera about a stop too hot but the nice thing about working in raw is the ability to recover those overexposed areas. I ran this through my portrait retouching tool for some slight skin smoothing and then into Photoshop to remove a few stray hairs and to brighten and sharpen the eyes. I also added a little saturation to her lips.

Apr 062011

Monday night, our photography class was fortunate to have a belly dancer as our model. We first shot her in street clothes, but I didn’t get any that I was terribly happy with. They were okay, I guess, but I didn’t like them enough to bother processing them. After everyone had a turn with her in street clothes, she changed into her new costume. This was also challenging because a lot of her poses and moves require her arms to be quite outstretched and I frequently was getting the edge of the backdrop in the frame. Sure, I could have used Photoshop to fix that, but that’s not my first choice. Anyway, time to get to the pictures.

All of these frames were processed similarly. For instance, I pretty seriously darkened the background in all of the frames. To me, the brightness of the background was almost identical to the brightness of the model and I wanted to deemphasize the background to keep attention on the model. I also didn’t bother with the portrait filter for skin smoothing since you can’t really see the skin texture unless you zoom way in or if you made a really large print.

In the image below, I adjusted my exposure settings and put my camera in rear-curtain sync to try and capture a little motion blur before the strobes fired. I wasn’t even sure if the radio triggers would work with rear-curtain sync, and in retrospect, i STILL don’t know if they were actually respecting rear-curtain sync, but there is a hint of motion blur in her hand. Not as much as I’d hoped for, but considering there was a line of students behind me waiting their turn, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time working on it.

I was in Nashville last Sunday for The Flash Bus Tour with Joe McNally and David (Strobist) Hobby. It was an awesome workshop and definitely worth both the time/gas and the registration fee. I would definitely consider going if they ever do it again.

Mar 282011

Tonight’s model in my portrait class was Amanda. During the course of the evening, I found out she’s engaged and she’s a journalism major. Our first setup was out in the lobby to use the incoming light from the huge windows. Unfortunately, I had to push my ISO up to 800 and even with Nikon’s VR system turned on, I was pushing the limits of hand held shooting. I may work up one or two of those images later in the week, but I wanted to start with the studio images we did in the second half of the class. I actually ended up with 7 picks out of the set so don’t be surprised if you see a lot of Amanda this week.

This was actually one of the last shots I took. There was a large softbox overhead and our teacher is holding my gold reflector just out of frame below her. I think my gold reflector was doing a little better job of filling in the shadows then the plain silver one he was using. Besides my standard portrait plug-in, I manually brightened the area just below her eyes using a duplicate layer in screen mode and a blurred filter mask to blend the brighter area in with the rest of the image. The layer opacity was around 40% if memory serves me correctly. I also did some clean up of a few strands of hair, but there weren’t that many so it was no big deal.

Mar 182011

My homework for my portrait class this week was to take one or two shots of a subject by a window. I talked Mary into being my subject and even managed to coerce Katy into holding a reflector and my flash. I kind of broke a “rule” of positioning the face (though I won’t say what it is) but I was fighting quite a bit to keep the shadows from the tree and the frame of the window from hitting her face in the wrong places and getting the reflector in the right place to keep light on her hair.

Katy is holding the reflector about 12 to 18 inches away from Mary’s hair and directing the flash to bounce into it. The reflector is mostly silver but has gold stripes all over it to give it a warm tone to get close the the setting sun coming through the window. Post processing was mostly limited to Portrait Professional to handle skin smoothing (I never thought about the screen on the window putting lines on her face but sure enough, it did!) and some subtle adjustments to her eyes and lips.

Mar 142011

Tonight was the second night of my portrait class at UT. It was the first night we had a model to shoot. For some reason, directing subjects makes me very nervous. I hear that’s actually pretty common, but I sure hope I get over it quickly. I know I fumbled around a bit, but I wasn’t the only one. I did get a few decent shots, I think. Here’s the first one.

I’ll try to post a few more tomorrow evening.