Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Anna Colors

This bikini screams for saturation and in retrospect a lot of sharpening and clarity. There's a lot of detail in the fabric and I wanted to do what I could to bring out the colors. From that general standpoint, it also means I didn't mess around with the colors other than to make them more vivid and lifelike. Which means that the occasional overlayed gradient maps went out the window with this one. Along with whatever B&W treatment I tend to exert with an iron fist.

Freckles. I don't often see freckles nor do I deal with freckles. That calls into question my philosophy of what's a blemish? Amy Dresser's rule of thumb is to remove whatever is distracting. I like the freckles. They make Anna unique. I left most of them intact and removed the few of them that were distracting. Even with the removal process I utilized a softer approach, often simply clone stamping at 50% so I'd leave a faint remnant of the original freckle in place.

The makeup was great as usual. Kelli did an awesome job making sure that Anna's makeup matched the colors in the bikini. Great choice. I brought that out in Photoshop just a touch to make it more obvious.

This is the first time that I've shot with the
wall. Dunno if you guys could foresee how I was going to use it. I'm not looking for the blown out look a la Arias, but rather a highlight shadow contrast via hard light. In fact, this is one of the few if not first times I've thrown such hard light on the subject. The light comes from an AB800 in a 7" reflector (standard issue) so it's pretty damn hard (camera upper left). The only thing that attenuated the hardness of the light was the fact that Anna was practically sitting in a white box so we got lots of fill and bounce from the environment. In fact, I had to burn the shadows to add more contrast. I'm not used to so much light in frames. In fact, I almost overexposed (by maybe 1/3 stop).

The white walls (made of Home Depot tile boards) are a little too reflective though. The surface is shiny and not matted so sometimes I get a specular highlight in the wall when the angles are right. I can get around this by blowing out the rest of the white so that the specular highlight disappears in an ocean of white but that's does not feel like the right answer. I'll think about it some more and maybe replace the tile board with something less reflective.

The RadioPopper JrX saved me a lot of time with setting the power levels. There were no misfires to report in all of the 700 odd frames we shot yesterday. In fact there were 20 minutes I left the transmitter on the D3 and took the walls into the backyard and left the lights on inside with the receiver. The strobes were reportedly going off inside the house through 2-3 walls as I was shooting outside about 50 yards away. But with an estimated 1700 foot range, you'd expect that to be the case.

On the other hand I had to get used to adjusting via the dials on the transmitter. The knobs are small. Small adjustments register as larger changes. Particularly because small adjustments don't register as real and/or noticeable changes in the brightness of the modeling lamp. So I sometimes would overshoot or overdial just to see some change in brightness from the modeling lamp to confirm my adjustment. That said, it's a small price to pay because I could do that at least 5 times before it'd equal the amount of time necessary to actually dial it in from the back of the strobe. I'm sure I'll get more comfortable with it shortly.

Oh and the max sync speed with the AB800 is 1/200th and NOT 1/250th. This is consistent with the Cactus V4 I've been using.

I've really taken Amy Dresser's techniques to heart. I've employed her Select>Color Range (white)>Fill with white, technique now a couple times in my last few edits. I've also employed the inverse of that (Select>Color Range (black)>Fill with black, to get more contrast in the shadows. I've tried using her High Pass technique but I like my old sharpening technique better since it doesn't add as many artifacts. I've gotten used to making local color adjustments via the Lasso (feathered)>Curves as well as making global color adjustments in the beginning steps of my edits. Oh yeah, and I've also gotten accustomed to building a blank layer overlayed as a D&B layer as opposed to doing everything via the D&B tool on the actual layer. You could say that the Amy Dresser interview I watched gave me some really valuable retouch tools that I'm utilizing in my own workflow. How many of these will last in the long-run is another question...

Wow, the level of detail in this one still surprises me. I guess that's what you get for using the upper registers of the histogram... more data?

Camera: D3/24-70mm f/2.8G @70mm, 1/160th, f/11, ISO200

Strobist: AB800 in 7" standard reflector from camera upper left

Model/wardrobe: Anna K. Mason

Makeup: Kelli Zehnder

Hair: Michelle Green


  1. Charles, this is incredible and is certainly one of my favorite photos of yours. I really like the play of the shadows, both behind her and on her left arm. You're right, Kelli did a great job on coordinating the makeup, Anna's suit pops just the right amount and I really like the hard light.

    It is really fun to compare some of your blog's first photo posts to this photo -- what a great journey you have been on. Thanks for letting us tag along.

    The white wall was certainly worth the time that you put into it. Now that I have seen it in action, I forsee a similar project in my future.

    As a suggestion for a future post, it would be cool sometime to see the runner-ups to the photo that you choose to post from a shoot, with some commentary on why you chose the posted photo over the runner-ups.

    As I think that I have mentioned, I have been shooting since 1987, but am just recently getting into studio photography. I'm pretty excited about a class that I am taking this weekend -- here's the link to the class:

    I'm pretty excited to attend as it goes through the entire process, especially shooting with my new 5D Mark II that arrives this Friday (fingers crossed -- c'mon UPS, I'm counting on you).

    Btw, if you ever do a workshop, count me in.


  2. Hey Gregory,

    Congrats on the advent of the 5D Mark II. I don't know if I mentioned it but I had a chance to play with the 5DMII over the holidays and that puppy is no slouch. Processing all of 21 megapixels was incredible because I'm so used to working on 12.1! The sharpness clarity with the right lens is second to none. The price point is perfect. The video capabilities make it to die for... even hand held in low light if you have IS.

    Hell the only thing I didn't like on it was the lack of AF points. I'm used to more on my D3. That's about it. Everything else I could have gotten used to :)

    Also, are you to thank for telling me about Radiopoppers? Or was that the other Greg? I'm too lazy to search through all the comments :) Besides I think you're the only two reading the blog anyway LOL!

    You know, as far as the selection process is concerned. It's completely arbitrary. I go through everything once and then flag a few that I think has potential. I look at everything from composition, to lighting, and ultimately the feeling of the shot. I'm looking for the shots that "speak to me" persay.

    I will take your suggestion to heart and I'll do a post like that in the future. :)

    Really excited for you and the 5DMII! What a difficult wait this must be :)

    This has been an incredible journey, but it's all in the journey.