Backlit Portrait Experimentation
On a recent evening I went out with my friend Scott and some of our children to experiment with portrait lighting. I haven’t gotten through all the pictures yet but I’m not too excited about what I see so far. In my defense I was initially trying out some new setups which I had never used before. Learned a few things there but didn’t come out of it with any great images. I switched to bare off-camera flashes but we were also attempting some lighting in really tight spaces with lots of features which could cast shadows, etc. That made things rather challenging and again…no great images from what I’ve seen so far.
I did get a few decent shots while the sun was poking through some trees and bushes. The shot above was taken with my daughter standing directly in front of the sun. I shot about 30 variations of this scene with different poses, framing, and exposures. I liked the backlighting and the rim of light it created around the hair, shoulder, and arm. The image above started out life almost two stops underexposed (part of all that playing with settings). However, my daughter liked this pose and expression so I proceeded to try to make something out of the shot.
I remembered back to a video I had watched by Dan Margulis called “There Are No Bad Originals” in which Dan started out with horrendous raw files and turned them into pretty great pictures. I thought “I can do something with this shot” and just started fooling around. In the end what I did turned out to be really straightforward. I bumped the exposure way up, used white balance to warm the image way over the top (as my daughter was the “client” I was letting her choose which direction I went with the image). I don’t typically go for the really warm look but I have to admit I like what it did here and probably should experiment more with this. I used Noiseware mainly to do noise reduction on the background but it also had a great effect on my daughter’s skin. Then I used some curves to tweak a couple spots and add some vignette.
I initially used a jaunt into lab color mode to get some color in the blown-out highlights (see a post about that here) but my daughter liked the blown-out highlights better so I reverted to that. After all, she was the “client”. The highlights are too prominent for my taste but my daughter pointed out that they actually cause her face to stand out more (I agree with that). All-in-all this image was not what I had in mind when I shot it, but I like what I ended up with nonetheless.
[Update: I just looked at this post on my windows box at the office. On this monitor there’s a lot of green from the background trees still showing in the image whereas on my home monitor(s) the image was more homogenous in tone (orange-ish color). I don’t like the green here…may try to fix this later]