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    Some of the editing is a bit off, so I would love some tips on how to improve. This is all in natural light, with no flash (cause I can’t afford one yet). Having no flash makes dealing shadows really annoying. A little editing done in LR4, but I’m still figuring that beast out.

    50mm 1.2 L paired with a 7D.


    I thought the 7D had a pop-up flash?  You can probably pop it up, set it to 1/4 or 1/2 power and fill shadows?  Or, you can get some 20 X 30 foam board white on both sides to use as cheap reflectors.  I went through the scratch & dent bin at the local craft store and picked up a bunch for $2.50 each.  If you can find black with a mat finish, those are useful too.

    Lightroom is a photo organizer that has a raw converter attached and can do some basic editing tricks and printing.  If it is all you need, that’s great.  I didn’t get along with the demo of LR3 and don’t want it to organize my photos so I don’t use it.

    You have colour casts.  And, you have some very deep shadows.

    It would be so convenient if we could just drop photos into this stream, in the mean time, check out:

    Before       and      after

    For those of you following along later, “Before” and “after” will probably only be available for a little while, after which they will get cleaned off my server to recover the space.

    If you like “after”, it was opened in Adobe Camera Raw and the eye dropper was used to get white balance using her teeth.  Then the white balanced version was layered over the original, in Photoshop CS5, and a mask was used to keep the original background and the white balanced girl.  On the new layer, some blemishes were cleaned up with the band-aid tool.  Then some sharpening was applied but the blur tool was used to take some luminance off the background.  It was converted back to 8 bits and saved.

    If I were starting with the raw file, I would check the lens correction check boxes, perhaps add some noise smoothing, adjust white balance, look at highlights and shadows and perhaps adjust Exposure, Recovery and Fill Light, and straighten the image if needed.  Then pop it into Photoshop to clean up any blemishes, crop, resize, sharpen.  Except for the blemishes part, it only takes a few minutes.  Skin can take a bit longer depending on what needs to be done.

    You can shoot a grey card or use an Expo-disc to set custom white balance, then that white balance will come into DPP or ACR with the file and your white balance will already be correct.  Or, the lazy way I usually use, shoot in auto white balance and pick a neutral object to set white balance with the eye dropper tool.  If you are shooting in changing light or only taking a shot or two, this method works well.  If you are shooting a lot of images in the same light, setting white balance in the camera will give a faster result with uniform white balance, which you might prefer if you are going to print 50 shots for a wedding album.


    I should probably also point out that if you had used the pop-up flash, even at very low power, you would have catch lights in her eyes which would improve the photo.


    Thanks for your feedback Ron!

    One of the reasons I dislike the popup flash, is I feel it creates a very artificial deer in headlights sort of look. I don’t think I’m using it correctly when that happens. Is there a standard distance away I’d have to be in order to minimize that effect? I was using a prime lens, so I’ve been doing walk zooming. I will mess with the power settings on the flash and report back. As for reflectors, it sounds like a good idea as well!

    I can def see an improvement in the blemish removals. I didn’t do that cause I’m still learning Photoshop and the adjustment brush in Lightroom. Next stop, Youtube for tutorials!

    I heard there’s more functionality between LR 3 and LR 4. I have both LightRoom 4 and Adobe CS6 but haven’t touched CS6 much.

    A question I have is about highlights and shadows. What is the ‘ideal’ look for those. What makes a picture have good highlights and shadows? How does one determine that? Like, I was messing with the sliders in Lightroom just to see how the colors changed (which would explain the varying color casts) and I showed the model while I was just adjusting things. She stopped me at a certain point and told me she liked it, so I just ended up sticking with it.

    For white balance, I usually get a white piece of printer paper and shoot it, then custom WBing it, but I figured since I would be in varying sunlight, AWB would be better.

    Thank you for all your help and feedback!




    If you have CS6, I would learn to use that for editing, I use Canon’s ZoomBrowserEX for viewing a folder full of images.  I just keep images in folders based on year and month.  If I am shooting a lot, I might also have day folders.  I usually do that when I get over a couple of hundred in a day because the smaller folder size increases performance of the software, which is trying to generate thumbnails of everything.

    Photo Mechanic is recommended for people who shoot a lot in a day.  I tried it out, and liked it, but have not purchased it yet.  It suits me better than Lightroom.  A pro in Oakville that has a blog, seems to like Lightroom a lot.  Different strokes.

    Highlights and shadows are what make a lot of photos.  Some photos look good with low contrast and others look good with high contrast.  There is no “right” answer.  It is a taste thing.  My wife likes bright restaurants.  She also likes to see everything in a photo and starts to give me grief if my shadows are dark.  Joe McNally quoting one of his mentors said “if you want something to be interesting, don’t light all of it.”

    In September, I entered a slightly cropped version of this in a contest, and won! It is mostly shadow, and highlight. It helped that the theme of the contest was sunset in the city.

    I have also done the photocopy paper trick.  And used table cloths, tea pots, someone’s black coat… Lots of things.  A grey card is 18% grey, which is what your camera’s meter tries to set everything to.  Using the card, you can get white balance and exposure all at the same time.

    Flash falls off at the square of the distance, so pretty fast.  How far depends on the guide number of the flash and power setting.  I always love seeing the point & shoot crowd in a concert, firing their flash.  They are 500 feet from the stage with a flash that is good for 10 to 20 feet!  If you crank ISO, you can get further, but not with a point & shoot.  A 600 EX RT has a guide number of 60, I think, so you could boost ISO and get a couple of  hundred feet with it at full power, but at a concert it is bright enough you just need a good lens and a bit of ISO, without flash, so save your batteries.  I don’t have a 7D so I have no experience with that flash.  Try placing your model at 10 or 15 feet, whatever is comfortable, then try full flash, and keep taking photos while adjusting flash compensation until you are at minimum power.  Look at them all on the computer to see which one you like best.  If I am using on-camera flash, I usually use ETTL mode and P, Av or M depending on what I am looking for.  When I get into more lights, off camera, then M is the way to go for both camera and flash because it simplifies what is going on.  The camera in other modes has certain expectations and they may not be reality if it does not know about all the flash that is provided.

    I don’t have the details but I know Atlanta has a camera club that meets regularly, has a contest of sorts where the judge critiques each photo presented.  I don’t know if you are into that sort of thing.  I can try to find out more if you are interested.


    So a grey card in a scene allows for perfect white balance? I may need to buy one!

    Thanks again for your insights about lighting and shadow. If everything is somewhat subjective, then I’m curious about your comment earlier about my color tones. Does that mean there is an acceptable range of color? I couldn’t tell if it was too bright when I was editing, but being on a diff screen and computer may have something to do with it.



    Be careful not to crop out body parts at awkward places. A general rule of thumb for portraiture like this is that you should never ever crop a body part off at a joint. Any joint. Ankles, wrists, elbows, knuckles, hip, etc. You do this a fair bit. Doing so is a common mistake and is instant red flag that the photographer is inexperienced (or at least lacks experience with good composition). It makes people look like they’ve been amputated. It’s distracting. The good news though is that it is very easy to learn and fix. Take your time to examine every bit of the frame when you’re looking through the view finder and look for things that are awkwardly cropped or is otherwise distracting.  When you’re going to crop a body part, make sure you’re doing so at about the midpoint of said body point (halfway between two joints, in other words).

    Also, look up Rule of Thirds. I won’t explain it here since you have the world’s knowledge at your fingertips via a Google search, but suffice it to say, that learning the Rule of Thirds and how to crop body parts properly would immensely improve many peoples portrait quality. People like to say that ‘rules are meant to broken’, and I support that notion when it is done effectively, but I more strongly support the belief that until the rules have A) been learned, and B) been mastered), that people shouldn’t be trying to go out and break the rules (not that you’re really doing that, I’m just digressing at the moment. 🙂 ).

    I can’t say it enough, slow down and take your time to compose a good shot with regards to the above. Your subject isn’t moving and neither are you, so there is really no excuse outside of ignorance to be making bad crops and poor technical compositions. Again, the good news is that those two basic rules are easy to grasp and implement with immediate results IF you take the time to learn and apply them.


    I have always tried to crop with the cross points match up at the eye with the body in one third of the frame, not sure if that’s achieving the rule of thirds. Maybe I don’t understand it fully enough. Can anyone explain if my view is too simplistic? I believe you are supposed to place your points of interests at the intersections of the grid, while keeping it within 1/3 of the photo space?

    Would you say keeping joints is more important than making sure the cross points of the grid are aligned at the eyes?

    And I really appreciate the critique! I will work on this during my next shoot.




    Great points about the Gray sheet. I always bring one along with every shoot I do and also a white sheet for WB when doing video. I don’t see this practice done very often anymore unless we are doing video work and we need to sync up all the broadcast cameras perfectly together.


    The trick is to pose your subject and compose the shot in a manner that allows you to have a pleasing crop of the subject AND still keep interesting parts of the photos on the thirds. It just takes practice. You don’t need to sacrifice one for the other, but you may have to think for a second how best to satisfy both objectives.

    While both errors are poor technique, for me personally, it is more distracting to have bad crops of body parts than it is to have someone a little off one of the lines. But thats just me. You have a little wiggle room to work with on the rule of thirds, but really, as long as you avoid bulls-eyeing a persons face in the center of the frame and make sure your horizons are generally on the lower or upper third, while making good crops of body parts, you’ll do fine.

    Usually one of these two mistakes causes the other mistake to happen, or make it worse if its already present. In other words, when someone is poorly cropped, it will make it even more difficult to get a good composition in regards to the Rule of Thirds, and likewise, when a subject is poorly positioned in the frame (tons of headspace for example), its almost always going to result in a bad crop of the body or body parts. Fixing one usually helps make the other better or at least easier to achieve.

    The photos in the session are improved from the last set I saw of yours in another thread. I can tell you are thinking about composition and placement. The thorn is that some aspects are met in many of the photos, but one or two slip by you, and the technique error changes from photo to photo. Some photos have good adherence to Rule of Thirds, but her foot or hand is cut off at the joint. Other photos have her pose looking fine, but her face is square in the center of the frame (sitting against a tree, for example).  On one photo where your subject is lying on her stomach in the grass and you are shooting from a low perspective, be mindful of body parts pointing into the camera. Her arm is extending towards the lens in one shot that would otherwise be quite pleasant. Body parts pointing into the camera are usually distracting.

    Keep shooting! You’re getting better and I’m glad you want to improve.


    About colour/tones.

    Unfortunately not all monitors are a created equal, or equally calibrated.   The notebook my wife uses for work has a terrible monitor, everything looks dark.  Cheap monitors have relatively low contrast ratios, and frequently, a glossy surface on the monitor.  Better monitors have a mat finish and high contrast ratio.  Ambient light in the room also affects the appearance.  Good profiling tools can look at the room light as well as the monitor when determining correct profile for  the video card.  My monitors are profiled with a Colormunki.  For those looking at my personal web page, who probably do not have a calibrated monitor, the front page has a gauge across the bottom — pure black on one end, pure white on the other and shades of grey in the middle.  It was built with Photoshop by plugging in the numbers, so there is no colour cast.  At each end, the gradations are smaller and finder so people can set their monitor’s brightness by eye.  It does not get them all the way to calibration, but it is better than nothing.

    Prints are also problematic.  To view prints, sunlight is best.  Some inks shift colour more than others when viewed with other light sources.

    Disclaimer:  This is only one grumpy, old, opinionated guy’s view.

    So, once you are viewing the image displayed in a way that accurately shows colour, you probably want a natural looking skin tone.  Of course, it is your art, so if you want your subject to have green skin like someone from a B movie about people from Mars, or blue skin like Smurfs, knock yourself out.  Obviously black and white is not the way most of us see the world but it is a popular way of displaying images.  But, if you are doing a regular portrait, most people will expect normal skin tones.  If your model looks jaundiced, or like they have been eating a case of carrots every day for years, then your viewer may not enjoy your photos as much as they might otherwise.  An exception to all of this is if there is an obvious coloured light source that affects the cast.  Stage lighting at a rock concert or theatre production, for instance.


    I took your guys’ advice on cropping and the color tones, hopefully this shoot I did today is better. All of the body parts should be intact, and the cropping should be as close to the rule of thirds (according to the crop grid) as close as possible.



    Mr. Lee, in the interest of aiding my thoughts of your photos, I went ahead and took some notes on the images directly and saved them for your use. Please keep in mind that I’m not trying to tear you down or your work apart. I want you to visually see a couple things that maybe isn’t translating well in text that could help you.





    The notes on the photos basically says it all, but heres a short list of general points of interest:

    – Get your horizons level. Many of your photos are not level. Sometimes people use ‘dutch angle’ (which I’m not personally a fan of, anyways), which is an intentional and obvious use of unlevel horizons. I think its safe to say that your horizons are unintentionally not level. Its distracting seeing horizontal and vertical surfaces not true, and shows a lack of attention to detail during shooting and post-processing. If you don’t nail it in camera, it is a super easy fix in post. Just use a guide bar to see perfect horizontal/vertical lines and rotate the photos till they’re level.

    – Since you’re shooting with just available light, you need to do a better job of metering for your subjects face, especially during the times when she is back-lit. Many of your photos are dark in general, and I’m guessing that you’re letting the camera auto-meter for the whole scene, rather than at least using spot-metering on her face, or bette yet, shooting in manual exposure to get the brightness on her face where it should be. In many shots her eyes look like black spots of coal. That’s unattractive and poor technical execution. Not a mistake a pro would make. If you already are shooting in M, you need to expose for whats important: your subjects face.

    – Too much awkward and  unnecessary  negative space. Be mindful that the point of these photos is to showcase your subject, and use of negative space is a good tool for a portrait photographer, but too much can be a bad thing for many reasons. It makes your subject small in the frame when there is no real artistic reason for doing so (in this case), it lets distracting background elements into the frame, it lessens the details of your subject that can be resolved by your lens/sensor, in late afternoon/early evening, you will have a harder time getting sharp and accurate focus, and as a result leads to my next point:

    – Many photos are very soft, out of focus, and blurry. Much of this has to do with shooting in late afternoon light conditions at distances that make accurate and sharp focus difficult to consistently achieve. You should be aiming for quality over quantity. Don’t feel obliged to provide x-number of photos, or even make a promise to do so. If you only get 6 really solid photos, so what? All it really takes is that one perfect magical image to make the whole session worth your time anyways. Your standards are too low, mostly because you just don’t know any better (which is OK) but the problem is that you don’t mind showing your ‘clients’ photos that are soft, blurry, out of focus, etc. Not very professional, right?

    – Posing: Square shoulders (with relation to the camera)are rarely a flattering pose for woman. It makes their shoulders look too broad and their head smaller. Angle the shoulders. – Avoid having body parts pointing directly into the camera. You have quite a few where her legs are extended into the viewers face, which will cause aesthetic and optical problems (Not too mention several crotch shots, c’mon man!). Same with her hands and fingers pointing into the camera, and watch out for locked elbows. – Bottom of feet/shoes: a complete no-no.

    Now for the hard part. You are not ready to be charging people for you services. YET. I really hope that this was just a practice session. I see that you have session rates on your Facebook page so that leads me to believe that you are seeking paid work. You are not nearly ready yet to be charging people for your work when you still have so much to learn. Shoot as MANY people as you can!! Thats the only way you can get better ( in addition to seeking critique/criticism). But don’t seek monetary compensation for it. You’re on Facebook, so you have FB friends….reach out to people and simply ask as many as you can to help you build your skills by being portrait subjects for you. Be up front and honest by telling them the purpose is to help you get better so you can pursue your goal of being a paid photographer. Then tell them that if they like anything that you shot that you would be happy to provide a couple of web-sized images as a thank you for their helping you out.But notice I didn’t say to build your portfolio. That will come when you’re ready to build presentable work for people that will hire you to take their photo.

    You can’t focus on building your own skills when you’re focusing on providing 30+ images for someone who just gave you some cash. Would you pay for photos that look like your own? I wouldn’t.  No one should. That probably sounds harsh, and its not a knock on you as a person. It’s tempting and exciting to get out there right away and start charging, but your technical, aesthetic, and compositional knowledge and execution are not yet able to justify it.

    Keep PRACTICING! Shoot as MANY people as you can! But give yourself time between each practice session to look over your photos closely for things that we’ve been talking about so that you can internalize the information and then apply the corrections for the next session. Don’t expect overnight instant success, but DO expect small improvements in terms of quality and consistency each time you shoot. It’s a slow process, just like anything else worth mastering.

    Ok, enough rambling from me. Good luck!


    Dear ArizonaGuy,

    Once again, thanks for your EXCELLENT feedback. I don’t take ANY of this as a tearing down. I’ve been a member of campus life for three years as an RA, so believe me, I get a lot of stuff thrown at me (sometimes quite literally).

    The visual aids help a lot. I think I’m more of a visual personal myself, honestly  Going back to the drawing board. I’ve been frustrated with my lack of knowledge of posing as well, and have been reading some texts on it. Do you have any examples of interesting poses?

    1. Level. This is a big issue for me that I’ve noticed. I like to shoot hand held, but I’m usually unable to keep my hands perfectly still. What is this guide bar you speak of? Just a straight horizontal line as reference?

    2. Lighting issue has been thrown at me a couple of times. I’m hoping to invest in a flash soonish, and some reflectors. I’m shooting in Manual mode already, and I think for that shoot, I had my camera set on spot metering. I’m probably going to take the album down and do a lot of re editing. Brightness should be on her face you say?

    Would the brightness in train track 2 be ideal? (and >_< I just noticed that. I was editing late night it just flew right by me.)

    3. The negative space was a lot of time due to the fact that I wanted the subject to lie along at least one of the 3 lines vertical lines of the crop, and for her eyes to hit on that intersecting point. I tried not to cut off body parts as you said for the most part. Should I go for a more confined crop? I’m still on the look out for more interesting locations (being on campus is kind of dull, but with no car, that’s what you get).

    4. Out of focus softness/blur. I’m curious about that one myself, because in the display window, I nail the focus with the AF points. Like, no question. But it comes out soft. For the most part I’m not shooting wide open and I got my lens calibrated to my body (it was a -3 MA) but then again, it could be my technique. This shoot was exclusively on the 50mm 1.2 L, and it is reputed to have some back focus issues, though for the most part, after the calibration its been pretty spot on.

    5. Addressed above. Totally agree @.@

    6.  Yes, must stress, none of these shoots have been charged.  Just the one with the family, which was more of an incidental occurrence, (faculty member asked me to shoot their family, told him I wasn’t a pro, they said they liked my photos and didn’t mind). None of these other shoots were for cash, but rather for the sake of practicing and providing profile pics for people. As you said, I am aware I am not ready (hence why I’m posting here for advice :D) I’m also currently enrolled in an online portrait photog class (it was a groupon, I figured what the hell. I also got a groupon from this other photographer, http://www.majoliephotography.com/.

    I was going to observe what she does and see if I could learn anything (again a visual learner.) Would she be classified as a faux-tog?

    Thanks so much again! With winter break rolling around, I should have a ton of time to study photography and shoot a lot.



    I was looking for a specific video I saw a couple of weeks ago and still have not found.  In my searching I came across this group of videos promoting a three day class video Bambi Cantrell put together: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4y5vsurR9k&list=SP03A97D22CE1BBA53&index=1

    She seems to charge a lot.  She has beautiful photos in the bits we see.  She is an artist, not an engineer.  I think it would be worth paying attention to what she has to say about business, posing and art.  When she starts talking about her 1D and 1.3X crop factor affecting lens length and depth of field, I think she has no concept of crop factor, but it does not matter because what you see is what you get, and when she looks through the viewfinder and sees light, she can get what her customers want.  Watch the set, there is a lot of useful information.

    I also came across a video by Doug Gordon, who seems to know what he is doing.  It runs 15 minutes and he does not waste a second.  It is all about posing bride and groom and neatly addresses Bambi’s “What do you do when your bride shows up an hour and forty-five minutes late for a two hour shoot.  This guy could get it done!  Pay attention to what he says about posing, camera tilt and watch the photos coming from the poses.  Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldrbq1LNf_A

    Level, hands perfectly still.  You can use viewfinder elements to help level.  The 5D Mk III has a grid you can turn on.  Other bodies may not.  You can use the sides and top of the finder to align with objects in your view.  Then recompose.  Just like focus and recompose.  If you were doing landscapes, I would tell you to use a tripod and hot shoe level.  I’m not convinced that’s the way to go shooting models.  You can always adjust level in post.  ACR, Photoshop and Elements have different but effective ways of fixing tilt.  Figure out how your editing tool does it.  As far as hands perfectly still, VR/IS/OS has been a huge boon.  Having a good grip helps a lot.  There is still, and still enough, too.  It depends on how big your final print will be.  Joe McNally did a YouTube video called Da Grip.  Check it out, it is useful, unless you already use that grip, then it is just entertaining.

    People tend to look at the brightest part of a photo.  They also look at the most in-focus part.  They should usually be the same part.  Usually the face.

    One of the Bambi videos has an image by her with a lot of negative space, check the difference between her negative space and yours.  Focal length, fast glass/big apertures and physical distances camera to subject and subject to background affect how out of focus foreground and background elements are.  If you have f/1.2, you can blur almost anything.  The challenge is that if you only have an inch of depth of field, your model can move ever so slightly after you focus and will now be out of focus.  You may also move slightly while recomposing, and your model is now out of focus.   Picking your focus point and using Servo tracking may help this, I have not tried it.

    Everyone has something to teach you.  Unfortunately, they may also tell you things that are incorrect.  Sometimes them telling you something that is incorrect will later lead to your enlightenment.  No one knows it all and there is a lot of misinformation and half truths being floated around as gospel.  Your job is to evaluate what you are told/shown and decide which pieces of information will help you.


    Keep shooting.





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