Critique Kate - [Stranger 204] OCF

blakester

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#1
Today, I paid a visit to Norwich, Norfolk for a mooch around with my camera and perhaps visit my 100 Strangers project again.

I noticed Kate and her sense of style whilst she was chatting to her friend Will in The Lanes area of Norwich, Norfolk.

Kate happily agreed to allow me to make her portrait only to say she wasn't photogenic!! and walking only a very short distance to this background I spotted nearby to where she and Will were standing.

Kate is a psychology student at university in Norwich. Her and Will were out shopping for the day when I stopped them.

"My New Year resolution is not to give anything up, to stop procrastinating and do some work for university!"

Thanks Kate (and Will).




Kate [Stranger #204]
by Iain Blake, on Flickr


Most (everyone reading this) probably don't know about this my third round of 100 strangers where I have given myself something of a learning curve in incorporating off camera flash (OCF) in these portraits.

In the case of Kate's portrait above, this was taken late afternoon in a somewhat shady spot in Norwich city centre.
I'm not sure if the OCF has added anything significant to the portrait. Going on from my previous portraits in this series, I have been trying to nail down a system for making these portraits with OCF. This one I used a lightweight lightstand and a shoot through umbrella which was camera right, very close to Kate just out of shot. It was on 128th power which I found was sufficient for the ambient. I have learned from my first few portraits that killing the ambient light doesn't work for my artistic vision of how I wish these portraits to look, so today I wanted to maybe have the ambient just a little under.

I am still trying to finesse the whole process, thinking out loud I am still not sure about the idea. I felt a little today that the setting up of the flash/stand/umbrella runs the risk of it 'getting in the way'.
I had the flash and umbrella already attached to the lightstand good to go once I had found a stranger subject, it just needed to be erected but even this I felt was a bit of a faff!
Short of setting the whole thing up to wait for a subject, Im at a loss as to what more I could do to make the process slicker. If I was accompanied I could set it up, test it and then waiting for someone to come along but I don't have that luxury.

Onwards and upwards.

I welcome all comments and critique. Thanks for reading!
 
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#2
Looks great to me fella.

To my eye I can not tell that the flash was used at all. That may or may not be want you are wanting ? The image is up there with your past shots cool subject&connection with veiwer. Background and pp good too.

Gaz
 
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blakester

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#3
Looks great to me fella.

To my eye I can not tell that the flash was used at all. That may or may not be want you are wanting ? The image is up there with your past shots cool subject&connection with veiwer. Background and pp good too.

Gaz
Thanks Gaz, my intention was to not kill the ambient light as in some of my past portraits but I did under expose the background a little.
The subtle flash was my aim but I'm not sure if it's just a bit too subtle? Perhaps if I'd taken the ambient down just a little more?
Kate was a cool subject, ever so patient too. When I was directing her pose she was really into it, saying "just tell me what to do, it's no problem"
I could have probably shot a lot more but I didn't want to take up too much of her time.
 
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#4
When I was directing her pose she was really into it, saying "just tell me what to do, it's no problem"
Be good if I knew how to pose them :) Never mind all the rest of it !
Like I say it's a great image.

Gaz
 
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blakester

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#5
Be good if I knew how to pose them :) Never mind all the rest of it !
Like I say it's a great image.

Gaz
:)
I'm not too sure either Gaz haha.
With Kate my main 'concern' was reflection off her glasses so I just asked her to tilt her head a little to eliminate reflection.
As is always the way, I find sorting it at the time of taking rather than in pp afterwards so much easier!

Cheers!
 
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blakester

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#9
Now we're cooking! As for whether the flash too subtle - it depends on what you want to achieve but this works beautifully for me.

I'd actually like to see it less processed, i.e. lighter toning and vignette.
Thanks Simon.
Subtle is what I am after and want to achieve.
I have decided I want the backgrounds to play a big part of the images, as they did in my first couple of 100 strangers rounds.
Killing the ambient isn't the way forward for me.

I was after a film look with the processing, almost cinematic, (I know the crop doesn't suggest that though)
I will have another play with the processing, dial it back a little Simon.

Thanks again.
 
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#10
Thanks Simon.
Subtle is what I am after and want to achieve.
I have decided I want the backgrounds to play a big part of the images, as they did in my first couple of 100 strangers rounds.
Killing the ambient isn't the way forward for me.

I was after a film look with the processing, almost cinematic, (I know the crop doesn't suggest that though)
I will have another play with the processing, dial it back a little Simon.

Thanks again.
Just an idea.. if you want cinematic then you might be able to get some nice results by gelling your flash e.g. if you add a CTO in daylight and then correct the white balance for skin tones the background will go blueish. With a different gel it might be possible to get close to classic teal/orange film toning in camera.

I've got an old example around here somewhere..


Under the pier
by Simon Carter, on Flickr
 
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blakester

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#11
Just an idea.. if you want cinematic then you might be able to get some nice results by gelling your flash e.g. if you add a CTO in daylight and then correct the white balance for skin tones the background will go blueish. With a different gel it might be possible to get close to classic teal/orange film toning in camera.

I've got an old example around here somewhere..


Under the pier
by Simon Carter, on Flickr
Thanks for the tip Simon.
I do have flash gels, I will give it a go.
The point at which I struggle with is the correcting skin tones in pp. I admit pp is not one of my strong points.
 
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#12
Thanks for the tip Simon.
I do have flash gels, I will give it a go.
The point at which I struggle with is the correcting skin tones in pp. I admit pp is not one of my strong points.
For the common gels (CTO, CTB) just shooting a grey card and using the white balance dropper in LR works well. I expect it could be difficult to correct some stronger colours in the same way; I'd use a calibrated target like the Spydercheckr 24 or a color passport.
 
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#13
Very nice Iain, another winner in my book.(y)

George.
 
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#14
I have learned from my first few portraits that killing the ambient light doesn't work for my artistic vision of how I wish these portraits to look, so today I wanted to maybe have the ambient just a little under.
I think you've got the idea spot on here Iain. As an ignorant "non-flasher" it looks very natural to me and the lack of reflection on the specs turns it into a professional looking portrait. You choose your backgrounds with care, so using OCF to balance the available light in dimly lit areas keeps the portraits cohesive through the project.

As to skin tones - I discovered this technique recently (requires Lightroom) which works really well with all photographs (apologies if this is something you know)

- In the Lightroom Develop Module > HSL > Make sure "All" is highlighted.
- Click the little round circle thing next to...
  • Hue if you want to change colour
  • Saturation if you want to desaturate it (best option probably)
  • Luminance for brightness
- Move your mouse pointer over the area in the photo that you want to tweak.
- Scroll mouse wheel up/down to alter the hue/saturation/luminance of that colour

Good luck with future portraits!
 
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blakester

blakester

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#16
I think you've got the idea spot on here Iain. As an ignorant "non-flasher" it looks very natural to me and the lack of reflection on the specs turns it into a professional looking portrait. You choose your backgrounds with care, so using OCF to balance the available light in dimly lit areas keeps the portraits cohesive through the project.

As to skin tones - I discovered this technique recently (requires Lightroom) which works really well with all photographs (apologies if this is something you know)

- In the Lightroom Develop Module > HSL > Make sure "All" is highlighted.
- Click the little round circle thing next to...
  • Hue if you want to change colour
  • Saturation if you want to desaturate it (best option probably)
  • Luminance for brightness
- Move your mouse pointer over the area in the photo that you want to tweak.
- Scroll mouse wheel up/down to alter the hue/saturation/luminance of that colour

Good luck with future portraits!

Thanks Ian.
The lack of reflection in the glasses was a deliberate (not wishing to faff in pp) act.
I asked Kate to tilt her head just a little so as to eliminate reflection, I am pleased with the outcome. She was prepared to remove her glasses but I felt that as she was wearing them when I first saw her, I felt that was her 'true' look. She made a wonderful subject and feel she would have been more than willing to allow me time to faff with lights etc. Perhaps that's something in me, that I felt I was imposing on her time when in reality I could have taken longer.

Everyday is a school day Ian, that isn't something I have used in LR before thanks I will give it a go.
 
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#17
@juggler thanks Simon,
It's certainly food for thought, now how can I incorporate that into shooting street portraits? Haha, I certainly don't make things easy for myself.
Assuming you're shooting raw it's only one extra frame* once the lights are set - all the pfaff happens later.

*I'm well aware that any extra time spent pfaffing can seem like an imposition on your subjects. Perhaps you could get close by shooting the target before you find a subject?
 
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blakester

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#19
Assuming you're shooting raw it's only one extra frame* once the lights are set - all the pfaff happens later.

*I'm well aware that any extra time spent pfaffing can seem like an imposition on your subjects. Perhaps you could get close by shooting the target before you find a subject?
True that Simon.
I may be putting barriers in place which aren't really there. Kate was ever so patient yesterday, she didn't seem in any rush so I could have taken a little more time.
Its still early days in this project, perhaps I need to find a model to practice on before taking it out onto the streets?

Well I love it. As it is. I'm always a fan of your PP but you know that anyway.

The lighting is superb. It's just right and very complimentary towards Kate.

Good work dude.
Cheers David.
Kate said she wasn't photogenic but I would disagree with that.
I would welcome her thoughts other photograph, I'm hoping she looks in on my Facebook page and comments.
 

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#22
Nice one, more like your usual style.
When I saw this elsewhere I wondered if you gone back to natural light or just used a touch of fill flash.

When using fill flash outdoors myself I usually hand hold the flashgun either bare or with a flashbender attached, it's quick, easy and doesn't take up much room.
 
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blakester

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#25
Nice one, more like your usual style.
When I saw this elsewhere I wondered if you gone back to natural light or just used a touch of fill flash.

When using fill flash outdoors myself I usually hand hold the flashgun either bare or with a flashbender attached, it's quick, easy and doesn't take up much room.
Thanks Mark,
I had metered for the ambient initially, when I took the first photo, Kate's face was over exposed, I dialled down the flash power then knocked the iso down afterwards.
This is where I ended up with the flash not being obvious. I like it but I don't know if it's because it's near my usual style.

Lovely work. Thanks for sharing your insights.
Thank you Amanda, I'm on a learning curve and find it helps to share my thought process too so that people can steer me in the right direction with their comments and critique.

The flash is very subtle and it does look more like your non-flash work.

I love it.
Thanks Phil, it does have shades of my first couple of rounds I agree.
 
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#26
I think that's a great shot and the flash is nicely balanced it's very easy to over do it. Technically it's excellent and the conscious decision to avoid reflections in the glasses is a testament to this. I look forward to seeing more portraits in this series in the future.
 
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blakester

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#27
I think that's a great shot and the flash is nicely balanced it's very easy to over do it. Technically it's excellent and the conscious decision to avoid reflections in the glasses is a testament to this. I look forward to seeing more portraits in this series in the future.
Thanks Nick.
Shooting OCF 'on the hoof' there is such a lot to think about (for me anyway) that I'm pleased I had the forethought to think about the reflections and managing to avoid them.
I agree about overdoing the flash, I thought I'd taken the power of it down sufficiently beforehand but when I shot the first frame Kate's face was completely over exposed, a quick adjustment sorted it though.
 
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#31
Thanks Nick.
Shooting OCF 'on the hoof' there is such a lot to think about (for me anyway) that I'm pleased I had the forethought to think about the reflections and managing to avoid them.
I agree about overdoing the flash, I thought I'd taken the power of it down sufficiently beforehand but when I shot the first frame Kate's face was completely over exposed, a quick adjustment sorted it though.
There are few American street-portrait photographers who have set up a flash with softbox / brolley on a golf trolly. It's a semi-permanent set up so just wheel it into position and it's all good to go ! Food for thought but it's quite a clever concept.
 
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blakester

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#32
Saw this on Facebook. Instantly loved it. I always think in scenes like this good flash is subtle flash. And this is excellent. Beautiful subject beautifully captured.

Very much enjoying this round!
Thanks Shaheed, I'm slowly getting to where I want to be with this round of the project. I can only hope it wasn't a happy accident!

Also, the glasses are excellently managed too!
Thanks again, that was deliberate and not an accident haha!

There are few American street-portrait photographers who have set up a flash with softbox / brolley on a golf trolly. It's a semi-permanent set up so just wheel it into position and it's all good to go ! Food for thought but it's quite a clever concept.
That may be a step too far for me, as good an idea it is.
I shoot a lot of these portraits in London, wheeling a golf trolley on the tube would be interesting.

I think I just have to have the courage of my convictions and carry only the bare essentials.
After a fair bit of walking carrying a load of kit plus standing around has wrecked my lower back today (an old motorcycle injury doesn't help either)
 
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blakester

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#35
Thinking out loud here, the more I look at Kate's portrait the more I think it would have been achievable by my previous method of using a reflector.
I'm not about to give up on my OCF aspirations but will continue experimenting with the look/style.
I don't reall have a point to make in this post, just wanted to put it down in writing more as a statement of intent.
 
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#36
Thinking out loud here, the more I look at Kate's portrait the more I think it would have been achievable by my previous method of using a reflector.
I'm not about to give up on my OCF aspirations but will continue experimenting with the look/style.
I don't reall have a point to make in this post, just wanted to put it down in writing more as a statement of intent.
Maybe/maybe not.

The picture you've ended up with (for me) is brilliant.

What would you want to change in terms of the result with the use of flash?

You are a little dictated to by the conditions you shoot in unless you're going for dramatic looks with OCF.

I recently went for a dusk walk in stockheld park (snaps on Facebook) and must confess to finding it difficult to balance the lighting (my flash was on camera!) So I again take my hat off to you!
 
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blakester

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#37
Maybe/maybe not.

The picture you've ended up with (for me) is brilliant.

What would you want to change in terms of the result with the use of flash?

You are a little dictated to by the conditions you shoot in unless you're going for dramatic looks with OCF.

I recently went for a dusk walk in stockheld park (snaps on Facebook) and must confess to finding it difficult to balance the lighting (my flash was on camera!) So I again take my hat off to you!
Thanks for commenting Shaheed.
What I think I am getting at is that the method of shooting still has to be refined/finessed. It's a bit more 'hassle' to shoot OCF than using the reflector for similar results.

I wasn't expecting it to be an easy process (for me) I knew it would be a challenge so I will perservere with it.
As I mentioned, I am just thinking out loud here and don't really know what point I'm trying to make haha!
 
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#38
Thinking out loud here, the more I look at Kate's portrait the more I think it would have been achievable by my previous method of using a reflector.
I'm not about to give up on my OCF aspirations but will continue experimenting with the look/style.
I don't reall have a point to make in this post, just wanted to put it down in writing more as a statement of intent.
Both the flash and the reflector as you know, will put light on the subjects face. It's a different medium to achieving the same result. I know that sounds like I'm stating the obvious, but as we are both in a reflective mood (no pun intended) I thought I would get that down too !

The main difference between the two is that the flash will give you more control illuminating the subject either +/- where as, the reflector will only reflect back a portion of the light depending on actual amount that it comes into contact with. In the right circumstances it would be possible to reach equilibrium. The definitive question I would suggest is how much light to you want to fall on your subject. Nobody likes blown highlights but too little.... it's all down to subjectivity. As I said earlier, I really like your portrait of Kate as others do
 
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#40
Both the flash and the reflector as you know, will put light on the subjects face. It's a different medium to achieving the same result. I know that sounds like I'm stating the obvious, but as we are both in a reflective mood (no pun intended) I thought I would get that down too !

The main difference between the two is that the flash will give you more control illuminating the subject either +/- where as, the reflector will only reflect back a portion of the light depending on actual amount that it comes into contact with. In the right circumstances it would be possible to reach equilibrium. The definitive question I would suggest is how much light to you want to fall on your subject. Nobody likes blown highlights but too little.... it's all down to subjectivity. As I said earlier, I really like your portrait of Kate as others do
This.. assuming you want to keep the use of flash subtle then I reckon the main differences between flash and a reflector are (a) it will give you more subtle control over direction / sculpting / modelling, and (b) it might be more effective in difficult lighting situations, e.g. backlit or bright environments. I don't think a reflector would have given quite such a refined result with Kate.
 
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