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Four Versions of the same Bust
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PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2012 4:27 am    Post subject: Four Versions of the same Bust Reply with quote

This past weekend one of the busts I took about a dozen shots of was George Washington. Why? because he split the could bite horses in half. Anyway, I posted one of them in my digital MF gallery post from the trip, but here are the four versions I kept. I processes each in a slightly different way and I'd like your input into which is best. I'll post the photos and then how each was achieved. That way, hopefully, you'll have made up your mind before you see the process.





1- Straight out of the camera
2- Minor sharpening with the unsharp mask (15%, 20 pixels, 0 pixel threshold)
3- Automatic contract balance, unsharp mash as noted above.
4- Duplicated the layer and then used the magic wand to isolate everything but the black on the top layer. Did a MASSIVE unsharp mash -- something like 64% and 125 pixels -- on just the face. On the black area dropped the gamma to ensure total darkness. Made he top layer about 30% visible so that the sharpening would add subtle detail and depth.

And, yes, it seems my focus is off on all four. When I took the pictures, the eyes were in focus. I think my camera's diopter was bumped because all my non-infinity images have been focused differently in .jpg than as I saw them in the viewfinder.

PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2012 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

#1 is underexposed, low contrast and wrong focus does not compensate but rather add to reject factor

#2 is slightly better but the pp makes the eyes look like statue has 4 promille glass eyes

#3 is reasonable exposure and light but the focus is wrong and eyes look stoned, again

#4 looks like you airbrushed or digital Y/O filtered an image which wasn't supposed to end up in the group that receive postprocessing

Question: Why change framing and frame out sculpture hair, when you can use a tripod and subject obviously is not going to move?

I hope you take criticism constructively but nevertheless: I'm notoriously known for harsh critique which I have to as I shoot for a living, and I have several sculptors and modern artists as my clients.

These are "nice" but if the client was the sculptor I seriously doubt he would approve your work. When shooting sculptures one must remember that a photographer should bring out the best of the sculpture, and I am afraid this series does not qualify for that. You should also skip your camera's matrix metering values - with a light coloured subject against a black background it will only try to achieve a middle histogram and here it is furthermore fooled by thinking the whites are brighter than they are - underexposed by 1-1.5 f-stops all.

PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 7:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think your criticism is harsh at all, and very helpful. And so your comments are very welcome. I have two degrees in creative writing and spent about seven years in very harsh and critical workshops. I don't think I've ever seen a comment on these boards as harsh as any of my writing workshops doled out on a weekly basis. And I've got a very thick skin for helpful comments.

As for focus, yeah, I was pretty unhappy about that. The K-7's viewfinder diopter was bumped in my bag and was off by three notches, so for a LOT of my shallow-depth shots that day I thought the eyes, for instance in this shot, were in focus by it was really something else.

For metering, I typically leave the K-7 in spot metering mode all the time, matrix metering only for area shots. I may have neglected to switch off matrix metering when we came inside, though.

Your observations on #4 are pretty close. Actually, I should have just written-off the entire group.

PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2012 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Exposing whites or greys is difficult, because camera metering "thinks" the way it thinks. Which is why I recommend relying on histogram validation of exposures. If it's dark where you shoot your LCD preview image will likely fool you to think your exposure is brighter than it is. A spot meter of a light surface will look brighter to the camera than it actually is, and give you a reading that underexposes. Similarly, a spot meter of a dark surface will give you overexposure as blacks fool the camera to strive for a middle histogram.

Some tricks that I have found helpful for this kind of subject

- use bracketing and tripod. I can easily end up with 50 to 60 exposures of a subject like this, and only use one of them. It's natural to have lots of trashable frames, I believe it's the best way to ensure you get that one good frame. I've developed this methodology as my clients are almost all very picky about even small details (read: they don't know what they want, but when they see images they know what they don't want!).

- If a sculptor hires a photographer, you should remember that they may have spent months or years perfecting the bust/sculpture - the photographer should always show respect for this by studying the subject and photographing it from many different angles. Usually any sculpture has about two angles from where it looks the best

- the perspective choice looks good to me, likewise to portray the left side of the face. Based on google images of George Washington, he did seem to have a prominent windbreaker and this perspective shows it well

- learn a lighting setup that removes the shadow under the nose. whether it's a harsh "Rembrandt" or any other fill/key light combo of your favorite choice, having that lighting setup impregnated in your spine makes it fast to set it up and it's always good to have some basis to start working from

- with a bust you are in no hurry, and if you're on a tripod you can easily verify that your shallow focus includes everything you want to include. the modern trend would be to go long (even 200mm) but for a life-size sculpture I would recommend 105 to 135mm on full-frame

- 15mpix is plenty for portraits, I would include a safety area around the bust so that you have about 10-15% extra space to crop out if you so desire

- with George Washington you also have the benefit of doing some "research" on Google, to see what angles and choices for perspective painters have used before you

PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2012 7:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

David wrote:

For metering, I typically leave the K-7 in spot metering mode all the time

That is the origin of the mistake, David. Whatever you point the spot meter onto, should be a 18% reflective gray surface. If it's a different surface, you should apply compensation.
Of course spot metering a white statue gave you back a 18% gray statue.
The solutions are: either use a 18% gray card for metering, or meter the incident light (with an external meter).
When you see fashion/beauty photographers spot metering the skin of a model (usually the face), you have to know that they are not absolute-metering.
They are zone-metering, and typically, they read skin value to place it in Zone 6 (1 stop above 18% gray).
So if the reading of the skin of the model says (for example) 1/125 f/11, they shoot 1/125 f/8 (or adjust the lights powers for compensation).

PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2012 5:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you both, those are good tips. I need to go back to the museum when I'm alone so I don't feel rushed by my brother and girlfriend. I may be able to do better work then.