Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Going Overboard

Today's image is of a young friend. His team had just placed well in a rowing regatta and he was running over, expressing his joy that his parents had been able to see the team do so well. I thought the shot came out pretty good and gave the parents a print the next time I saw them. His mother took a look at the image and said to her son, "oh, I didn't know you had so many freckles". I looked at the boy and he didn't have the same facial texture as the boy in the print. In my exuberance to produce the sharpest possibly print I had gone too far and wound up with all sorts of artifacts he his face that gave the appearance of freckles. Oops! One thing we have to be mindful of when shooting people is perception. How people record on a piece of film or a digital sensor is not always the way they want to be seen. Another example of being too "accurate" with an image occurred about two months ago. A group of friends offered to take some portraits of the senior citizens group in one of the towns nearby. I setup the lighting, my friend who's the really good portraitist did the shooting and another friend was going to do the retouching and printing. There were a few others handling the paperwork and coordination, so we had a pretty good team. When the images got to the retoucher she commented that there was nothing that needed to be done other than a little tighter cropping. The photographer said "what about sharpening?". I suggested that we probably didn't want to "sharpen" people from a senior center. The prints were printed and handed out to the subjects. I noticed one women looking at her image with sort of a semi-sad face. I asked her if the shot was alright. She said it was very nice, but her expression gave away a hint of disappointment. On the way home I figured it out. It wasn't the shot that had saddened her, it was the person looking back at her. She was a great, dignified looking lady of about sixty-five. That was the issue. When we look in a mirror we often don't see the same person looking back. I swear, when I look in a mirror I see a fairly trim twenty year old looking back. The photograph doesn't lie, but sometimes it would probably be kinder if it did. Five minutes of touchup could have made that regal lady look a little less like the queen and a little more like the princess she once was. It was an interesting lesson. To find out what was done to the young man in today's image, hit the "read more".

The "as shot" version of today's image was taken at lakeside, mid morning on a very cool, overcast day. The background was across the lake with some houses on the opposite shore and a pretty bland sky. Render/Clouds was used to produce a vignette that had some texture.

Some extreme sharpening of the overall image was produced by using the Filter/Other/High Pass technique that's been discussed several times on this blog. To intensify the sharpening, rather than using Overlay or Soft Light as the Blending Mode, I chose Vivid Light to get the fine detail in the hair and sweatshirt. As it turns out, it was probably not such a good idea to use it on the skin surfaces. The "redo" was handled by using a mask and eliminating the sharpening on the large flat surfaces of the skin. The lips, nostrils, eyes and eye brows were left with the heavy sharpening.

Before you go out shooting people, take a look in the mirror. See who's looking back. Would you want a shot of the actual person you see, or something closer to the perception you have. A photograph doesn't have to be merciless, just a little retouching can make it a gentle reminder of the past.


Kathy Marciante said...

Good lesson! We all want to look our best or even a bit better...young or old. Great shot by the way...awesome expression!