Friday, December 3, 2010

Photo Thoughts: Sexy Mrs. Claus

Click the photo to leave your thoughts on Flickr

In the spirit of the holiday season I decided to have fun and take a Sexy Mrs. Claus photo using gear many of my Canon readers already have. For those who are wondering, no it isn’t my wife who was the sexy camera babe featured in my Think Tank Photo Digital Holster review.

I shot this with a Canon 5D Mark II using a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens mounted on a tripod. My camera settings were f/5 for 1/60 sec at ISO 800. I used two 580 EX II flashes shot through umbrellas and I triggered them with a ST-E2.

To process this photo I used Kelby’s 7 Point System with Photoshop CS4 for Windows (for stability reasons) on a Lenovo W701ds for most of my editing. I switched to Photoshop CS5 for Mac on my MacBook Pro to do come content-aware healing as well as the improved Refine Edge tool. I hadn’t tried the new Refine tool on a really challenging subject until this shot (the real background was grey), so I referred to Scott Kelby’s new Photoshop CS5 book where the technique on pages 255 & 256 worked brilliantly on the hair where the background shows through and especially the hair coming off the “snow ball” from the hat. This saved me hours and couldn’t be done easily in CS4.

I used Nik Software’s Dfine to get rid of the high ISO noise, then I used Color Efex’s Dynamic Skin Softener to soften the skin up a bit to suit my taste. However, people’s opinions of too much/too little is almost a religious debate among some photographers, so my taste might not be your taste. I used Viveza 2 to make some spot adjustments of both color and brightness, and finally I used Sharpener Pro for the final sharpening layer (so I could use a different layer for print sharpening).

What Went Well

Overall I love the shot and the model’s hair looks great to me. I loved the outfit and the kissy lips were just what I was looking for when I made this photo. Most off all, the model is gorgeous so that made my job much easier as well. if I don’t nit pick it to death, I actually like it a lot, and my 13x19 print of it (upsized with Genuine Fractals) from the Epson 3880 on Exhibition Fiber rocks!

What Could Have Gone Better

Lots of things went wrong in this photo at capture time so I had to pay dearly in Photoshop. The worst thing is that my studio at night is pretty dark so the 580 EX II’s weren’t up to the task – especially with my aging eneloop batteries. This forced me to have to boost the ISO to 800 which added noise, and the overhead light above the background is a nasty tungsten that I forgot to swap out with one of my Solux light bulbs. This put an orange cast on her overall, but especially on her nose and shoulders.  It has proven trickier to remove than I had hoped (it’s easy to remove but the impact on the surrounding area is annoying). I also failed to notice three things during this part of the shoot:

  1. The model need to re-apply her lipstick (ouch – this was painful)
  2. Her right eye is at an odd angle based on where she is looking so I should have had her look more to her right.
  3. Her smile needed to either show more or less teeth but this one is in a bad transition state.

There’s always other little niggles, but these are the ones that drive me nuts.

Share your thoughts

The cool thing about the success of this blog (which currently has over 1000 visitors a day), is that the audience ranges from the beginner to some of the top photographers of the industry. if you have some constructive feedback on how to improve this photo (post capture) then feel free to leave a comment. I’d especially love tips from Photoshop Wizard who could teach me how to fix those darn lips!

I’d also love to know if you like me doing this type of article as opposed to posting it to my Photographers Notebook as I’ve done in the past.

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