These three portrait images are part of my initial portrait series from Rajasthan, India. All three a worthy shots on their own accord but i have just started to play around with the HDR Efex Pro photoshop plugin by Nik Software. I've been blown away by the power of this program and its capabilities to enhance photographs.
The control you have over the Nik software settings is astounding. You can easily add control points to alter small sections / tones of an image. You have mirco adjustment control over exposure / contrast / blacks / whites and other standard settings you'd see in Adobe Photoshop Raw. But then you also have a series of presets down the left hand side that make editing a very quick and easy process to achieve stunning photographic results.
As these three shots were of elderly men, i wanted a very raw and contrasty finish that really amplified the textures and wrinkles in the faces. Below is an example of the Nik Software HDR Efex Pro interface.
I wanted to gauge people reactions and feedback to the photographic art above. It's not something i do a lot of but i was interested to see if i could make a series of images that are closer to traditional art than true photography. This is the same series of photos that i took from my recent trip to Bali, Indonesia and i wanted to create something a little different.
Using a series of lighting techniques using adjustment layers and filters in Adobe Photoshop CS5 i have created these highly stylised portraits that have been cropped to a square format. I think they would look great in a series of canvas prints
While i definitely wont be doing this regularly i certainly had fun creating these photographic art portraits and may look to create some more down the line. If anyone is interested in purchasing one of these on a canvas please let me know as i can get some great pricing on quality archival canvas that would be sure to create a talking point in your lounge room.
I would love feedback of any sort so please don't hesitate to leave a comment.
The most important tip in producing high quality portrait images is to know how to get the most from your subject. The least important item in portrait photography is worrying about what camera gear you have or require. There is no point having amazing photographic gear (where it be high end digital DSLR like a Canon 5D Mark II, a classic Leica camera with the incredible Carl Zeiss lenses or a professional medium format camera such as a Hasselblad if you cant engage with and get the most from your subject.
I got talking to this interesting character in Dalat, Vietnam. He initially made a very half hearted attempt to see if i needed a taxi ride for money. After politely declining, I expected him to either leave to find more business or to barter me down for a cheaper ride. Instead we got into a half hour conversation about my home town of Perth, Western Australia and how different it was to his, the beautiful mountainous city of Dalat in the south of Vietam.
We chatted and chatted and he talked about how his uncle or cousin...not sure which due to the difficulty understanding each other, had moved out to Australia and how life was for each of us. He eventually asked if i could take his picture. He was initially quiet stiff and the first photos reflected this. After a few shots he began to relax a little and started a new cigarette. This portrait really does something for me. Through Adobe Photoshop CS5 i have given the image a retro, warm feel with slightly distorted colour balance. I have made a couple of pre-set actions to enable me to process these type of images quickly. I can't recommend Photoshop actions enough especially if you have a lot of images to process that are of similar exposure and tone. You will run into trouble if your raw images differ dramatically with ratio of highlights to low lights. I normally try to avoid batch processing unless my lighting conditions are identical from shot to shot.
In terms of getting the most from your portrait photography other suggestions i have is to play and experiment on friends and family so you get a feel for what works when you get to a commercial photography shoot or using a real model. Experiment with different lighting effects. Personally i like using natural light far more than artificial lighting such as on Camera flashes or soft boxes in a photography studio. I love the effects that can be achieved with natural light from the sun streaming in from windows and doors. Stunning results can be achieved by simply placing your subject near a window and using a reflector of any type (i like to keep a collection of scrap white cardboard and polystyrene foam) to use to reflect light back onto the shadow side of the face.
The second tip i like to recommend for interesting portrait photography is to experiment with perspective. Try to find an unusual perspective that is different from standing eye to eye with your subject and shooting. Getting down low and shooting up or getting up on a chair or step ladder and shooting down can often provide a more dynamic photograph. If I'm out on location, it wouldn't be unusual to find me lying in dirt or climbing on top of bins, benches to try and find a point of difference to make an interesting photograph.
Thirdly, don't be afraid to get close to your subject and fill the frame. Alternatively if the subject is in an environment that helps to tell a story, don't be afraid to show this as well. A portrait can include its surrounding environment, especially if it helps describe the character or add something to the photograph and subject. I often try to include the subjects environment if I'm taking travel portraits or if the place is critical to explain a story behind the subject.
So to summarise. Get out there today and start shooting…Nothing will give you better photos than playing and experimenting with different situations and conditions. You don't need a fancy professional camera or photographic studio with light boxes and continuous backgrounds just a willing subject and a belief in your ability to get the best out of them.
Traditional adjustments of levels, hues, saturation etc in photoshop should be a thing of the past. Adjustment layers are editable so you can make changes to your levels and go back and edit them later. You can even mask them. This tutural from Sam Scholes is great for the beginner or photoshop enthusiast who is looking to learn how to implement adjustment layers.
A not so serious look at one fans quest to be the first to get Adobe CS5 "Wow, do you have CS5 loaded in your fingers?..." Classic line.
Well folks. Adobe creative suite CS5 has been out for 2 days now and im trying to find out the good, the bad and everything inbetween. One of the major improvements has been Adobe's changes to the lens correction feature which is now a lot more user friendly. This appears to be great news for all real estate and architectural photographers, especially those who shoot with 35mm or digital SLR's.
The refine edge tool offers time saving in selecting specific parts of an image as well as enhancements to RAW processing including specific colour profiles for specific lens. Which lens are included, im not sure on but apparently the focus is on common Canon and Nikon lens for the time being.
HDR (High Dynamic Range) feature now has a "remove ghost" option that eliminates any object that moves inbetween shots. This i believe should be very useful for me as i've always struggled with this. How effectively it works is yet to be determined.
Overall it looks like there will be some features that make this a winner and better than CS4 which aside from technical bugs that were never solved, didn't really push the boundaries from the prevoious version CS3.
If anyone has CS5 (in particular CS5 photoshop) i'd love feedback as to your thoughts?
Chris Bishop professional commercial, landscape & travel photographer based in Perth, Western Australia.