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Unread 09-01-2010, 12:31 PM   #1
Fleamo
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First on location shoot...

So, I'm pretty new to photography as a whole, but last weekend I had the chance to do my first shoot at an actual convention. It was a little bit hectic, which made me reush a bit more than I'd normally like to, and I was pretty worn out by the end of the day.

That said, I captured a lot of images, some of which I feel are pretty decent. Looking at each of these, I can already see things I'd change given the chance to do it again, mostly sloppy composition or lighting stuff.

Anyways. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the few photos I've had a chance to process, edit, and upload so far. Here they are, in no particular order:


I liked the light in this shot the best, but Ghost's rifle was clipped in the original comp. I copied the full barrel/silencer from another shot and extended the canvas to accommodate it. Which would explain the specular highlights and slightly skewed perspective.

It also kind of threw off the rest of the photo, because I had to increase the height to compensate for the added width. Still, I think it's a lot better than the original.



Not a huge fan of the cosplayer's expression in this one, but the others weren't much better. He's a bit too dreamy looking, like he's just realized his purpose in life. The tricky thing with Ghostbusters is that all the detail is in the backpack, and that doesn't really show here.

Still, this is one of the shots that I've processed the least. Just a bit of levels/saturation.




Sloppy comp job. I managed to cut off both of Travis's hands. I thought about trying to clone them in from other shots, but I had already spent too much time on this photo. I'm quite proud of my work with the sword. Aside from the obviously fake glow, I added a lot of subtle hilights and colouration designed to reinforce the sword as an actual light source (which it was not). I also wish the lower halves of their bodies had got a bit more light naturally. I adjusted the levels subtly with a gradient mask to make try and bring them up a bit.




Might've crushed the blacks a bit too hard with this one, but I was going for a very dramatic, movie-poster vibe. I wish I had used a second kicker camera right to give Noctis' right side a bit of separation from the background, and maybe even catch Cloud's pauldron too. I noticed this at the time of the shoot, but there wasn't enough time to get another light over there. Beware of black on black on black, is the lesson here.

I think this was the first photo I processed from the shoot, and looking at it now in comparison to the others, it could probably be reworked. Back to the drawing board, perhaps.




Everyone it probably going to scream "MORE FILL!", but again, I was trying for a horror movie poster effect. I have a lot of shots where more detail is visible in the mask, but I moved my key light behind the subject and scrapped the umbrella for double kicker fun. I also did some (hopefully) subtle work on his claw/tubes, including more fake light source stuff. I say subtle, but if you compare it side by side to the original, it's pretty obvious.

I just noticed that the needle on his index finger really blends into the background. I might add/bring up the hilights to compensate.




Not everyone wants to dress up like a big bad scary dude with an oversized sword/gun/sword-gun. This girl's dress was really nice, but the bottom was quite wrinkled, and the crinoline/hoopskirt was showing through in an ugly way. I did a bunch of work cloning out wrinkles and trying to soften the appearance of the ridges, and also cropped it a bit. Lots of little touchups like blemish and stray hair removal. I also added a soft glow on some of the highlights to give the shot a more ethereal/fairy tale/80s glam shot quality.

Last edited by Fleamo : 09-01-2010 at 12:33 PM.
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Unread 09-06-2010, 06:57 PM   #2
Max_Archer
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All in all, I think these are quite nice, especially if it's one of your first shoots. You wouldn't wanna see what my photos looked like in my first year or so...

I'm not feeling the soft glow on the last shot, I might tone it down just a tiny bit. At this scale, it makes the photo look a bit like you missed focus. Other than that, the only thing I can say is that the other shots are all a little dark for my taste, but I'm on a calibrated monitor at a low brightness, and the shots should work fine at the 100% brightness the average computer user will be viewing them on. I'd kick the brightness up about 20% if you ever try to print them, though.

I think there's a little too much "headroom" in the MW2 shot. Don't be afraid to crop to a non-standard size when working with online distribution, I think a Hasselblad-style square composition is kinda cool sometimes, anyway.

What kind of flash/modifier rig are you running? Speedlights with umbrellas? I like the sidelit direction you're going with these, I think switching to a decent softbox or two and feathering the light would really kick the shots up another notch.
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Unread 09-07-2010, 08:36 AM   #3
Fleamo
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Thanks, Max.

The extra headroom in the ghost shot was due to my poor initial comp job, cropping the gun in a really distracting manner. It looked something like this:



I tried to maintain the standard aspect ratio to keep it consistent with the rest of the set, so after adding another 30% in width, the height had to increase too. I think of it as punishment for not comping it properly the first time.

My setup is pretty basic. I use 3 or 4 speedlights triggered by a handful of CyberSync wireless units. A few sb-24s, an sb-25, and an sb-600 (which I hardly ever use). For these shots in particular, I had a hard kicker camera left, a hair light above/behind my backdrop, and another light through a smallish shoot through umbrella camera right. All the fill was ambient (outdoors, in the shade, on a sunny day).

The colour/brightness/calibration thing is tricky, in that I'm not really sure who I should be tailoring that for. I have a dual monitor setup at home, and even across the different monitors, I notice a shift in brightness and hue. Right now, everything is going out online for consumption by the average viewer, but you're right that I'll probably need to make adjustments for print.

Thanks for the input. I really appreciate it.
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Unread 09-07-2010, 03:31 PM   #4
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Your kicker light that's camera-left is a bit harsh on many of the shots. It's blowing out the highlights on that side on shots 1, 2, 4, 6. The cropping is poor in that they're all roughly cropped at the knee and had they been wearing shorts, you would be amputating them. #5 could've used a bit more fill. I see what you're going for, but it's the eyes that give it the horrifying look and as is, they're completely lost.

I'm not sure I'd really call these "on location". They look like studio shots in that it's just a plain background. They're nice portraits, but there's no sense of setting which signals "on location". Also, if you had 3-4 lights to play with, you might have used one to light your background a bit.

Thanks for sharing and hope to see more.
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Last edited by FiveRings : 09-08-2010 at 01:46 AM. Reason: spelling nazi
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Unread 09-08-2010, 01:18 AM   #5
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I think FiveRings has a point about the eyes, actually. Even if it's just the tiniest bit of fill, I think a low-power (maybe even VERY low, with a snoot/grid/both) would help "spark" the eyes.

You're actually running more lighting than I generally bring along, I'm so addicted to CLS that I've stopped using my non-CLS lighting whenever possible! I definitely think a softbox or two would be a good next purchase.

For online stuff, yeah, the whole color/calibration thing isn't really a big deal.

Oh, one thing I would check out, if you haven't already, is Joe McNally's books. Really interesting stuff from the master of location lighting.
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Unread 09-09-2010, 09:06 AM   #6
Fleamo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FiveRings View Post
Your kicker light that's camera-left is a bit harsh on many of the shots. It's blowing out the highlights on that side on shots 1, 2, 4, 6. The cropping is poor in that they're all roughly cropped at the knee and had they been wearing shorts, you would be amputating them. #5 could've used a bit more fill. I see what you're going for, but it's the eyes that give it the horrifying look and as is, they're completely lost.

I'm not sure I'd really call these "on location". They look like studio shots in that it's just a plain background. They're nice portraits, but there's no sense of setting which signals "on location". Also, if you had 3-4 lights to play with, you might have used one to light your background a bit.

Thanks for sharing and hope to see more.
Thanks for the crits. Regarding the blown out hilights, I agree that they may run a bit hot. It's a bit tricky to balance the way different materials handle the light. In shot 6 (Belle), the hilight along the reflective satin of her dress is definitely blown out. The light on her skin, however, is right where it needs to be, I think. So, if I were to dial down the power on my flash, I'd be saving some texture in the fabric, but losing punch in other places. This is true of most of the shots here. I guess, in general, it's safer to have too little light than not enough (easier to crank the highs up in post), so I might try to aim a little lower next time.

The other thing that comes into play, is the dynamic nature of the subjects. Now is probably a good time to touch on what I meant by "on location". I normally (like to) work in a studio, and spend a good deal of time perfecting my light for the subject. These photos were taken in an impromptu setup on the sidewalk outside Canada's biggest convention. Instead of shooting 1 or 2 subjects an hour, I shot 30. People were basically rolling in on a conveyor belt, so I didn't really have the luxury of time to tailor the light (or anything, really) to each shot. In shot 1 (GHOST), we have a pair of subjects. Necessarily, one is going to be standing closer to my camera left kicker than the other, so he's going to be hit a bit harder. Is this something I could have fixed? Definitely. But, there wasn't really time to do it.

As for the cropping, I don't think there's anything wrong with it. All the shots are cropped either above, or below the knee (which is, given my understanding, where you should be cropping 3/4 body shots). Where do you think they should have been cropped? Higher? Lower?

If you're saying you would have liked to see a bit more variation in my comps, rest assured a took a lot of CUs, head and shoulders, waist up, and full body shots. These are 6 of the 1000+ images I took; I just happened to process these first/like them best.

For the Scarecrow shot, I actually switched my lighting setup (which happened only once or twice throughout the day. I was trying to recreate a look I had seen on a specific movie poster, but didn't have with me for reference. Edit: it's this one.



I thought the subject matter was a pretty good fit. The RAW file actually has more ambient fill than my final version, but I deliberately crushed it down. Would it have been nice to get a snooted hard light on axis up high for some more texture? Yeah. But again, I working at the limit of available time.

Finally, regarding background lighting, the original intent was to shoot with an infinite black kind of look. Unfortunately, there was just too much ambient to do this outside. My flashes were already at full or half power trying to drown out the available light. A background light is something I'll definitely consider if I do this again and can't get the infinite black look I want.

And thanks again for your thoughts. I appreciate hearing what other people have to say, even if I don't necessarily agree.

Last edited by Fleamo : 09-09-2010 at 09:09 AM.
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Unread 09-09-2010, 09:07 AM   #7
Fleamo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Max_Archer View Post
I think FiveRings has a point about the eyes, actually. Even if it's just the tiniest bit of fill, I think a low-power (maybe even VERY low, with a snoot/grid/both) would help "spark" the eyes.

You're actually running more lighting than I generally bring along, I'm so addicted to CLS that I've stopped using my non-CLS lighting whenever possible! I definitely think a softbox or two would be a good next purchase.

For online stuff, yeah, the whole color/calibration thing isn't really a big deal.

Oh, one thing I would check out, if you haven't already, is Joe McNally's books. Really interesting stuff from the master of location lighting.
Yeah. I was actually looking at buying a soft box or two the day before, but they're a bit pricey. They're on the list, and I'll probably have them by the time I do the next shoot like this. Being able to control the direction and spill is going to be a big asset, especially if I'm still shooting for the infinite black look.
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