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Unread 10-13-2010, 09:19 PM   #1
Melanie
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How do we get the "wow! factor"?

My brother is the photographer and I am the cosplayer, and after several years and just as many camera changes, we're both completely stumped why his photos just aren't popping. Yes, they're nice photos, but they're lacking something, and we'd like help identifying it.

I'll post up some of his best photos. As you can see, they're trying to be epic... but just aren't.

Canon EOS 1000D. Exposure:1/20 second. ISO:200
http://www.cosplay.com/photo/2535063/
http://www.cosplay.com/photo/2271740/

Fuji FinePix S5600. Exposure:1/250 second. ISO:64
http://www.cosplay.com/photo/1263124/

Aside from the usual sibling criticism, "get a better model!", we'd like to know what we can both do to turn his photos into something more than just "an amateur snap of a costume".

Constructive criticism is greatly appreciated. Please be harsh, because we will never learn unless we are aware of our flaws.

Thanks in advance for your help and honesty!
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Unread 10-13-2010, 09:53 PM   #2
SapphireChaos
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Okay, I am in no way a professional photographer, but my sister is big into photography and I would like to help however I can ^^
For the first photo, I would say take a more drastic angle. In the picture you are low towards the ground, but how about getting on the ground and have the camera positioned "looking up" more dramatically at the cosplayer like in the third photo.

I'm not sure what to say about the other two pictures, except maybe have more contrasted lighting ^^;

Also, keep the rule of thirds in mind (not an exact critique for these specific pictures, but just in general) Imagine a tic-tac-toe style grid on the picture and try have the model anywhere where the lines intersect. (learned this from art class)

That's all I can think of. I hope I helped somewhat
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Unread 10-14-2010, 01:24 PM   #3
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I think the biggest shortcoming is lighting.

Camera equipment is really just about the smallest component in getting a good picture. Though if you are looking to expand in that area, external flash and/or reflector and/or fast prime lens might be things to consider. (though in the end, none are necessary, just handy)

Model can help a picture, and in that first one you don't seem very serious looking, which hurts the picture a little bit. But in the end, you don't need an amazingly talented model for reasonable epicness.

I think you can kinda help to some extent with post processing - dodge/burn/curves/saturation/etc. But to me that's better suited for minor adjustments rather than changing the feel of an image. (Perhaps because I'm lousy at it - some people do post-process images from blah to wow)

Composition is so-so. Pose is fine.


Anyways. Light:

For the first shot, the picture is in the shade, and so you're lit by the sky as a whole, which is very soft light. Sometimes, that's exactly what you want - especially for pretty-girl-looking-pretty sort of stuff. But there's no drama in that low contrast soft look. So, step one: a bright, harsh light. (for me, that's usually a flash, but late afternoon sun does the job too)
Afternoon sun:

Next issue is that light tends to draw your eye. In your picture, the background is overall brighter than your foreground. In my experience, that only looks good when the background is much, much brighter (for example, silhouettes (which are epic), or blown out backgrounds (which are cool, but I think not as epic)).


Of course... how do you get your person in the sun, but your building in the shade? Well, not the whole person needs to be in the sun. In fact, I think side-light is more epic looking. Here's a case where shooting in mid-day sun might not be such a bad idea - shoot on the north side of the building (so it's in shade), but have the person out of the shadow (so they're lit up), but you're shooting towards the building, so their shoulder / hair is lit up, but their front is not. Expose the picture so the person's face is a little under exposed, and their shoulders are a little over-exposed. If you have a reflector, use it to light up the face a bit. End result is something like:
or

In those cases, the sun is serving as a rim light to provide separation. Good separation is a key part of making images pop. Contrast with light is one way of providing separation. Having a sufficiently out of focus background is another. (But the out of focus approach doesn't let the background contribute to the epicness of the shot. ) And so is color (especially vibrant ones against dull ones, or warm ones against cool ones)


Hope that helps some. (And this is based on my own personal style - I'm sure other have very different idea how to go about making a picture more epic/wow)

(Normally I use flashes. Example images are film shots I did, where flash wasn't as practical so I had to use the sun. And there's little if any post-processing on them.)
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Unread 10-14-2010, 02:44 PM   #4
Jia Jem
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Occasionally, I'll get my pals (who aren't pro photographers) to take a billion pictures of me, I'll choose only a handful, and then I do the "wow" part with post processing. :P What I can't control directly, I control with the Photoshop, MWAHAHA.

Are you doing any post-processing to your photos? Cropping, color correction, exposure correction, etc? These changes really make a difference.

Of course, the first technique should always be good photography. But never underestimate the power of editing!

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Unread 10-14-2010, 03:56 PM   #5
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I would recommend trying to up the "wow" factor by enhancing the photo in a photo editor, like others have said.

Here's a picture a photographer took of me, and then there's the same picture, only I digitally enhanced it. I'm not the best at it, but you can tell it makes it not look so "blah."

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Unread 10-14-2010, 05:03 PM   #6
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Your first image has a nice location. The dark eyes take away from the end result. Many remedies could be applied. If you looked over your left shoulder, your eyes may have caught better light. Your pose seems like a typical pose for a camera, rather than seeming in character. Your skin tones are very cyan, from being in the shade, where the blue sky reflects blue light onto you. A better white balance setting could enhance that situation in the future. This can be color corrected by adding red and yellow to bring out warmer skin tones.

The second image has good color balance, but the lighting is too random in how direct sun hits part of your faces. It would look better if your faces were in complete shade or direct sunlight, for certain poses. A reflector could improve the lighting on your faces as it fills in your eyes and gives them a more wet sparkle. Your poses seem too posey again. Relax and get more in character...Try more candid-looking poses. Get your hands more involved by holding props. This will show more of your costume.

The third photo is too low for my taste... It seems all about the nostrils. Low angles are great, but experiment with different levels and see what is most flattering...Try profiles on your faces with extreme low angles. Back the camera and the cosplayer away from the building so your angle can be less severe. The backround is very busy and distracting making my eyes fight to look at you or the background. Blurring the background or choosing less busy areas will help lead our eyes to the people first.

Look at other photography that you find has the "Wow!" factor and apply some ideas from them.
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Unread 10-14-2010, 05:39 PM   #7
Blasteh
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jia Jem View Post
Occasionally, I'll get my pals (who aren't pro photographers) to take a billion pictures of me, I'll choose only a handful, and then I do the "wow" part with post processing. :P What I can't control directly, I control with the Photoshop, MWAHAHA.

Are you doing any post-processing to your photos? Cropping, color correction, exposure correction, etc? These changes really make a difference.

Of course, the first technique should always be good photography. But never underestimate the power of editing!

This is a perfect example of what a little colour correction can do to a photo, it adds a lot of wow.


For your 1st photo, my immediate reaction is that it looks like a low quality jpg with compression artefacts. The next on the list is the cool tone that you usually get when you don't pay attention to colour balance.

For the 2nd photo, avoid standing halfway between sun and shade.
For the 3rd photo, be aware of the background, it is too busy and detracts from the photo. Shooting with a wide aperture lens helps this.

The 1st and 3rd photo still has room for improvement if you want to do some post processing, they're by no means terrible; although the eyes in the 1st photo is what you usually get when the cosplayer is looking at another camera, which isn't a good thing.
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Unread 10-14-2010, 06:10 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Blasteh View Post
...the eyes in the 1st photo is what you usually get when the cosplayer is looking at another camera, which isn't a good thing.
Of course, it is all a matter of opinion. Mine happens to be that, taking a photo when a person looks at another camera can be a good thing. I often like to take candid-looking photos. For Cosplay I usually have cosplayers look somewhere off camera. The fact that they may be looking at another camera does not necessarily seem that way. Use it!

Here is an example of when non-of the cosplayers were posing for my camera. Three of them were looking at another camera:http://www.cosplay.com/photo/2433900/

Last edited by brucer007 : 10-16-2010 at 03:14 PM.
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Unread 10-14-2010, 06:42 PM   #9
Blasteh
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Originally Posted by brucer007 View Post
Of course, it is all a matter of opinion. Mine happens to be that, taking a photo when a person looks at another camera can of be a good thing. I often like to take candid-looking photos. For Cosplay I usually have cosplayers look somewhere off camera. The fact that they may be looking at another camera does not necessarily seem that way. Use it!

Here is an example of when non-of the cosplayers were posing for my camera. Three of them were looking at another camera:http://www.cosplay.com/photo/2433900/
There's a difference between looking away from the camera and looking at another camera, Jia's photo shows how it's done right.
It's not that I don't ever make the subject look out of the frame, it's when it's done wrong that it looks bad.
Composition and facial expression may play a big part in whether it works or not. (hint: smiling at someone outside of the frame is a dead giveaway and depending on the height of what they may be looking at)

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Unread 10-14-2010, 10:19 PM   #10
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The "Wow" factor... oh, how I wish I could just give you a step-by-step. Because then that would mean I am a filthy-rich photographer with the key to professional perfection. Alas, still working on that last part.

In general, I think "Wow" comes from interesting composition and lighting. The best way to learn about these is getting critique. Lots and lots and lots. So brava on this first step!



First off, the good - The photographer is seeking out interesting locations, and seems to be keeping background clutter (cars, street signs, random con-goers) to a minimum. Despite the "sibling teasing," he has a good regular model to shoot, with engaging well-made costumes.

Now, things to work on -

Lighting- I don't know what time of day these photos were taken, but it looks like full sun on an early afternoon. It's very tricky to get good shots this time of day. Full overhead light is not very flattering, and easily washes out all colors if you're not careful. You lose the sky. Try shooting earlier in the morning, later in the evening, or even cloudy days.

Composition - Move away a little bit! Low angle shots are fine, but vary them, try getting more costume into the frame or shooting from above. Also, you seem to be shooting all your models center-of-frame. Their heads are always in the same place, dead-center.

Models - Straighten those shoulders! Stand up straight! (especially in the second photo) You're royalty, not some ragamuffin! Photographers have to be bossy here. We can see the dropping hand or slouching shoulder, but the subjects can't.



Here are a couple of my examples. Not saying they're perfect, but definitely shots that encouraged me to keep working! Shot available light, no strobes. (Though flashes are great, you don't NEED them for good pictures! )

Light - mid-morning, coming in from windows to the left
Composition - subject to the right



Light - Cloudy morning, with incoming rain clouds
Composition - subject in the bottom third of frame

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Unread 10-15-2010, 08:31 PM   #11
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Wow! Thanks so much for all the great advice; I really, really appreciate it!

My brother and I are going to try re-shooting the first photo (same costume, same location... hopefully, better results!) again tomorrow, taking in everything that's been said.
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Unread 10-15-2010, 10:44 PM   #12
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First thing i would say on images 1&2 are watch your shutter speed. If this was done hand held I think 1/20th is too slow. Because of that it seems your loosing sharpness of the subject. I usually follow a basic rule to never do hand held shot slower than 1/<focal length> This will help minimize blur resulting from camera shake, if you have IS on your lens you maybe able to get another 1-3 stops of stability. Notice how the cosplayers are much sharper on the photo that is shot at 1/200. Another thing you may want to check is what your focusing on. In the case of the first image the focus seems like it might be slightly behind you. The bricks on the building seem to be more in focus then yourself. You may want to switch which focus point your camera uses to a single one so you can always be sure your focusing on what you want. Have it focus on the eye of the subject half hold the shutter to lock your focus recompose and complete the shutter press.

Also i would look at shooting at a faster aperture. This will give you a shallower DOF and sperate your subject from your background more, making your subject pop more. This can also be achieved by using a longer focal length like 200mm with an f/4. For example on a 50mm F1.8 with the subject at 4 meters away will produce a similar DOF if use a 200mm F/4 with the subject 10 meters away on a 1.6x crop sensor. Here is a DOF calculator to help if you need to figure out the optimal DOF http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tut...calculator.htm

Another thing to do, shoot a bunch of photos and never throw anything away. I will usually shoot hundreds of photos at a shoot, and only a fraction of what I take I would consider showing other people and fewer still I would deliver. Never delete images during the shoot you need to give yourself time step away so you can evaluate your photos with a clearer eye and fresh perspective. Some shot you think was terrible durning the shoot a few hours or even a few days later might end up being your favorite shot. Also reviewing photos on such a small screen as the camera is never a good thing IMO. I tend to shoot in burst mode to which may help when you got a pose you like but the cosplayer eyes are close, if you shoot in burst chances are one of the images you shoot will have their eyes open.

The colors in the photos look flat and washed out, the last photo isn't bad though, but exposure is a little off, notice the purple color fringing on the branches. You could fix these in post, or you can use flashes to better control the lighting in your environment. Check your metering mode, if your sticking with evaluative metering means it's calculating exposure based on the entire scene this may or may not be what you want for a given situation. You may want to try to switch to a different one like center-weighted or spot metering.

Shooting and getting the shot is only part of the work in a good photo. Editing your photos is another step in that process. Things as simple as a white balance adjustment or a change in exposure might be all you need to make your photo pop. The other things I've mentioned should also help too and reduce the work need to be done in post.
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Unread 10-16-2010, 03:25 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blasteh View Post
There's a difference between looking away from the camera and looking at another camera, Jia's photo shows how it's done right.
It's not that I don't ever make the subject look out of the frame, it's when it's done wrong that it looks bad.
Composition and facial expression may play a big part in whether it works or not. (hint: smiling at someone outside of the frame is a dead giveaway and depending on the height of what they may be looking at)
Yes. There can be a difference between looking away from a camera and looking at another camera, but sometimes the end result can be indistinguishable. A smile may be a giveaway, but if the smile seems in-character, it may work fine when photographing someone looking at another camera.

When I do photograph a cosplayer looking at another camera, I do it when I like the expression and pose they are doing. I usually prefer candid-looking portraits when I do cosplay photography. It can seem more like they are in the moment, rather than posing for a camera. I tend to steer away from shooting portraits when it looks obvious they are posing for someone else.

Catching a good, candid-looking moment can help make images get a "Wow!"

Last edited by brucer007 : 10-28-2010 at 05:10 PM.
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Unread 10-17-2010, 11:53 AM   #14
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another thing I'd add is that, it's in the eye of the beholder.

Some people just love front-on well exposed shots.
Some people love photoshopped magazine-style.
Some people love close-ups where certain details are captured.

You have to figure the "wow", but figure out what YOU like. That's why they're going to come to you - because they see your confidence in your own work. =)
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Unread 10-17-2010, 09:02 PM   #15
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Looking camera left, looking camera right looking away from the camera.
We're missing something here.
I want my models RESPONDING to something, be it the camera, something off-camera whatever. Capturing that response is the key. Your ability to convey that response comes down to composition... one of the cornerstones of photography.
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