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Unread 09-01-2014, 10:41 PM   #1
lildragon555
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Opinions on my photos

Hello, I've never asked for critiques, but I feel like it's a good way to get some feedback on my photos. I always hear the cosplayers I shoot say the photos are amazing, but I want to get some photographer opinions on it.

All of my photos are on my Facebook page:
L-Dragon Photography and Cosplay

These are photos from my first (ever) shoot:
https://copy.com/LoTDHdwTSLpNdpjD

And some from my latest (Otakon 2014):
https://copy.com/hZsKBlwRy4Em2gyS

I want to hear things about posing, colors, composition, etc. Any and all comments are appreciated.
Thanks.

All the photos were taken on a Nikon D5100 on a 35mm f/1.8 or a 17-50mm f/2.8.
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Unread 09-23-2014, 05:20 AM   #2
Bobyao
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Great pics!
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Unread 09-23-2014, 10:02 AM   #3
nathancarter
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Can't get to Facebook from here, so I looked at the other two sets on copy.com; commenting on the second set from Otakon.

Pros: Technically sound. Focus and depth-of-field are appropriate, skin is usually well-exposed, white balance is close enough and consistent within the set. Good job NOT losing detail in the white dress, which can be tough to do in very bright ambient light.

Colors are appropriate. When globally processing colors in a portrait, my usual goal is to make the skin tones look good - whether that means they're correct for the model, or adjusted to some creative vision.

I like that you have a great variety of poses, some with eye contact and some without. I hate to see a set of a dozen photos with lots of repetition of the same pose and facial expressions over and over, and you've got full sets with no repetition.

Cons:
The backgrounds are distracting or detracting in quite a few of them. Start really scrutinizing the background: Before you start framing the shot, as the model is starting to pose, as you're evaluating the light. I understand that it's pretty hard in a dense city environment, and for the most part you've done about as good as you can. You can somewhat reduce the amount of environmental clutter by standing farther away from the subject and using a longer focal length - this change in perspective will "compress" the background relative to the model.

On a similar note, my personal preference is to not tilt the background "just because," or out of laziness. If there's no reason for the background to be tilted by 5 degrees, then straighten it up - either in camera, or in post. If you find that you're accidentally shooting at a tilt in many images, then get in the habit of framing more loosely in camera, so you can straighten and crop in post-processing. DSC_6737 and 6738 have no reason to be tilted just a little bit like that.

The viewer's eye is generally attracted to the brightest part of the image first.
In many of them, the background is much brighter than the model. This sometimes works - for instance, I think it worked in DSC_6748_Edit - but it often doesn't work. In DSC_6752 you're trying to keep the background from blowing out, but you're underexposing the skin in the process - look how gray and dim her skin is compared to the rest of the set, especially her left hand and wrist (viewer's right). Sometimes you've just gotta get out of the sun - shoot during the golden hour instead of high noon, OR supplement the exposure with flash instead of just ambient so that you can balance the subject and the bright ambient background.

You can mitigate some exposure problems by shooting in raw, and recovering some highlights and shadows later. Don't go overboard into an overprocessed HDR-look (that style has already come and gone), but balance the exposure between the subject and the background.

I'd like to see a little more attention to skin processing - and not just on the face. Even on a model with great skin, a little bit of softening, dodging, and burning can take the whole thing up a notch. For instance, in DSC-6752, I can't stop looking at the bulging tendons in her left wrist (camera right) of course, they aren't terrible in person, but the pose and the angle of the light REALLY brings them out. A little skin softening and dodge/burn would clean that up real fast. In DSC_6756, the angle of the light gives dark circles under her eyes, but a little bit of dodging & softening would make that go away and brighten up the whole face.

I think DSC_6741 is my favorite - nice bright skin, interesting pose, and the model really pops off the dark background. A closer crop might help it even more.
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Last edited by nathancarter : 09-23-2014 at 02:30 PM.
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Unread 09-23-2014, 01:55 PM   #4
youta
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Just based on your copy.com sets, I see you found two great models who were willing to try different things in a controlled setting (meaning, away from the crowds). Nathan has already made many insightful comments on your second set, I'll add a couple of thoughts on the first.

There are a few focusing problems, e.g. DSC_4210 and DSC_4117, so make sure that in any photo you showcase the eyes at least are sharp. One unfortunate issue with a few of the photos is that the railing and furniture happen to have a yellowish tone which is not only distracting but also directly compete with the golden trims of her costume. Things improve in the hallway and I like the fact that you tried many different angles. The lighting was clearly challenging, and it's pushing up your ISO quite a bit even at f2.8, but I'm not a flash guy so my approach would have probably been to press that camera against a wall or a column and ask the model to freeze for 1/20s. You may also want to play a bit with curves to make the colours pop a bit more.

Another suggestion that isn't very common in cosplay photography, but which can help with messy backgrounds or distracting colours, is to desaturate the photo (i.e. make it B&W). That way shapes take precedence, and you'd be surprised how much the lack of colours can reveal and hide: backgrounds become indistinct, textures are enhanced, reddish skin blemishes are concealed. I also find that B&W noise can actually add character to the image, sometimes even enhance the mood. Try it a few times, see what turns out...
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Unread 10-07-2014, 10:25 AM   #5
brucer007
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I am more likely to comment, if you select a handful of images to discuss.
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Unread 10-07-2014, 11:56 AM   #6
nathancarter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brucer007 View Post
I am more likely to comment, if you select a handful of images to discuss.
Agreed. Sometimes I have the time to go look at whole sets, often not.
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Unread 10-15-2014, 05:12 AM   #7
shumi31
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Its really good effort and I must appreciate your job. Wish you luck!
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Unread 11-10-2014, 09:19 PM   #8
lildragon555
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So I didn't know this actually got posted. I submitted this thread back in August and didn't see it online within a week so I went "meh, it must have been deleted" or something of the sort and left. Coming back, now I see that people replied and I feel bad that I didn't say anything in that time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nathancarter View Post
Can't get to Facebook from here, so I looked at the other two sets on copy.com; commenting on the second set from Otakon.

Pros: Technically sound. Focus and depth-of-field are appropriate, skin is usually well-exposed, white balance is close enough and consistent within the set. Good job NOT losing detail in the white dress, which can be tough to do in very bright ambient light.

Colors are appropriate. When globally processing colors in a portrait, my usual goal is to make the skin tones look good - whether that means they're correct for the model, or adjusted to some creative vision.

I like that you have a great variety of poses, some with eye contact and some without. I hate to see a set of a dozen photos with lots of repetition of the same pose and facial expressions over and over, and you've got full sets with no repetition.

Cons:
The backgrounds are distracting or detracting in quite a few of them. Start really scrutinizing the background: Before you start framing the shot, as the model is starting to pose, as you're evaluating the light. I understand that it's pretty hard in a dense city environment, and for the most part you've done about as good as you can. You can somewhat reduce the amount of environmental clutter by standing farther away from the subject and using a longer focal length - this change in perspective will "compress" the background relative to the model.

On a similar note, my personal preference is to not tilt the background "just because," or out of laziness. If there's no reason for the background to be tilted by 5 degrees, then straighten it up - either in camera, or in post. If you find that you're accidentally shooting at a tilt in many images, then get in the habit of framing more loosely in camera, so you can straighten and crop in post-processing. DSC_6737 and 6738 have no reason to be tilted just a little bit like that.

The viewer's eye is generally attracted to the brightest part of the image first.
In many of them, the background is much brighter than the model. This sometimes works - for instance, I think it worked in DSC_6748_Edit - but it often doesn't work. In DSC_6752 you're trying to keep the background from blowing out, but you're underexposing the skin in the process - look how gray and dim her skin is compared to the rest of the set, especially her left hand and wrist (viewer's right). Sometimes you've just gotta get out of the sun - shoot during the golden hour instead of high noon, OR supplement the exposure with flash instead of just ambient so that you can balance the subject and the bright ambient background.

You can mitigate some exposure problems by shooting in raw, and recovering some highlights and shadows later. Don't go overboard into an overprocessed HDR-look (that style has already come and gone), but balance the exposure between the subject and the background.

I'd like to see a little more attention to skin processing - and not just on the face. Even on a model with great skin, a little bit of softening, dodging, and burning can take the whole thing up a notch. For instance, in DSC-6752, I can't stop looking at the bulging tendons in her left wrist (camera right) of course, they aren't terrible in person, but the pose and the angle of the light REALLY brings them out. A little skin softening and dodge/burn would clean that up real fast. In DSC_6756, the angle of the light gives dark circles under her eyes, but a little bit of dodging & softening would make that go away and brighten up the whole face.

I think DSC_6741 is my favorite - nice bright skin, interesting pose, and the model really pops off the dark background. A closer crop might help it even more.
Thanks a lot for the praise and the critique.

For the tilting of my photos, I think it's more of a bad habit than anything. I just like the look of it better so I always tend to do it. Might go a bit overboard sometimes, but I'll try and see if I can tone it down.

I'll try and touch up a bit more with the skin of a subject. However, I don't consider myself very good at editing photos. Most of the times if I try to do a bit of dodging or burning, it tends to look way off from what I'm going for so I tend to not do it at all. I'll try and practice a bit more.

Quote:
Originally Posted by youta View Post
Just based on your copy.com sets, I see you found two great models who were willing to try different things in a controlled setting (meaning, away from the crowds). Nathan has already made many insightful comments on your second set, I'll add a couple of thoughts on the first.

There are a few focusing problems, e.g. DSC_4210 and DSC_4117, so make sure that in any photo you showcase the eyes at least are sharp. One unfortunate issue with a few of the photos is that the railing and furniture happen to have a yellowish tone which is not only distracting but also directly compete with the golden trims of her costume. Things improve in the hallway and I like the fact that you tried many different angles. The lighting was clearly challenging, and it's pushing up your ISO quite a bit even at f2.8, but I'm not a flash guy so my approach would have probably been to press that camera against a wall or a column and ask the model to freeze for 1/20s. You may also want to play a bit with curves to make the colours pop a bit more.

Another suggestion that isn't very common in cosplay photography, but which can help with messy backgrounds or distracting colours, is to desaturate the photo (i.e. make it B&W). That way shapes take precedence, and you'd be surprised how much the lack of colours can reveal and hide: backgrounds become indistinct, textures are enhanced, reddish skin blemishes are concealed. I also find that B&W noise can actually add character to the image, sometimes even enhance the mood. Try it a few times, see what turns out...
Thanks for the critique.
I don't think my issues were with focusing, but more of I tend to have a bit of camera shake when I take a picture so it comes out a little blurry.
I try to stay away from B&W as most of the time I feel that I don't have a character or background to fit well with it. But I might experiment in the future.

Quote:
Originally Posted by brucer007 View Post
I am more likely to comment, if you select a handful of images to discuss.
Sorry, I didn't know which photos would be the best to post or which showed the range of my abilities. So I just posted the entire set. I'll remember for next time that not everyone has a lot of time.


Thanks again everyone for your input and sorry for the late reply.
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Unread 11-13-2014, 10:28 AM   #9
nathancarter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lildragon555 View Post
I'll try and touch up a bit more with the skin of a subject. However, I don't consider myself very good at editing photos. Most of the times if I try to do a bit of dodging or burning, it tends to look way off from what I'm going for so I tend to not do it at all. I'll try and practice a bit more.
Practice, study, practice, read, practice.

Your EXIF data says you have Lightroom 5. I do the majority of my portrait edits in Lightroom. With some practice, you can get a lot out of it. It's rare that I have to take a photo into Photoshop for editing. I don't claim to be a master of portraiture or editing, but I do feel that I can get some good results out of Lightroom's Develop module.

Here are some of my examples using Lightroom to edit portraits. These were all done in LR4, I just updated to LR5 last week and haven't done much work in it yet. These links should take you directly to my posts, but the rest of the thread has a lot of good stuff too.

http://photography-on-the.net/forum/...3#post16891903

http://photography-on-the.net/forum/...6#post17094966

http://photography-on-the.net/forum/...9#post17213419

**** EDIT: photography-on-the.net updated their forum software and the links don't work any more. I'll try to find updated links to those posts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lildragon555 View Post
Thanks for the critique.
I don't think my issues were with focusing, but more of I tend to have a bit of camera shake when I take a picture so it comes out a little blurry.
Looks like those two were at a shutter speed of 1/60 (which, by the way, is about the lowest I like to go for shooting portraits). At a very short focal length (22mm for the floor pose), 1/60 should be enough to minimize the effect of camera shake. Still, if you feel that camera shake is a problem for you, there are camera-holding techniques and even breathing techniques that can really help your steadiness.
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Last edited by nathancarter : 11-30-2014 at 08:25 PM.
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Unread 11-13-2014, 06:13 PM   #10
lildragon555
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nathancarter View Post
Practice, study, practice, read, practice.

Your EXIF data says you have Lightroom 5. I do the majority of my portrait edits in Lightroom. With some practice, you can get a lot out of it. It's rare that I have to take a photo into Photoshop for editing. I don't claim to be a master of portraiture or editing, but I do feel that I can get some good results out of Lightroom's Develop module.

Here are some of my examples using Lightroom to edit portraits. These were all done in LR4, I just updated to LR5 last week and haven't done much work in it yet. These links should take you directly to my posts, but the rest of the thread has a lot of good stuff too.

http://photography-on-the.net/forum/...3#post16891903

http://photography-on-the.net/forum/...6#post17094966

http://photography-on-the.net/forum/...9#post17213419



Looks like those two were at a shutter speed of 1/60 (which, by the way, is about the lowest I like to go for shooting portraits). At a very short focal length (22mm for the floor pose), 1/60 should be enough to minimize the effect of camera shake. Still, if you feel that camera shake is a problem for you, there are camera-holding techniques and even breathing techniques that can really help your steadiness.
Thanks a lot for those links. They seem very helpful and gives me an idea of what I could probably do. I'll try and test something out the next time I start editing.

For the focus problem, those pictures were from the first time I ever did a photoshoot so probably a mixture of nervousness and inexperience caused me to shake a bit more than normal. I don't have that issue very much with my current sets, but I still find sometimes they're slightly off, but I think it's due to me moving a little bit after focusing (which is bad).
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Unread 11-24-2014, 09:50 PM   #11
TeddyAllen
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Scan through some of them, great sets!
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Unread 11-26-2015, 02:05 AM   #12
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I would work on editing your work down. I think you post too many photos from a session- the Attack on Titan session in particular. There were some good ones in there, but the really got lost in the misc. photos. For your photography facebook page, I would stick to your best images and avoid posting all of the fun in between shots that are less composed.
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