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Image ProcessingGingham Purse from Sow's Ear? (You callin' my kid a sow's ear?)

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Charles Haacker
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Gingham Purse from Sow's Ear? (You callin' my kid a sow's ear?)

Post by Charles Haacker » Wed Jan 03, 2018 3:09 pm

So snapshots. I take as many snapshots of my minion granddaughter as possible, all candid, all available light/dark, but the other day she was chatting with her bear and I wanted to get her semi-silhouetted in profile. It's a setup I used to love to do in studio, except now I have no white seamless, no lights, no nothin'. But every day the light thunders in through the translucent blinds, so I wondered if I could get at least close to the look I might've done in my studio with some control. We sat her on a stool in front of the bright blind. I exposed for the blind, shot hand held, made a series, and this is what I did:

Straight from the camera. I knew I was going to have problems, the window not being big enough so parts of the window frame were intruding. Mommy is kneeling on the floor in front of her with one hand making sure she doesn't fall off the stool. In hindsight I could have put her closer to the blind but at the time I had it in mind to keep the backdrop far enough away to let it fall out of focus, but the blind is too small (drat). This is all available light, auto white balance. The room is overall bright, painted a light, fairly neutral color, so there is bounce from all the surrounding walls.*
DSC00962.EMlr.jpg
I had had it in mind to try to do all that I envisioned in Lightroom alone by using curves, raising the value of the blinds, adding a vignette... yeah, no. But I liked how the light wrapped around her face and rimlighted her cheek, separated the hair (Mommy gave her a new 'do for New Year's). I thought this was the right track but clearly the entire background had to go.
DSC00962.MAX.jpg
So I took it into Photoshop where I worked for what seemed like days with the relatively new Select and Mask that replaced the old refine edge tool. There is a distinct learning curve with this powerful tool, but the only way I ever learn anything is to wade in and do it. I think this is a pretty good result. The hair on her head and the bear cannot look obviously masked and separated; I don't think it is (obvious). I hope. Since she is on a separate layer I used a curves adjustment to raise the overall value on her. I had originally thought semi-silhouette but then decided that didn't work as well as making her a little brighter.
DSC00962-Edit-2.EMlr.jpg
Satisfied, I went back to B&W as I originally intended. 30 years ago in my studio I'd have lit it a little differently, specifically I'd have had a big soft key light camera right behind and above her to drop a soft Rembrandt triangle on her near cheek, but that will have to wait until I maybe resurrect some of my old lights if I can find them. :|
DSC00962-Edit-2.EMlr-2.jpg
* (Incidentally, when I had my studio the camera room walls were painted matte black. The principle was that there should be no uncontrolled bounce. All the light in a camera room should be totally controlled with barn doors, positionable bounce panels and so forth. Perhaps counterintuitively the walls of the print darkroom were painted matte white, specifically to take maximum advantage of dim "safe" lights.) :|
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Post by Duck » Wed Jan 03, 2018 3:40 pm

I'm trying to get into your head here; if this was the result you were looking for, what was the reason for exposing for the blinds?

The reason I ask is because this fits in with the discussion about exposing to the right. By exposing for the background you are actually exposing your subject to the left, which results in signal gain rather than a signal drop, which is preferred.

Although, judging from the image, it's probably a minor issue.
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Post by Charles Haacker » Wed Jan 03, 2018 4:03 pm

Duck wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 3:40 pm
I'm trying to get into your head here; if this was the result you were looking for, what was the reason for exposing for the blinds?

The reason I ask is because this fits in with the discussion about exposing to the right. By exposing for the background you are actually exposing your subject to the left, which results in signal gain rather than a signal drop, which is preferred.

Although, judging from the image, it's probably a minor issue.
Thanks for asking, Duck: My original idea was, in hindsight, utterly misguided under the existing circumstances. I wanted the third and fourth pictures. I wanted to partially (but not totally) silhouette her in profile against a brighter background. As soon as I set it up I realized it wasn't going to work as envisioned. The slats of the blinds. The frame of the sash behind the blinds causing the shadow. The whole setup is too small, she's spilling off the sides... My final versions, either color or B&W were what I had in my mind's eye, something so easily accomplished in the studio with a nice big overlit seamless white backdrop that I ain't got not no more. :( I am a pretty dedicated available light shooter precisely because of the KISS principle, but the downside is lack of control and having to invent workarounds on the fly. I did in fact expose as I wished, and (with a good deal of PP) accomplished what I set out to do, but if not for Photoshop I'd have been pretty much stuck with the second picture, which was kinda okay but not what I'd been trying to do. (?)
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Post by LindaShorey » Wed Jan 03, 2018 7:55 pm

Whatever path you followed (and I admit I got a little lost, lol), the result is utterly charming. Be sure to share a documentary shot of this framed and hanging prominently in the home. Wonderful image!!
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Post by Charles Haacker » Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:46 pm

LindaShorey wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 7:55 pm
Whatever path you followed (and I admit I got a little lost, lol), the result is utterly charming. Be sure to share a documentary shot of this framed and hanging prominently in the home. Wonderful image!!
Thank you, Linda! I lost Duck too. What I should'a said was that I wanted a result that some of the tools used in a studio setting would have made easy without any PP at all . We used to buy long paper rolls 9 feet wide that could be coved out onto the floor. When it got dirty you cut it off. I usually hung three: a white, a gray, and a black. I'd have used the white here and placed a couple of big soffboxes behind Andi and flooded the background with light, probably 2 or more stops brighter than any of the "top" lighting. That would insure a brilliant unsullied white background frame edge to frame edge. You could actually just shoot against that with no top lights for a silhouette, or just add a bounce reflector to throw some light into her. In my old camera room with the matte black walls there would be pretty much no bounce from the backdrop so a true silhouette would be fairly easy. It was all about light control, but when you are shooting all available light you have little to no control. Today we have the Miracle of Photoshop (da da ta DA) which lets us do stuff after the fact that real photographers would prefer to do before the fact. Duck, working in his well equipped studio, could have made the picture I wanted in 5 minutes with no PP at all. Curses! :angel:
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Post by Matt Quinn » Wed Jan 03, 2018 11:40 pm

Charles Haacker wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:46 pm
LindaShorey wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 7:55 pm
Whatever path you followed (and I admit I got a little lost, lol), the result is utterly charming. Be sure to share a documentary shot of this framed and hanging prominently in the home. Wonderful image!!
Thank you, Linda! I lost Duck too. What I should'a said was that I wanted a result that some of the tools used in a studio setting would have made easy without any PP at all . We used to buy long paper rolls 9 feet wide that could be coved out onto the floor. When it got dirty you cut it off. I usually hung three: a white, a gray, and a black. I'd have used the white here and placed a couple of big soffboxes behind Andi and flooded the background with light, probably 2 or more stops brighter than any of the "top" lighting. That would insure a brilliant unsullied white background frame edge to frame edge. You could actually just shoot against that with no top lights for a silhouette, or just add a bounce reflector to throw some light into her. In my old camera room with the matte black walls there would be pretty much no bounce from the backdrop so a true silhouette would be fairly easy. It was all about light control, but when you are shooting all available light you have little to no control. Today we have the Miracle of Photoshop (da da ta DA) which lets us do stuff after the fact that real photographers would prefer to do before the fact. Duck, working in his well equipped studio, could have made the picture I wanted in 5 minutes with no PP at all. Curses! :angel:

Charles, I enjoy your journey journal. This photo is a treasure, one that you will contemplate for years. Experience speaking here. She will grow too quickly, so keep clicking. My preference--no surprise--is for the b&w. The spill of light around those chubby cheeks is precious. And adorable. I have a similar photo of our granddaughter on one of our side tables.

Never heard of Rembrandt's triangle but have heard of the Bermuda one. I may drop it in conversation sometime. Then walk away.

All the lighting subtleties of you pro leaves me in the dark!!!. But I was encouraged to read of your struggles with the PS tool. I will take a look at it since so many have recommended it.

Thanks. You seem more upbeat. Good for you. Matt
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Post by Duck » Thu Jan 04, 2018 12:15 am

Sorry Charles, it's just that your end results and the originating image didn't seem to corroborate each other from what I saw was the intended results. Specially when you said you metered for the window rather than for the subject. That threw me since raising the exposure on the subject would have blown out the window even more.

As far as metering for the subject but wanting more of a silhouette, the ETR method would have allowed you to expand the contrast between light and shadow without worrying about noise. Since you would have to bring your original exposure up (rather than down with ETR)... if that made any sense... (doh)
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Post by Charles Haacker » Thu Jan 04, 2018 12:44 am

Matt Quinn wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 11:40 pm
Charles Haacker wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:46 pm
LindaShorey wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 7:55 pm
Whatever path you followed (and I admit I got a little lost, lol), the result is utterly charming. Be sure to share a documentary shot of this framed and hanging prominently in the home. Wonderful image!!
Thank you, Linda! I lost Duck too. What I should'a said was that I wanted a result that some of the tools used in a studio setting would have made easy without any PP at all . We used to buy long paper rolls 9 feet wide that could be coved out onto the floor. When it got dirty you cut it off. I usually hung three: a white, a gray, and a black. I'd have used the white here and placed a couple of big soffboxes behind Andi and flooded the background with light, probably 2 or more stops brighter than any of the "top" lighting. That would insure a brilliant unsullied white background frame edge to frame edge. You could actually just shoot against that with no top lights for a silhouette, or just add a bounce reflector to throw some light into her. In my old camera room with the matte black walls there would be pretty much no bounce from the backdrop so a true silhouette would be fairly easy. It was all about light control, but when you are shooting all available light you have little to no control. Today we have the Miracle of Photoshop (da da ta DA) which lets us do stuff after the fact that real photographers would prefer to do before the fact. Duck, working in his well equipped studio, could have made the picture I wanted in 5 minutes with no PP at all. Curses! :angel:

Charles, I enjoy your journey journal. This photo is a treasure, one that you will contemplate for years. Experience speaking here. She will grow too quickly, so keep clicking. My preference--no surprise--is for the b&w. The spill of light around those chubby cheeks is precious. And adorable. I have a similar photo of our granddaughter on one of our side tables.

Never heard of Rembrandt's triangle but have heard of the Bermuda one. I may drop it in conversation sometime. Then walk away.

All the lighting subtleties of you pro leaves me in the dark!!!. But I was encouraged to read of your struggles with the PS tool. I will take a look at it since so many have recommended it.

Thanks. You seem more upbeat. Good for you. Matt
Thanks, Matt! I like the B&W best too. It was what I had in mind when I made it. And indeed they grow and change lightning fast. I'm living with this one so I am observing it daily. The physical changes are rapid, but the other changes, personality, language, preferences, they come so fast it is dizzying. She is just 2-1/2 and we are all gobsmacked at her vocabulary and ability to construct complete grammatical sentences. She could not do it 6 months ago. Now she can.

Please may we see your granddaughter's side table picture?

Here's a pretty good piece on Rembrandt portrait lighting. The great 17th century famous guy Rembrandt van Rijn used it a lot, so much so that the signature triangle on one cheek became named for him. It was the first portrait lighting I learned. There are many variations but it is a solid foundational portrait lighting that gives nice modeling (shape) to almost any face. I like the linked piece because it emphasizes starting with one light. You can do incredible things with one light and maybe a reflector, which can be anything, preferably a light, neutral color.
I think you should confound people at parties with a conspiratorial wink and whisper about the Rembrandt Triangle. :lol:

If you get into select and mask be warned it can be uberfrustrating, but my experience is that there is nothing better for selecting around hair. I think the big trick is don't try to go too fast, and do the final touches at high magnification (I think I went to more than 200% working around the ponytail). There are lots of excellent online tutorials but nothing beats getting down and dirty with it.

I am feeling overall more upbeat, but it's fits and starts. "They" tell me it takes a couple of years to start to feel truly normal. I totally believe it. At Christmas I was reeeeeaaaaally down. I'm starting back up again but there are triggers and I never know. But it does seem that, like Andi, things change and evolve and improve daily, so there's that.
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Post by Charles Haacker » Thu Jan 04, 2018 12:59 am

Duck wrote:
Thu Jan 04, 2018 12:15 am
Sorry Charles, it's just that your end results and the originating image didn't seem to corroborate each other from what I saw was the intended results. Specially when you said you metered for the window rather than for the subject. That threw me since raising the exposure on the subject would have blown out the window even more.

As far as metering for the subject but wanting more of a silhouette, the ETR method would have allowed you to expand the contrast between light and shadow without worrying about noise. Since you would have to bring your original exposure up (rather than down with ETR)... if that made any sense... (doh)
Yer right. I should'a. I thought I didn't want to initially raise the value on her skin too much because, well, you see what I was after. Now I realize (duh) I probably could have just let the window blow totally out, then "print down" her face, but the one thing I could see maybe happening if I'd done that might be a strong diffraction/wraparound effect degrading the edges of her face. I started to get some of that without even really overexposing (I could see it when I was selecting and masking). There are fine hairs that I think would have been completely obliterated through overexposure. I think if I had gotten too much of that I would have ditched it and never shown it. Eh. All's well that ends well. I think it's overall pretty good. I do sometimes wish I had access to the tools I used to have, but the whole process has evolved so (*shrug*). :)
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Post by Matt Quinn » Thu Jan 04, 2018 10:56 pm

Please may we see your granddaughter's side table picture?

Charles, As requested. First was in 2012 and is the side table photo; the second was in 2017 and is in our 2018 family calendar. A blink of an eye, 2012-2017. So, don't blink. Matt
pM Exports--5.jpg
pM Exports--6.jpg
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