Rifqi's photo

My photographic journey

Self portrait

I’m truly sorry about this but today I’ll have to humble you with a view of my delightfully handsome face again. Don’t feel too bad about yourself though, I’m sure you’re also very good looking, just less so than some.

Anyways, this shot was inspired by Dan Winters, who’s portraits have a look to them that I’ve always liked. I’ve never had a clue where to even start in order to get that kind of look with my own portraits but lately I’ve been trying to teach myself more about post processing. Some interest has been expressed over how these shots were edited so I thought I should talk a bit more in-depth about that than I usually do. First let’s check out the light though.

After the success with the background in the previous post I decided to go with the grey bed sheet again. However, this time I wanted to control the background more, so I lit it with a YN560 with some green gel. The flash is just behind me and is aimed so the  centre is somewhere just below the shoulders. It’s also zoomed in a bit in order to create a natural vignette.

Key light is my new octabox (also discussed in the previous post) with two LP160 in it. One LP160 would be more than enough in terms of power but I prefer to use two since it allows me to get a more even spread of the light inside the box. It also helps recycle times since each flash can work on half the power they would otherwise need. The octabox is placed directly above and pointing straight down. I was sitting at the far edge of it and that made sure it stayed as soft as possible and also created a nice falloff towards the back of the shoulders and head.

Normally you would probably want to avoid the kind of shadows this light creates above the eyes but with the right subject (I know, I’m awesome) it can give you a pretty cool look. Would I shoot my wife like this? Probably not. Would I shoot my dad like this? Definitely. It’s all about matching your light to the character in front of your lens.

Straight from camera

Straight from camera

Now, I shot this knowing in advance that I would do quite a bit of editing, which is the reason it looks the way it does straight from camera. The background in particular looks rather crap and the main culprit is the bed sheet – there’s just no way that will look pretty without some work done to it. Here’s the thing: you should always try to get things right in the camera; the better information you have to work with the better your end result will be. I know you can see a but coming so here it is: but you also have to look at the process as a whole. If you have a vision of what you want your final image to look like, chances are you won’t be able to create that without additional work after the actual click.

Take one of your favourite photographers and look at his or her work. If that photographer has a certain look to his work I can guarantee that there’s a fair amount of post processing involved, even if it might not look that way. Of course there are exceptions, there always are, but even in the film days images were manipulated in the darkroom. It’s a process. Some images need more work than others. Some styles need more work than others.

Self portrait

Ok, I went off a bit on a tangent there, let’s try to steer this back on track. My point is that if I didn’t know in advance that I would edit the shots in a certain way, I would never have shot them like this.

Now, I was planning to put everything in one post but I’ve realized that it would become a rather long one. Instead I decided to split it into two parts, of which the second will be posted tomorrow (if all goes according to plan) and will contain a fairly detailed, step by step walkthrough of the editing process. With that cliffhanger I’ll leave you for today, though I know my face will haunt your dreams.



11 Responses to “Creating a look – Part 1”

  1. disperser

    Lots has been written about post-processing, and the validity of it with respect to the art of taking a photo.

    One can argue one way or the other, but I look at Ansel Adams’s work, and take comfort he post-processed the crap out of his stuff.

    . . . not that I am comparing myself to Adams, but what was good for him, is good for me.

    • Rifqi

      Indeed, Ansel Adams is one of those photographers who are often brought up in this discussion.In the end I would say that the camera records the data and the photographer supplies the vision.

  2. Rob

    I really like the opening shot of this post. It’s a bit different from a usual portrait (and also reminiscent of the style of Andy Gotts, one of my favourite photographers.

    This is not to detract from the main image of this post of course, and it is amazing the transformation (and effort involved) to turn the in-camera shot into the well-polished finished article (having read part 2).

    The debate about the validity of post-processing is an old one. When it comes down to it, as far as I’m concerned the big issue is honesty; it doesn’t matter what is done to the photo as long as the photographer isn’t trying to fool someone into thinking everything was shot in-camera. Airbrushing models to be thinner, to use an oft-cited example, and then pretending that model is as thin as she looks in the image, is not what I’d call honest.

    • Rifqi

      Thanks for pointing out Andy Gotts, I checked him out and he’s got some really nice portrait work. Also nice to be compared to someone who’s actually good :p

      Honesty is definitely a key element and that’s why I dislike some of the retouching in the model business. I have no problem with a photo being edited beyond recognition in order to give it a specific look or to create something where the sum is greater than the parts, but when you enhance something and then try to push it as the real article, that’s when you start losing respect.

    • Rifqi

      Thanks. I still like it better behind the camera but I’m definitely more comfortable in front of the camera than before as well.


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