Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The One That Got Away: Episode 4 and CBTL Tour Update

Good Morning Everybody,
Road Const LR - Fotolia_25608681_Subscription_XL You know, one thing I love about Chicago is… the road construction ;~) I just love “all the barrels among us.” Hey, just kidding – it was clear sailing most of the way yesterday into the city.

We had another great crowd last night and it was nice to see so many folks that have attended my past seminars and Digital Master Classes.  I think a good time was had by all.

Today I head over to Minneapolis for tomorrow night’s CBTL2010 program [link].  It’s a long drive but I’m going to enjoy the drive and the day off. Hey, if I get there early maybe I can hit Mall Of America [link], the largest mall in the USA and 2nd largest in North America – LaDawn would be soooo jealous ;~)

Blogging time is short today so let’s get on with today’s post – here we go…

The One That Got Away; Episode 4
I’ve been enjoying writing this series mainly because you can’t find much on the internet on this topic.  I’m finding that the direction I have been taking lately has revolved around how to make people look good – and isn’t that our job when we photograph them.

Today’s post is once more centered on “refining the pose”.
Let’s take a look at the image here.  It’s a nice shot of the groom that I think he would be quite happy with. 

He has a nice expression on his face, and seems properly exposed.  But let’s take a closer look at the image.

Here is what I like about the image:
1. He does have a nice expression on his face, a soft subtle smile.

2. The photographer did a nice job of keeping the lines in the scene properly aligned to the edges of the frame.

3.  I also like the fact that he used the divider in the background as an “interior frame” to frame the groom’s head.

4.  Exposure seems well controlled too.

Now let’s take a look at what might have been done to really make this portrait much more striking:

Hit the “Read more…” link below for the rest of the story.

1. I wish the light was a better defined “loop lighting” pattern on his face.  The light seems to be coming in from slightly behind the groom.  Notice too how the light “nips the groom’s nose”. With the light coming in from this direction, he would be better posed by turning him into a profile view. As he is posed here, the light makes for a nice accent light  – I just wish it had been augmented with with additional lighting.

I do think the intent of the photographer was to get a nice portrait of the groom looking forward. In that case, the photographer should have resorted to an off-camera flash (shooting through and umbrella) to bring the proper loop lighting pattern on the groom’s face.

2. The bigger issue is the positioning of the elbow.  Look how much it is being “jammed” into the groom’s ribs. The subject did this completely on his own putting a lot of his weight on his elbow as he leaned on the railing.

My rule is to always create a dynamic diagonal line from the shoulder to the elbow when I have people lean on things. In this case, I want to ask the groom to move his right elbow much more to camera left.  How much – about 10-12 inches.  If you visualize the change in the elbow position, you see that now the line from the shoulder to the elbow is more of a 60 degree diagonal angle and refines the pose and the look of the subject.

3.  I mentioned this in an earlier post in this series – it’s about the hands.  See how we are photographing directly into the back of the hands.  By doing that, we make the hands look quite large.  Remember, always shoot into the side of the hands, not the back.
In this case here, we needed to bend the right hand up slightly and roll the left hand around to the top of the right hand in order to minimized shooting into the back of the hand so directly.

4.  The groom seems to be falling out of the shot too. He is positioned at “nodal point #2”.  I wish the maker would have moved the groom, or repositioned the camera so that the groom was about 18 inches, camera right in the scene – or “nodal point #3”.  Leading your subject with “space” in better than “following” with “space”.

5.  Lastly, I like that the photographer tried to frame up the subject within the interior frame of the black divider behind him.  My problem with the divider is that it's just a little small and crowds his face.

The focal length used was 58mm, just a little too short for this shot.  As a result, the object in the background, the divider, is quite small.  Had the photographer used a longer focal length, say in the neighborhood of 120mm, and backed up from the groom to keep him at the same size in the shot, the divider would have been about twice it’s size that we see here and framed up the groom nicely.

DAZNOTE: I actually cover this point in detail in my CBTL 2010 program.  It’s quite impressive how much difference those silly little millimeters can affect the look of an image.

That’s pretty much wraps what I think could have been done to improve this image.  You know, painters have been making their subjects look beautiful in their portraits since renaissance times.  For the most part, their subjects were the royalty of the day.  I think our job should be to make or subject’s look like royalty too.
Hey gang, that’s it for me today. Wake up call today was quite early after a very late night. I need to hit the road for my long drive west.  How about I catch up with you tomorrow for another episode of Business Day Thursday.

Have a great one, and I’ll see you then.
West bound and down, David


  1. Loved seeing and learning from you yesterday at CBTL Chicago. It was an investment in knowledge that was priceless.

  2. Hey David, where do you get the energy? I was there last night and had a great time -- your instruction is practical and inspiring! I'm sure my portrait photography will benefit.

  3. I actually do NOT like the black square around the groom's head, and his left suit area is too dark to show any detail. Looks like he needed a little fill flash?

  4. I attended last year in Charlotte. Very reasonable cost for the content you get out of the CBTL Tour.

  5. David, thanks for the great learning experience in Chicago. I took home one of the certificates and love the site! I will be using them for all of my Animoto videos. Thanks again!

  6. David - I really appreciate the subtleties you've mentioned in these "...Got Away" photos. Now that you've highlighted the problem of "fat hands"--which is now obvious--I know to watch for that in future portraits. I, too, didn't like the pose, but couldn't explain why to myself. Thanks for doing it for me. He doesn't look comfortable; he looks like he's forcing himself into that pose so his head fits into the divider. The background seems to be a little too bright so there's insufficient contrast between the subject and background. Thanks!