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Photographer
Farenell Photography
Posts: 18,009
Albany, New York, US


Studio 317 Photography wrote:
The biggest complaint I get from other professional photographers is that my highlights are too muddy. Or that overall the images are too muddy.

Why not ask them that very question the next time someone tells you?

If anything from your MM port, I'd say that there's not enough variety. Meaning all your pictures feel the same. They're all "eh". There's nothing revolting (which is good) but nothing w/ that "this is really well thought out or beautifully captured or helluva impact statement or made the model look super hot or beautifully conceived."

Jan 10 13 11:11 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
B R U N E S C I
Posts: 25,319
Bath, England, United Kingdom


Your lighting is controlled and pretty, but also rather flat and "portrait studio" looking (a kind way of saying boring). Your retouching is also heavy-handed (too much blur) and has an overall dulling and 'weighing down' effect on your photos.

Try moving your lights closer to the model for faster falloff and more 'pop', using smaller modifiers with grids rather than big softboxes or octas and don't be afraid of shadows or the occasional blown highlight. Try shooting tethered if you don't already and ETTR to give the greatest possibly dynamic range and least noise in the shadows. You'll be surprised how much you can "over" expose a RAW file with modern sensors and still retain detail in the highlights, especially if you're using LR4/ACR7 to convert the RAW file.

Ease back on the retouching - try just cleaning files up in lightroom or ACR (LR4/ACR7 have some great new features) - rather than always pulling them into PS and pummelling them with filters and gaussian blur. Also, make sure you have a properly calibrated monitor for retouching and don't set it too bright. It only needs to be bright enough to show you the full range of tones - any brighter will leave you squinting and subconsciously 'dulling' your images as you retouch them to make life easier on your eyes!



Just my $0.02

Ciao
Stefano

www.stefanobrunesci.com
Jan 10 13 11:24 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
DougBPhoto
Posts: 38,214
Portland, Oregon, US


Square Jaw Photography wrote:
LOL. Well I AM a premium member. Any chance you could enlighten me?

Aaron Lewis Photography wrote:
Actually, no. I'm sorry but since I'm not, I've never actually seen the controls to do that. I know on other boards, while your composing a post or reply there are additional tools near the "reply" button? A small toolbar similar to what you'd see in Word maybe. One of the buttons on that toolbar allows you to put an image inline.

I've never seen it on MM because I'm not a premium member so I can't say for sure.

Or, maybe I'm totally wrong and just don't know what I'm doing. But I'm pretty sure that's not the case.

Unfortunately, it is the latter, you are totally wrong.

Any member of any level can post images into the forums.

The account limitation is that basic members cannot post an image onto their profile page.

This site has no "tools" similar to Word, all it has is the link under the "reply" button that says "How to post photos, links, change font, etc".

Jan 10 13 11:34 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Leighthenubian
Posts: 2,842
Toronto, Ontario, Canada


I actually like your work, retouching and all..though as some mentioned, attention to details matters more here..natural creases/wrinkles should probably be left alone or just diminished rather than edited out.

The colors are saturated but that's what eyes in general like..ever watch CSI Miami?
Also...are you working on a calibrated monitor?

The only thing I would work to improve is the light modelling to add contrast to the images. They still look a bit flat which might be where the muddy thing is coming from.
Jan 10 13 11:38 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
DougBPhoto
Posts: 38,214
Portland, Oregon, US


Studio 317 Photography wrote:
The biggest complaint I get from other professional photographers is that my highlights are too muddy. Or that overall the images are too muddy. And  I can't figure out what my deal is. I'm a human light meter. I follow "mostly" all the rules of photography. I'm the guy to ask about photography. But... once an image is brought up into photoshop, I'm a real dee dee dee. I NEVER like my finished images. I'm my worst critic. Would anyone be interested in allowing me to post some sooc images and giving me critique, and then critique my final image post production as well? I've never posted a thread on here so I guess it's time to have my cherry popped.

Don't feel bad, I absolutely hate retouching, and those who are really able to get the most out of their images are most definitely digital artists, it is very impressive.

Good luck in your adventure, I think it is safe to say that photography sure ain't what it used to be.

Jan 10 13 11:39 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Jay Lee Studios
Posts: 1,238
San Diego, California, US


I have to agree with those who said over retouched. Your work looks plastic, and not real. You should learn how to actually edit photos instead of duplicating the layer and blurring the skin. Your work would look more professional and not so CGI.
Jan 10 13 02:51 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Yum Yum Photo
Posts: 442
Park Ridge, New Jersey, US


Move your lights - the foreground and background have same tone and they are even simular in color.....

The pictures are not muddy.... dont over think the whole thing.... Just do some testing with your lights and see the difference. After not looking at your pictures too much....

And dont take criticism too too seriously.... If you dont get it and cant ask about it I would move on.....
Jan 10 13 03:09 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Zack Zoll
Posts: 2,475
Glens Falls, New York, US


Yum Yum Photo wrote:
And dont take criticism too too seriously.... If you dont get it and cant ask about it I would move on.....

I partially agree.  You should be VERY bothered by ANY criticism that any part of you feels rings true, regardless of how well you 'get it'.  But if you understand it, and don't agree, then politely smile, thank them, and then immediately forget whatever they said.

Unless criticism is from a paying client, you should only pay attention to what helps you make the images that you want to make.

Jan 10 13 06:54 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Studio 317 Photography
Posts: 66
Indianapolis, Indiana, US


Well thanks guys! I'm really glad we can use the word fuck on here. smile  If it's cool I'd like to keep posting things and get critiques.  I have a couple other questions if you guys don't mind?  The images I post are jpegs. I shoot raw and jpeg together but I find that I usually get the color and the exposure right out of camera. The other reason I like my jpegs is because I don't like the way my raw files look out of my D800.  For some reason, I just think they look funny.  My D300 didn't have any issues. Just my D800.  If anyone experiences this with Nikon let me know.

The other thing I want to know about is this.  Here is my process before I start editing.
1. check the brightest part of the forehead, usually the center since I always short light, and use my eye dropper and select something around 224 in the read channel. I then go into my info pallet and convert those RGB values into CMYK values. So the C will read 10%.  I then make sure that my M is within 2-3 times my C and my Y is withing 3-4 times my C. So it would read something like C 10% M 24% Y 32%. From all my research, this is a pretty accurate way to tell that your color is right.
2. If those measurements don't add up the way I want them to, then I use curves to fix those percentages. Most every time, it works.
3. I then add contrast and curves, soften, sharpen and I'm done. I spend very little time on my images.

Does anyone do it different and would like to share how?

This image is sooc using a white card from Ed Pierce. Does the color look accurate?  Does anyone want the raw file to play with?

http://i1107.photobucket.com/albums/h393/studio317/DSC_0736_zpse3b2400e.jpg
Jan 10 13 08:19 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Studio 317 Photography
Posts: 66
Indianapolis, Indiana, US


Oh, and now another question! This image looks much cooler in photoshop than it does on the web and in windows? Any suggestions?
Jan 10 13 08:22 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Studio 317 Photography
Posts: 66
Indianapolis, Indiana, US


-B-R-U-N-E-S-C-I- wrote:
Your lighting is controlled and pretty, but also rather flat and "portrait studio" looking (a kind way of saying boring). Your retouching is also heavy-handed (too much blur) and has an overall dulling and 'weighing down' effect on your photos.

Try moving your lights closer to the model for faster falloff and more 'pop', using smaller modifiers with grids rather than big softboxes or octas and don't be afraid of shadows or the occasional blown highlight. Try shooting tethered if you don't already and ETTR to give the greatest possibly dynamic range and least noise in the shadows. You'll be surprised how much you can "over" expose a RAW file with modern sensors and still retain detail in the highlights, especially if you're using LR4/ACR7 to convert the RAW file.

Ease back on the retouching - try just cleaning files up in lightroom or ACR (LR4/ACR7 have some great new features) - rather than always pulling them into PS and pummelling them with filters and gaussian blur. Also, make sure you have a properly calibrated monitor for retouching and don't set it too bright. It only needs to be bright enough to show you the full range of tones - any brighter will leave you squinting and subconsciously 'dulling' your images as you retouch them to make life easier on your eyes!



Just my $0.02

Ciao
Stefano

www.stefanobrunesci.com

I really like your advice! Keep it coming. I want to step out of my comfort zone. I shoot high school seniors. So I don't change anything up. It's always short light and poses that flatter. I get paid to stay in my comfort zone I guess. But I'm one of those people who really can learn anything. And I want to learn.

Jan 10 13 08:37 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Studio 317 Photography
Posts: 66
Indianapolis, Indiana, US


Jay Lee Studios wrote:
I have to agree with those who said over retouched. Your work looks plastic, and not real. You should learn how to actually edit photos instead of duplicating the layer and blurring the skin. Your work would look more professional and not so CGI.

Well I don't have many close ups either. I don't really blur the skin. I use portraiture. And lately I have learned to back it way down. I don't use guassian blur. A lot of people say that to me but I think that people use to soften skin with guassian blur before portraiture came out.  I don't know the term CGI. lol  I'm not picking a fight, but I don't do any of the things you just suggested I do. Just sayin.

Jan 10 13 08:41 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Sonn
Posts: 338
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


Do you mind if i have a go at adjusting one of your images?
Jan 10 13 09:10 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Zack Zoll
Posts: 2,475
Glens Falls, New York, US


Studio 317 Photography wrote:
Oh, and now another question! This image looks much cooler in photoshop than it does on the web and in windows? Any suggestions?

Easy answer.  Photoshop uses a much larger colour space than any common web browser.  Photoshop usually uses AdobeRGB (unless you've changed it), while web browsers use the much worse sRGB for faster loading.  The best way to 'fix' this is to convert to sRGB using Photoshop itself before uploading, as Photoshop does a much better job than the web browser will.

With the image open, select the 'edit' drop-down menu, and click on 'convert to profile.'  Select 'sRGB' as the destination space.  If it looks bad, mess with the image a little before you save it.  Do not use 'assign profile', as that won't be much better than letting the browser do it.

It's extra work, but I find that it makes a large difference.

As far as the jpg/RAW thing ... I used to shoot jpg a lot, but now I only shoot raw.  Raw images have no colour space, technically, and can theoretically support a better dynamic range.  They also have a much higher bit depth than jpg, and that helps a lot too.

If you don't make any changes to the image whatsoever, the only difference will be that the jpg will clip shadows and highlights a little sooner, even if that raw file was immediately converted to jpg without any changes.  But if you adjust exposure or colour even a little, the raw image will be less prone to picking up noise and banding during the editing process.

Oh, and don't convert to CMYK.  That's silly, and is probably causing a lot of your problems.  Every browser, and every photo printer, is designed to accept some form of RGB input.  Even though your inks are CMYK, the printer is looking for an RGB source.  If you feed it something different, it gets confused.

Generally, CMYK is only used for offset printing, and some banner/merch printers.

Jan 11 13 12:34 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Zack Zoll
Posts: 2,475
Glens Falls, New York, US


Oh, and be sure to make the sRGB web image a separate file.  Keep the larger file AdobeRGB (or ProPhoto RGB, if you use that) for printing.  Ignore ALL the other colourspaces other than those three and Grayscales.
Jan 11 13 12:37 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Studio 317 Photography
Posts: 66
Indianapolis, Indiana, US


Crack The Sky wrote:
Do you mind if i have a go at adjusting one of your images?

Shoot me your email. smile

Jan 11 13 08:25 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Studio 317 Photography
Posts: 66
Indianapolis, Indiana, US


Zack Zoll wrote:

Easy answer.  Photoshop uses a much larger colour space than any common web browser.  Photoshop usually uses AdobeRGB (unless you've changed it), while web browsers use the much worse sRGB for faster loading.  The best way to 'fix' this is to convert to sRGB using Photoshop itself before uploading, as Photoshop does a much better job than the web browser will.

With the image open, select the 'edit' drop-down menu, and click on 'convert to profile.'  Select 'sRGB' as the destination space.  If it looks bad, mess with the image a little before you save it.  Do not use 'assign profile', as that won't be much better than letting the browser do it.

It's extra work, but I find that it makes a large difference.

As far as the jpg/RAW thing ... I used to shoot jpg a lot, but now I only shoot raw.  Raw images have no colour space, technically, and can theoretically support a better dynamic range.  They also have a much higher bit depth than jpg, and that helps a lot too.

If you don't make any changes to the image whatsoever, the only difference will be that the jpg will clip shadows and highlights a little sooner, even if that raw file was immediately converted to jpg without any changes.  But if you adjust exposure or colour even a little, the raw image will be less prone to picking up noise and banding during the editing process.

Oh, and don't convert to CMYK.  That's silly, and is probably causing a lot of your problems.  Every browser, and every photo printer, is designed to accept some form of RGB input.  Even though your inks are CMYK, the printer is looking for an RGB source.  If you feed it something different, it gets confused.

Generally, CMYK is only used for offset printing, and some banner/merch printers.

You misunderstood my process. I did not convert to CMYK. I only converted the  RGB readings to CMYK so that I could view them as percentages. A lot of people do this just to gain information (if they are color blind) like me.  Well I'm not color blind, but I feel like I am.

Jan 11 13 08:41 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Zack Zoll
Posts: 2,475
Glens Falls, New York, US


I guess I don't understand, no.  So you're moving sliders in CMYK, even the image is still RGB?  I was under the impression that the sliders/curves were all RGB and CMYK at the same time.  Red and Cyan, Green and Magenta, and Blue and Yellow.  If you want to think RGB, you treat it as adding/removing red.  If you want to think CMYK, you treat it as adding/removing cyan.  It's still the same control, and the numerical readout is the same.

What am I missing?
Jan 13 13 08:28 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Studio 317 Photography
Posts: 66
Indianapolis, Indiana, US


Have your info pallet up. Use the color sampler on the skin on the diffused highlight, typically the center of the forehead or cheek. Click it when the reading is about 224 in the red channel. Then go to that reading and click the little icon next to it to change it to read cmyk. It just shows you what the readings are. It doesn't actually do anything.  I was taught to start with C reading 10%, M around 20-30% and Y around 30-40% on Caucasian skin.  If this sounds too whack that's ok.  I'd like to learn other ways of good color correction.
Jan 14 13 07:44 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Studio 317 Photography
Posts: 66
Indianapolis, Indiana, US


Zack Zoll wrote:
I guess I don't understand, no.  So you're moving sliders in CMYK, even the image is still RGB?  I was under the impression that the sliders/curves were all RGB and CMYK at the same time.  Red and Cyan, Green and Magenta, and Blue and Yellow.  If you want to think RGB, you treat it as adding/removing red.  If you want to think CMYK, you treat it as adding/removing cyan.  It's still the same control, and the numerical readout is the same.

What am I missing?

http://i1107.photobucket.com/albums/h393/studio317/example_zps67a461fc.jpg

Jan 14 13 07:54 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Zack Zoll
Posts: 2,475
Glens Falls, New York, US


Oh, okay ... now I'm with you.

If I'm honest, I never learned to correct skin that way.  Did you start off colour correcting in a colour darkroom?  Because that very much sounds like the sort of process I went through for that.

Are you using a colour chart?  Because if you want to work numerically, it would make your life a lot easier.  All you need to do is set some WB targets on the photo of the chart, and then adjust from there.  I find that tanned people could usually use a little less green (or more magenta) in the shadow areas, and a little less yellow overall.  I do that in two separate curves layers; one for the overall image, and the green one where I've just tweaked the skin's shadow areas.  If it messes up the rest of the image too much, I mask it off.

Then again, if you've seen my portfolio you know that I'm not exactly concerned with super-accurate colour tongue
Jan 15 13 01:22 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Fotografica Gregor
Posts: 4,104
Alexandria, Virginia, US


it appears to be more about the direction and quality of lighting and number of lights employed than about photoshop.  Forget using "fill" for a while.  Don't be afraid of shadows - these define form and texture.  And let me suggest that unless the light is high and almost on axis, it needs to be *at least* 45* off axis to become interesting.....
Jan 15 13 01:33 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Studio 317 Photography
Posts: 66
Indianapolis, Indiana, US


Fotografica Gregor wrote:
it appears to be more about the direction and quality of lighting and number of lights employed than about photoshop.  Forget using "fill" for a while.  Don't be afraid of shadows - these define form and texture.  And let me suggest that unless the light is high and almost on axis, it needs to be *at least* 45* off axis to become interesting.....

Unfortunately I am afraid of shadows. Only because I want everything to be printable. I think I know what you mean by the 45 degree angle. But wanted to double check. I basically always have my light at 10 or 2. I have the light feathered towards camera and I don't angle it down. I place the bottom of my softbox at shoulder level. So the top half of it is lighting up the hair. Would you have a different approach?

Jan 15 13 02:31 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Studio 317 Photography
Posts: 66
Indianapolis, Indiana, US


Zack Zoll wrote:
Oh, okay ... now I'm with you.

If I'm honest, I never learned to correct skin that way.  Did you start off colour correcting in a colour darkroom?  Because that very much sounds like the sort of process I went through for that.

Are you using a colour chart?  Because if you want to work numerically, it would make your life a lot easier.  All you need to do is set some WB targets on the photo of the chart, and then adjust from there.  I find that tanned people could usually use a little less green (or more magenta) in the shadow areas, and a little less yellow overall.  I do that in two separate curves layers; one for the overall image, and the green one where I've just tweaked the skin's shadow areas.  If it messes up the rest of the image too much, I mask it off.

Then again, if you've seen my portfolio you know that I'm not exactly concerned with super-accurate colour tongue

I'm more concerned with color than I am a WOW factor. I don't shoot for art. I'd like to. I think it would be fun. But I've never done it and wouldn't know where to start because my photoshop skills are so very limited. I did also just learn today about color correcting using LAB color. I found that to be very interesting as well. I think everyone just doesn't like that my shots are boring as far as "WOW" factor. Just think of me as that guy who learned photography without having access to a computer.  Then you might understand why I shoot the way I do.

Jan 15 13 02:35 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Studio 317 Photography
Posts: 66
Indianapolis, Indiana, US


Studio 317 Photography wrote:

I'm more concerned with color than I am a WOW factor. I don't shoot for art. I'd like to. I think it would be fun. But I've never done it and wouldn't know where to start because my photoshop skills are so very limited. I did also just learn today about color correcting using LAB color. I found that to be very interesting as well. I think everyone just doesn't like that my shots are boring as far as "WOW" factor. Just think of me as that guy who learned photography without having access to a computer.  Then you might understand why I shoot the way I do.

Oh and yes I want to white balance numerically. Could you explain what you mean by setting points on a chart?

Jan 15 13 02:36 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Fotografica Gregor
Posts: 4,104
Alexandria, Virginia, US


Studio 317 Photography wrote:
Unfortunately I am afraid of shadows. Only because I want everything to be printable. I think I know what you mean by the 45 degree angle. But wanted to double check. I basically always have my light at 10 or 2. I have the light feathered towards camera and I don't angle it down. I place the bottom of my softbox at shoulder level. So the top half of it is lighting up the hair. Would you have a different approach?

Vastly different approach.

With the exception of shooting beauty work or the occasional use of a ringlight, my main light is always at least 60 degrees off camera axis either vertically or horizontally and never less than 30 degrees off axis in any dimension.  Often 45-60 degrees in elevation.

You would be surprised how often my main is a full 90 degrees off camera axis.

I use small tightly controlled modifiers for the most part as well -   very frequently a 10 x 36" strip box or a Mola Demi or Setti beauty dish with grids. 

My images print just fine in magazine publication.....

Jan 15 13 08:32 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Zack Zoll
Posts: 2,475
Glens Falls, New York, US


I'm in sort of a weird boat, and probably not the same one as you.  My very first experience 'doing my own work' with photography was in a black and white darkroom.  Then years later I got a digital camera, and it was almost ten years after THAT that I ever set foot into a colour darkroom.  On top of that, I considered myself a drawer and painter until a few years ago, when my photography skills got to the point that I felt I could "create" an image adequately with a camera, rather than simply "capturing" it.  It wasn't until around that time that I really considered myself a photographer - before then, I was a generic artist.  So do keep that in mind when I give advice, because honestly it won't all apply to you.

One of the folders in my portfolio (Birds of a Lesser Paradise) is lit very flatly.  I'm using 30x60" softboxes, at about 10:00 and 2:00 from the models, with between a 2:1 and a 3:1 ratio.  There are no hair lights.  This is considered boring.  I do it for this project precisely because it is boring; the idea is for the viewer to examine the subject as if they were a specimen, rather than to consider how good the photo looks.  Not being interesting is sort of the point here.

When trying to make a subject good, you generally want a 3:1 or 5:1 ratio (meaning that one light is f/8 and the other f/22, for example), and/or you want your lights at a stronger angle.  You do this not only to be more interesting, but because it creates a greater feeling of depth on the model, while a flatter ratio makes them look flatter.  Which makes them look fatter.

Numerical white balance isn't something I'm great with, so I may not be explaining it well.  In a nutshell, you photograph a test card, and set your mid/high/low points to the 18% square, and then the darkest and lightest test squares that register around 255 and 0 on the RGB colour readouts, respectively.  So if you have two test squares that both read 255 on all colours (pure white), you take the reading from the darkest one that is around 255, even if it's something like 250/255/249.  Then you adjust the levels in the image so that all three of those squares are neutral, and either write down your corrections, or make an action.  You then apply those corrections to every image in that series.

If you're really OCD, you might reshoot the test chart every time you move the lights or change their output.  If you have good, consistent lights like ProFotos or the Einsteins with the 'consistent colour' mode on, you don't really need to reshoot the card unless you change the output drastically, or move the lights a lot.
Jan 15 13 09:40 pm  Link  Quote 
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