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Photographer
welschvideo
Posts: 147
La Crosse, Wisconsin, US


The photographer shares a lot of her work, but is rarely online to help explain the process she uses.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8126/8634222484_3f9b29827b_c.jpg
Apr 20 13 09:13 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Fotografica Gregor
Posts: 4,067
Alexandria, Virginia, US


How do you know that there is no flash or strobe use?  There are some interesting catchlights in the eyes that would suggest otherwise to me, or at least suggest that more than one light is being used.... 

catchlights and falloff often tell the tale - looks like a beauty dish straight on and high and a softbox to our right side based on the shape and placement of the catchlights....  and the falloff on the faces seems congruent with this....

try sampling the areas in the image that you would think would be white... there is some interesting colour and contrast ratio manipulation going on here....
Apr 20 13 09:21 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Awesome Headshots
Posts: 2,364
San Ramon, California, US


I see either a large soft box or large white panel behind the photographer. Time of day and location may have a lot to do with the bright flat light along with substantial post.

Did you ask the photographer?
Apr 20 13 09:26 am  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
BorderlineBunny
Posts: 2,201
Tulsa, Oklahoma, US


Honestly, I think tinkering with the Shadows and Highlights adjustment under Image > Adjustments in PS will achieve that flat look.

ETA: As in, that's really all she did to make it look like that. Play around and see, it takes literally 10 seconds to get a photo looking very similar to that.
Apr 20 13 09:46 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
TMA Photo and Retouch
Posts: 709
New York, New York, US


I sometimes use eye glints and shadow placements to read and decode how a photo was taken. 

The eyes and the highlights in the eyes will tell you what kind of light was used... and where it was positioned... and maybe how close... or what kind of fixture was used.  Its a very small detail to discern ...but it is a very tell-tale indicator of everything bright within the view of the subject... and how it was placed.  Keep in mind that the eye is a ball and that the edges will reflect light reflections accordingly.

You can usually see the brightest key light part of the image... and you can sometimes see that it is coming from some direction... with some degree of softness and hardness.  Also, almost every light source is capable of casting a shadow... that you can read and interpret backwards.   Look especially for shadows besides and under the nose area, under the chin, and especially shadows cast by the hands or arms etc.  If you can see any shadows...then you can reverse interpret which direction the light is coming from... how high or low the light is placed relative to the subject...and whether the light source is a large soft light source with a very soft edged shadow... or a hard un-diffused light source with a hard edge shadow.  You can get practice reading this with your own images that you remember how they were shot.  Look at your own images for how the catch lights print...and how to reverse engineer the shadows to find out the position of the key and fill lights and how many there were...and how they were placed.  Its all the rules from the high school science class on light behavior.

SO in review...you can tell how many lights might have been used by looking into the eye sparkles, you can sometimes see where the light was placed, how high or low, and maybe even the kind of light source fixture such as a square softlight, or octagon softbox, or a beauty dish pattern, or the sun...just by decoding the eyes if they are available to decode.  You can often see the directionality of the key light source and how many lights might have been used... by spotting multiple shadows and multiple shadow angles... how high or low it was placed by reading the cast shadow angle...and how hard or soft the light was by reading the degree of diffusion that the edge shows.  Is the edge of the shadow on the body or face... a crisp line... or is it a spread out line with a diffused edge?

In your image above I can see a hair light coming in on the girl.  It is VERY bright to overexpose the hair...and it is positioned from above...so I might suppose it to be the sun coming in from an opening in the tree canopy.  It gives a very nice angelic halo effect!  In the eyes I seem to read a very large expanse of very bright light going from side to side in the eyes.  Since the eyes are curved surfaces...the lights out front are very WIDE...almost like a panorama or a vista kind of feel.  It seems like the catch lights are being made by a very bright wide vista of the horizon.  I definitely dont see the telltale hot dots of a strobe in the eyes...and I dont see any shadows left or right of the nose or under the chin... so that supports the concept that maybe flashes were not used.  I dont see a silk scrim or diffuser pattern in the eyes...so a large shade was not used it seems.   There are virtually NO shadows on the nose, chin and arms which leads me to surmise that the front light was massively huge and soft and diffused...such as the vista of country side in front of them.  Such large light sources produce almost no shadows on the face or body because of their sheer size...and this is the case here.

So I might surmise that the photographer was a masterful available light photographer who knew the visual power of having a kicker light...but knew enough to angle the kids around the correct way to face the kids into the wide open bright vista of light in front to them.  The back fence adds some darkness to the background which gives it some nice contrast. And there are very attractive dapples and pools of light all throughout the images indicating that light is coming in through the canopy of the tree branches...as seen in one of the images.

So, I would think this photographer knew what they were doing. They took great advantage of the time of day sun position, pools of light for interest, and how to rotate their kids to make them look like angels with their faces fully lit... and WITHOUT SHADOWS. 

This is the mark of an experienced available light photographer who knows their craft.  They know how to orient their subjects to get available key and fill lights created for them from nature or from available objects...and they know how to spin around and position their shooting angles and subjects to take advantage of halo lighting, sun dapples, great natural key lights, and wonderful soft lights produced by shooting under a tree... facing into the open light. 

From a Photoshop perspective it also looks like the dark areas of the image were opened up quite a bit with a low end curve to brighten up the dark areas of the image...there are almost no black or dark areas in the image...except just one part on 1 image.

This photographer took good advantage of everything mother nature made available for him to shoot...and he post processed in an opening up of the darker areas of the images.
Apr 20 13 10:11 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
M Pandolfo Photography
Posts: 12,113
Tampa, Florida, US


BorderlineBunny wrote:
Honestly, I think tinkering with the Shadows and Highlights adjustment under Image > Adjustments in PS will achieve that flat look.

ETA: As in, that's really all she did to make it look like that. Play around and see, it takes literally 10 seconds to get a photo looking very similar to that.

That was my first thought too. It looks like extreme settings of S&H.

Apr 20 13 10:15 am  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Peano
Posts: 4,106
Lynchburg, Virginia, US


BorderlineBunny wrote:
Honestly, I think tinkering with the Shadows and Highlights adjustment under Image > Adjustments in PS will achieve that flat look.

That's one way. Topaz Detail will also do it, probably with more flexibility.

http://img198.imageshack.us/img198/7538/lightenl.jpg

http://img7.imageshack.us/img7/4069/lighten3.jpg

Apr 20 13 10:42 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
welschvideo
Posts: 147
La Crosse, Wisconsin, US


Fotografica Gregor wrote:
How do you know that there is no flash or strobe use?  There are some interesting catchlights in the eyes that would suggest otherwise to me, or at least suggest that more than one light is being used.... 

catchlights and falloff often tell the tale - looks like a beauty dish straight on and high and a softbox to our right side based on the shape and placement of the catchlights....  and the falloff on the faces seems congruent with this....

try sampling the areas in the image that you would think would be white... there is some interesting colour and contrast ratio manipulation going on here....

I was told indirectly by the photographer through a third party who knows her they don't use lighting unless it's a reflector. But I'm sure your guess it much closer to true than his word.

Apr 20 13 01:51 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
LA StarShooter
Posts: 1,772
Los Angeles, California, US


Without even analysing it deeply I concluded natural light, with just a bit of tweaking in photoshop. The light is so soft and even. Time of day is important. If there is a screen of clouds that can be very awesome. As some people here spend a lot of time in studios, I am not surprised that they went looking for the strobe, the hairlight, but the sun, oh my, if you get the right time of day, can just deliver so beautifully, a gorgeous stream of soft light. I shoot a lot out doors, and I shoot sometimes with flash. But often I use a reflector and I have a 78 inch by 36 inch big beast. It takes some skill to shoot outdoors the way the photographer pulled off those shoots. I like the photos very much and while studio is nice, location is better, if you have a good knowledge of Kelvin (or you understand how the sun in relation to the horizon casts shadows) and how to approach the time-of-day-challenges.
Apr 20 13 05:36 pm  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Peano
Posts: 4,106
Lynchburg, Virginia, US


LA StarShooter wrote:
Without even analysing ...

Enough said. Analyze.

Apr 20 13 06:30 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
LA StarShooter
Posts: 1,772
Los Angeles, California, US


Peano wrote:

Enough said. Analyze.

I wrote without analysing it deeply. I didn't look at exif, but having shot enough, shot on film, it was very apparent that it was natural light, and some had opined about strobes. Ciao.

Apr 20 13 06:33 pm  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Peano
Posts: 4,106
Lynchburg, Virginia, US


LA StarShooter wrote:
I wrote without analysing it deeply. I didn't look at exif,

If you had tried, you might have discovered that there was no exif to look at.

Apr 20 13 06:37 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Good Egg Productions
Posts: 15,129
Orlando, Florida, US


Ooh.  I want to play.

I'm going with about 105 f/2.8 or 85mm f/1.4 (probably around 1.8) 
Under a tree with filtered sunlight.
A large white rectangular reflector bouncing light onto the subject from the camera slightly right.

Then, desaturate about 20%, pull out a few more reds, slide the clarity up about 20 to 40, push the shadows up to +50, salt and butter to taste, probably do a 5pixel high pass sharpening and voila.

I don't have the interest in showing my work, but it has as much to do with the lighting setup as it does with the post work, but both are pretty crucial to achieve the look.
Apr 20 13 06:38 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
AJScalzitti
Posts: 12,300
Atlanta, Georgia, US


I wonder how they got the sun to change into that rectangular and beauty dish like shape in the catch lights.  Must be something on the newer pocket wizards
Apr 20 13 06:42 pm  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Peano
Posts: 4,106
Lynchburg, Virginia, US


Good Egg Productions wrote:
I don't have the interest in showing my work, ...but ...

Brings to mind Mrs. Fones, my seventh-grade teacher. If we didn't show our work on math problems, she wouldn't give any credit. I tried again and again to think of an argument that would persuade her to give credit for answers without showing my work.

I never succeeded. Do you have any suggestions?

Apr 20 13 06:43 pm  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Peano
Posts: 4,106
Lynchburg, Virginia, US


AJScalzitti wrote:
I wonder how they got the sun to change into that rectangular and beauty dish like shape in the catch lights.

Explain, please, how you determined the shape of catchlights in an image in which the irises are only 12 pixels in diameter. (Show your work.)

Apr 20 13 06:48 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
SB Glamour Photos
Posts: 712
Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia


Good Egg Productions wrote:
Ooh.  I want to play.

I'm going with about 105 f/2.8 or 85mm f/1.4 (probably around 1.8) 
Under a tree with filtered sunlight.
A large white rectangular reflector bouncing light onto the subject from the camera slightly right.

Then, desaturate about 20%, pull out a few more reds, slide the clarity up about 20 to 40, push the shadows up to +50, salt and butter to taste, probably do a 5pixel high pass sharpening and voila.

I don't have the interest in showing my work, but it has as much to do with the lighting setup as it does with the post work, but both are pretty crucial to achieve the look.

I think that wouldnjust about hit the nail on the head. In outdoor shooting,  the flash often kills most of the catchlights in the eye that come from the sky and bright reflective surfaces. With the flash, the shape of the catchlights are often very defined shapes of the diffuser used. Without flash, the catchlights are much larger and help to brighten more of the eyes when exposed properly.
The even lighting suggests the subjects were in the shadow of the tree and the sun was only at a medium angle in the sky. This is a guess because the highlighted unshaded areas are not too over exposed.

Apr 20 13 06:48 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Charlie-CNP
Posts: 2,592
New York, New York, US


time of day with directional sun. Look at the hair lights, that is all sun. Set up a large reflector on the other side and voila, you have that nice even light hitting your subjects for fill with no strobes required. There is a lot of post work going on here too in order to give it the flatness, but the shooting portion is relatively simple.
Apr 20 13 06:50 pm  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Peano
Posts: 4,106
Lynchburg, Virginia, US


Charlie-CNP wrote:
There is a lot of post work going on here too

There is a lot of post work going on here, period. You guys are giving yourselves hernias trying to make this a matter of how the shot was managed. Virtually any daylight shot could be rendered this way. It's 95% post.

Apr 20 13 06:53 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Innovative Imagery
Posts: 2,815
Los Angeles, California, US


welschvideo wrote:
The photographer shares a lot of her work, but is rarely online to help explain the process she uses.

Who is the photographer in question?

PM me to avoid violating MM rules.

Apr 20 13 07:33 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Cupcake Paparazzi
Posts: 434
Los Angeles, California, US


welschvideo wrote:
The photographer shares a lot of her work, but is rarely online to help explain the process she uses.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8126/8634222484_3f9b29827b_c.jpg

Pretty sure I see a speedlight with a softbox attached to it being used. Check the catch in the eyes.

Apr 21 13 05:47 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Don Garrett
Posts: 4,262
Escondido, California, US


Peano wrote:
There is a lot of post work going on here, period. You guys are giving yourselves hernias trying to make this a matter of how the shot was managed. Virtually any daylight shot could be rendered this way. It's 95% post.

This was my first thought. I would say that a lot of tonemapping was used. The strong local contrast, and almost NO "end to end" contrast is NOT how a camera works. Of course some lights were used, but that wouldn't explain the lack of deep shadows in the whole image, and the very mitigated highlights, (except for the totally blown out hair on the girl in the first shot). It didn't take me much analysis either, but, I guess that can remain a point of contention. In my opinion, one can sometimes just glance at an image, and know how to replicate it, (to a very reasonable degree).
  Of course, also, one could put a couple hundred lights all over the place, and light everything absolutely evenly, but I doubt that was done. I would avoid giving myself that hernia.
-Don
EDIT: This is the kind of image I saw when I decided I needed to throw Photomatix into the mix. I still want my shadows to look like shadows, and my highlights to look like highlights, BUT, I love the tonal possibilities that become available when one uses three RAW conversions, Photomatix, and several of the powerful tools that are in Photoshop. ANY tonal adjustment is possible with a single, well done capture.
ANOTHER EDIT : Interesting lighting is very simple to set up, and should always be done, (I like my light coming from a side more than from straight on), BUT, bringing out details in the shadows, and putting body and details in the highlights is something that a computer does best. I see some very flat, uninteresting looking light in some of these images. They could have been done better, (IMO). It is also possible to "overdo" the process, and make everything look "too" evenly exposed, (plus too saturated). This looks more likely in some of the images I see here.

Apr 21 13 06:22 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Good Egg Productions
Posts: 15,129
Orlando, Florida, US


Peano wrote:

Brings to mind Mrs. Fones, my seventh-grade teacher. If we didn't show our work on math problems, she wouldn't give any credit. I tried again and again to think of an argument that would persuade her to give credit for answers without showing my work.

I never succeeded. Do you have any suggestions?

All I was saying is that I'm familiar enough with my raw conversion adjusters in Bridge to know what they do and the resulting look. I don't have outdoor images lit with a reflector under a tree to use as test material, nor did I want to take the time to find a suitable test image, alter it, post it somewhere and then link it.

But I think you will find that my suggestion will get you pretty close, given the appropriate starting image.

Apr 21 13 08:39 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
The Illuminated Pixel
Posts: 577
Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, US


it's ugly, why copy it?
Apr 21 13 08:47 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Don Garrett
Posts: 4,262
Escondido, California, US


The Illuminated Pixel  wrote:
it's ugly, why copy it?

I see these images as an amazing start to something wonderful. The fact that there is all that local contrast, (distinctness of detail), and the shadows and highlights look almost equally exposed, is the best START I can imagine. They are NOT finished images, in my opinion.
  What you said, about them being ugly, I'll have to agree with, but what I have developed, in terms of using this kind of image to "throw into the mix" has been one of the very best additions I have at my disposal in order to get the type of tonality I like to see in a large print. Before seeing this kind of very flat looking image, with so much detail in the shadows and highlights, I was stuck with some Photoshop procedures that could never quite give me what I was looking for. I had to be MUCH more careful with my curves adjustments, because I "ran out of room" on the two ends of the histogram too easily. Now, I can keep the pure white and pure Black pixel(s) down to the minimum allowed by the dictates of the capture, and, at the same time, get much more local contrast, smoother gradients, drive out all, or most of the "haze", (I stop when I absolutely love the image), and improve the shadow and highlight details, all at the same time. Something that was close to impossible before. 
  Tonality, saturation, and color balance are all 100% controllable, and I love to be in complete control. "Reality" is something a camera can't give you anyway, so why not go for an image with maximum visual impact ? Or, have the control to get exactly what you saw in the viewfinder at the time of the capture ? It can be your choice !
-Don

Apr 21 13 09:31 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Jude S-R Photography
Posts: 32
Syracuse, Indiana, US


Everyone is arguing about catchlights without talking about the fact that sometimes, flash catchlights can look like natural catchlights, and that sometimes, natural catchlights can look exactly like flash catchlights.

Light is light. A catchlight is simply a reflection. These images could have easily been shot with EITHER only natural light, or natural light plus reflector only, or a speelight + natural light.

Personally, I believe it was natural light, simply because of the color and layout of the catchlights. But, it could be other.

As far as replicating the shot in post, others have said it great. Its a matter of playing around with different things.
You may want to try making a layer of a pastel color with a small opacity, blending mode overlay. Or, play with that.
Also, try making a levels adjustment layer, but pushing the blacks output level higher than it should be.
Those are just a few things that come to me, thinking about it...
Apr 21 13 09:07 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Jude S-R Photography
Posts: 32
Syracuse, Indiana, US


The Illuminated Pixel  wrote:
it's ugly, why copy it?

One reason is that portrait clients, especially those wanting shots of their children, tend to love this look. I've noticed it's very popular.

I don't mind it.

Apr 21 13 09:18 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
J O H N A L L A N
Posts: 9,755
Santa Ana, California, US


I don't understand the debate on the lighting, as the lighting is pretty insignificant.
This is reminiscent of my hand slipping on one of the PS sliders or just trying really extreme settings when I was first learning PS.
It's like the author, completely removed contrast, lightened and then intensely  sharpened the result.
Apr 21 13 09:26 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Mark Harrington Photo
Posts: 379
Riverside, California, US


Looks like the gain was increased beyond normal range
Apr 21 13 09:37 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Gulag
Posts: 1,222
Duluth, Georgia, US


create a fake color profile with a smaller Gamma value, such as 1. assign the fake profile to the image, and add a empty curve layer in multiple mode/adjust its opacity level to taste. add an orange color filter to the image. now convert the color profile back to your working color profile.
Apr 21 13 10:05 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Smedley Whiplash
Posts: 17,257
Billings, Montana, US


What I did to find out was to make the image normal using adjustment layers, and then reverse those adjustments... so to make a normal image look that way:

-curves adjustment layer (don't tweak the curve), set the blending mode to screen, 62% opacity
-brightness/contrast adjustment layer,  normal blending mode, contrast -100%
-levels adjustment layer, 0, 1.67, 255
Apr 22 13 08:37 am  Link  Quote 
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