Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Diane: Professional Portrait in a "Barn"

Diane Before and After Wardrobe, Posing and Retouching

As the date for the official launch of her new business, and accompanying new website approaches, Diane, an equine health professional, has been building a house. So over the past few months while she has been toiling away in dusty work clothes, neglecting her hair and nails (understandably!) and pretty much foregoing wearing any make-up, she has started to forget the lovely face she used to see in the mirror. Furthermore, thanks to being in a somewhat transitory situation for some time, she has not been able to follow her usual diet and has slipped a bit away from her ideal weight. It being a few years since her last professional portrait she was in need of an update that would feature her current look, but she was not feeling beautiful. Her usual boisterous confidence somewhat temporarily compromised she arrived at the studio not totally sure what we would be able to pull off. 

I had thought that the perfect backdrop for Diane's portrait would be a barn wall, since she works with horses, but it wasn't going to work for us to have to actually go to a barn. Fortunately I had, not long ago, repainted one of my hand painted backdrops to look somewhat reminiscent of a post and beam barn wall. Having shot in barns a few times I knew exactly what feel I wanted for the lighting...I wanted to emulate a flare of late day sun coming in from an out-of-frame entrance and reflecting off the warm stall walls. Very soft, warm and flattering.

Not surprisingly the second Diane started putting on her make-up she was well on her way back to confidence. She had brought a selection of tops of the type she might wear on the job the times she isn't required to wear full scrubs. We liked the light blue in theory, for a hit of colour, but decided it was actually kind of distracting 'on film' (again, we're shooting digitally, so really we mean on the computer monitor, but that doesn't sound right!). The brown sleeveless option she brought turned out to interact much more successfully with the tones of her skin, her hair and the background.

Next, the pose. Regardless of one's figure, poses can be very flattering, or not, slimming or really not. And it's not as if the pose needs to be stiff or formal or restricted to one's more a matter of movement within a loose set of parameters that enhance rather than detract from the natural ability of the person to look 'optimal.'

The one additional  adjustment we made to the lighting before shooting the final files was to take some light away from under Diane's chin, which helped create separation between her face and neck. This as well as the pose angled away from the main light served to emphasize and define Diane's jawline.

Final Selected Frame Before and After Retouching

Once we had a bunch of winning frames it was just a matter of choosing a favourite and touching it up. (In fact, I picked one, and Diane chose a couple of others she felt would be appropriate for different pages on her new site.) Retouching needed to be subtle because it would be particularly inappropriate for someone who works with animals, in rural/outdoor environments, and needs clients to trust her completely to appear at all unrealistic or inauthentic in her profile pictures.

So, all I did was:

- close her sexy top a bit. We couldn't get the fabric 'V' to sit straight during shooting so I digitally composited a fix in retouching,

- slenderize her body, and arms ever so slightly. Her torso area showing behind her arm may be cropped out of the final, anyway, but to give her the flexibility of using a less tight crop I just digitally 'repositioned' that area,

- brighten the light side of the face a bit more,

- remove some of the frizz around the edges of her hair. It's hard to do this just the right amount so that it doesn't look fake and 'cut out', but hair frizz and fly aways are distracting in photos and really show up in backlit situations, so I pretty much always advocate tidying up in retouching,

- subtly whiten her already white teeth, particularly in between the teeth where stains can form over time (visible in the high res file),

- subtly whiten eyes and remove visible blood vessels,

- subtly lighten/smoothen under eye areas,

- very subtly smoothen skin, particularly the slightly rough arm skin and neck wrinkles (visible in the high res file) and add subtle highlights onto arms. Importantly, make sure to leave texture in skin,

- emphasize/add to the sunlight 'flaring' in from outside, so the highlights in the hair and on the arm make visual sense.

That's about it! Diane's happy, so I'm happy. Now, onto the other frames she has requested. I can't wait to see how they fit into her new site design!

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