« Mike and Ctein Discuss B&W-Only Sensor Implementation (Digital B&W Part III) | Main | Time for a Poll »

Friday, 14 October 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Not that is for me to choose, but I far prefer the B&W — it is a more flattering angle and gee, it just has tio be said, portraits take on another dimension in B&W.

As for space, it ain't just an amateur thing. I have had to produce portraits on the road in all sorts of impromptu studio settings. Bathroom often work well because they can often essentially be a giant soft box.

Big studios are nice, but my preference is for 'real' sized rooms relative to human experience where the sitter does not feel dwarfed by the surroundings. Just my thought on it.



Dude, given the circumstances, you aced it. I love the B&W one, much nicer than the colour option she chose; but then again, I'm not a client, just a photographer :-)

PS: I see you used the A900 and shot at 60mm (for the B&W). Any comments for those that complain that APS-C just doesn't allow D0F control? I ask this with an evil grin because of your comment about not being able to throw the background more out of focus.

Actually, this is pretty good a yearbook photo. Most yearbook photos are just horrible.

Kirk Tuck you ain't.

I like the B&W one a lot better to, but her expression is perhaps better in the colour image.

Guess you'll have to start fundraising for the Zeiss 135 f/1.8 and

"Experience the amazing image quality of the Carl Zeiss® SAL-135F18Z telephoto lens. Its wide range can handle images that are miles or inches away."

The above quote is from the Canadian Sonystyle site. According to the PR you'll be covered.

The black&white photo is so much better not because it's black&white but simply because it's a better portrait. The light is so much more suitable for her facial features. I wonder what would she look like en face, lit with a hard light, butterfly style... Or is it not approporiate for this "senior shots"?

Great job, all things considered. I'd say she looks a lot better in the second portrait. What makes the shot for me is the contour of the right side of her face (the left of the picture as we see it) against her hair and the light and shadow, which are more flattering. Honestly, it looks like the two were taken a couple of years apart, such is the apparent change in the shape of Kirsten's face.

The personality comes out in the shot, I'd say, but perhaps that's just because I've read your text.

More bacon saved at the last minute!

I think I see what she sees in the second one, in her expression. I don't terribly like the contrast level across the face (the whole thing feels dark, and not in a good way), but I think that could be fixed by processing differently (though I can't be sure, not knowing how much you did to get to this version).

I do like the tonality in the B&W quite a lot, but the expression not so much (not horrible, but...).

Yeah, "proper" dimensions for a studio allow you to light the background separately from the subject (which also makes it easier to throw out of focus), AND room to light the subject with lights above and to both sides, AND room to get back to use a 300mm for at least upper body, if not full length (not that you'll need to do that most of the time, but...).

Some people, I hear, shoot photos of full-size tractor-trailer rigs in their studios.

At this point you should have used an umbrella or the garage.. the least you could do is cut her out and put her against a better, darker background that would hide a lot of sins.

I would select that background in PS, blur the heck out of it, then add enough grain to balance it with the subject. Or, if you're even more ambitious, take a picture of a background you'd like to use and strip it in. Doesn't even have to be the proper size, actually.

I like the color one better because of her expression. The two versions of her are quite different. I'm not sure which I would pick if they were the same image, just one in color and one in B&W.

I've got to give to it the girl for not going with the B&w shot and asking her ex's dad to take her portrait. Almost everybody I know goes for B&W for no other reason than thinking it's more artistic. They don't know why it's more artistic, it just is

I must be fair to them and say that none of them has ever had a senior portrait

Hi Mike.

That worked pretty well considering :-)

FWIW, if I was given the choice without the story I'd prefer the first one, but in the second one she looks more self-assured so I can see why she chose that one. I reckon a boyfriend would prefer the first as it shows a softer side of her personality (more than just the softer lighting).
Contexts and impressions are so important in the eye of the viewer. She's got compelling eyes and I doubt a non-photographer will think twice about the background.

all the best phil

One problem I have with tight spaces, especially if the walls are white, is that light bounces all over the place, so you have much less control.

I ended up getting black velvet boards to help with that.

I love darkroom/home-studio discussions...probably because I'll likely never have another one. Sad.
...totally interested in hearing about how to get an oversized softbox without paying for it.
...and that girl has a great nose...my spot-on observation of the day, there.

Strobist had a two-part series on turning a garage into a studio: Light Remodeling, Pt. 1 and Light Remodeling, Pt. 2.

Also, Open Air Home Studio talks about using the driveway as a studio, although that wouldn't have helped during the rain, of course.

Agree she probably chose the shot where she is more mature, largely because of the nose.

Anyway, I had fun converting her choice to black and white (will her yearbook photo be printed in color? does she have a choice?). Used Picture Window Pro, chose a color filter, selected the face and applied soft light.

Did not do a smidgeon of sepia toning, which it looks on my browser as though Mike did.

Congratulations, it worked out well despite your frustrations.

I can see why she picked the colour photo. Putting aside all photographic considerations, her face simply looks more attractive in it. (Lesson to shooters: the subject's first consideration will always be how attractive/handsome do they look).

This reminds me of a scene in a movie from 25 or so years ago where these guys were trying to get out of some communist block country or somesuch. Great sense of urgency and they were stuck with the wrong photos on their fake passports. So there's this great scene where they're in a closet trying to McGyver some new contact prints from their negs, using a flashlight and some jury-rigged chemistry. If I recall correctly they had no fixer so the prints kept fading to grey when exposed to light. Gripping scene. I just don't remember what movie it was.

remember mike, nobody cares how hard you worked to get the shot. Nice work however you did it. The pros would probably want you as an assistant if you can work that well from of a pile of beans.

I enjoy reading these comments and am always struck by how different people, looking at the same portraits, have such differing opinions. I, personally, think that both portraits are quite nice - in fact really nice. If they were done by a well-known portraitist, I believe that viewers would assume that any "flaws" were intentional, and would therefore rate these as brilliant. Anyway, I like them.

Excuse me for staring, but just another two bits from me. Her expression in the color version looks like she just said something pleasant and is awaiting a response from somebody. Hers in the B&W version seems more awkward.

Funny what people latch onto, huh Mike? I mean, you were really only talking about the merits of the image and not so much the subject, right?

Color one. The B&W looks too contrasty and her eyes look like she could be suffering from allergies. Even the color one could use some more fill.

Don't you just hate rush jobs. Makes you look like an amateur when you really are not. I'm such a grouch no one ever asks me for photos but if they did I think I'd invest in one of those 3 panel, fold up privacy screens. They fold flat out of the way, are tall enough and you could drape a backdrop over them. A couple of cheap slaves and something to hols a bounce panel and there you are. And you know she is going to tell all her classmates what a nice guy Zanders dad is.

I just did the B&W one fiddling around with the Image > Adjustments > Black & White controls in CS5 ...

Optimal conversion in Photoshop requires back-and-forth adjustments with Black & White and Curves. Invoking the conversion from the Image menu doesn't allow for this. The basic (and by no means only) procedure is this:

1. Start with a good, colour-corrected image. An often effective route is to click Auto in Curves. Note that the Auto defaults clip too much ... you're better changing these to 0.01% (and saving as new defaults).

2. Add a Black & White adjustment, either from the Adjustments panel (CS4/CS5) or the adjustment layer popup menu at the bottom on the Layers panel. Set filtering options to taste.

3. Add a Curves adjustment above (Curves is a super-set of Levels so there's no point now in using the latter). Set curve to taste.

4. Select the Black & White layer and Curves layer alternately and re-tweak values to taste.

5. When you have a good overall conversion, add a layer above for dodging and burning, set in Soft Light (or Overlay) blend mode, 50% gray fill and use the brush tool to paint with black and white on this. You'll want reduced opacity for both the layer and tool.

6. Save as an un-flattened file (TIFF or PSD) to allow for later revisions.

"The pros would probably want you as an assistant if you can work that well from of a pile of beans."

One of my nice memories is that when my partners and I rebuilt our studio, doing the work ourselves, at least three of the four of us had been photographers' assistants, and you never saw such a cooperative, helpful crew in your life--every time you needed something, hammer or nail or whatever, you'd look down and someone would be holding it up for you. Everyone constantly anticipating everyone else's needs, like all good assistants do for photographers.


Thanks Steven. Do you have, or do you know of, a visual demo of that procedure? I'd love to see it.

I think I did more or less a crude version of what you describe, using Adjustment > B&W and also Curves. Then I did some touch-up with the blur tool here and there and did a little reverse sharpening ("clarity") on her eyes. I also usually start out with a color image that's too yellow, and I can't defend why...I've just gotten into that habit.


"Even the color one could use some more fill."

Yep. I actually set up the fill when she was facing the other way, and we just did a few of her facing this way at the end of the session.


All I can think about is will she read this and how will she feel if she does?............... gorgeous girl btw,not to mention brave(y'know, I'm going to post your photo for analyse) ....... :-)

Black sheets and a couple of Alien Bees would do that, no? :) Actually, I really only wanted to comment that there is really nothing more important than duct tape...

Nice shots though (I don't see a need to add the "considering" caveat) and I tend to agree that the B&W is the better, not the least for the fact that background blurs out more. However, if the yearbook is full colour, I can understand her choice.

I can make the illustrations as I have some free time till my next project. Don't want anything in return though - I like your site and would love to contribute in any way I can.

By the way, I live in Mumbai, India. And I like the B/W one better.

Yeah, she's a bit stiff in the colour photo. Appears more relaxed and natural in the B&W one.

Anyway, it's easy being a professional with all the right tools. :) Let 'em try with such limitations.

Hello Mike,

Improvisation without the proper tools at hand, is never easy. However it is one part of being a photographer and in that you did very well.

Many years ago in my assistant days and before Chimera and the others came along, we use to build soft boxes out of foam core, tracing paper and of course gaffers tape. Get a couple of 4 x8 sheets of foam core and you can build almost any shape and size.

When the space is there (obviously not in your case) you can take 2 sheets, tape them together to form a "V" and then do the same to another 2. Which will give you a big square soft box when you put them together. Lay a 5th foam board on top and diffusion material over the front, bounce the light(s) into the foam core and you get a big beautiful light source.

To Ed Hawco - that film (or movie) is "The Killing Fields."

All things considered, your photo came out great. I had a similar experience last week. I photographed dogs at a pet boutique. Unfortunately, I only had 70 square feet to work in. Afterwards, I wrote about taking pictures of dogs in cramped quarters. The story may be interesting to those photogs finding themselves pressured to take pictures in conditions that are less than ideal. http://topdogimaging.net/blog/dog-photographer-lament

Ed Hawco is mo doubt the fake passport scene from "The Killing Fields."

Oops! I mean:

Ed Hawco is no doubt remembering the fake-passport scene from "The Killing Fields."


I'm not much for Photoshop plug-ins but Nik's Silver Efex Pro 2 is one I use often and is my sole method for b/w conversions. It comes with a good set of starting profiles that you can then tweak and save as your own. I didn't even read a manual or look at a tutorial to use it. I just started fiddling with the settings.

..." I've always used Photoshop merely to correct photographs, not to construct them, but I might have to learn how to do that."

Please, no. TOP...The Online Photoshopper

One thing I didn´t got last year and still didn´t get this one is why the school asks for prints. Isn't it much more logical to ask for original digital files? 99% of the shots must be digital anyway...

Yes! It was "The Killing Fields." Thanks for the reminder.

(This makes me think it would be an interesting TOP weekend post to get people talking about good photography films & scenes…) <- although I think that might have been done already. (Has it been?)

That's my favorite movie scene involving a photographer (in that case John Malkovich as the photojournalist constructing a passport photo out of nothing).

Other entertaining photog portrayals of that era are Nick Nolte in "Under Fire" (1983) and John Savage and James Woods in Oliver Stone's "Salvador" (1986).

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007