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12-12-2014, 10:34 PM   #1
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Low Key Portrait First Attempt - Need Guidance
Camera: K-7 Photo Location: Noida ISO: 400 Aperture: F2.8 

I recently setup a spartan home studio - Two white umbrella lights and some backdrops.

The low key portrait below was taken using a battery powered LED light with a white umbrella as modifier, and a black muslin backdrop.



I wonder if the white colored top was a good idea for a low key portrait? Or the pose? Does low key photography work best with darker poses?

I couldn't get a sharper focus with my FA 50 f/1.4. The camera was on a tripod and I used IR remote for shutter release, but the shutter speed was 1/15s, which could well have been the reason for reduced sharpness.

What else is wrong, or perhaps right with the photo?

12-12-2014, 10:49 PM   #2
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I like the lipstick and skin tones.. .....the white top kinda kills it though....... And lets see the other hand also.
Use the timer or push the IR remote with your toe if you have to.
12-12-2014, 11:04 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by az1895 Quote
I like the lipstick and skin tones.. .....the white top kinda kills it though....... And lets see the other hand also.
Use the timer or push the IR remote with your toe if you have to.
Thanks az1895 for the useful tips!
12-14-2014, 05:19 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Inexorable Quote
I wonder if the white coloured top was a good idea
Definitely not a good idea, it would have been much better without any top.

Seriously though, I like the facial expression but the posing with arm looks awkward, not relaxed and hence unbalances the image.

12-14-2014, 05:53 AM   #5
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Personally, I like a low key photograph to keep its theme: subdued, maybe a bit serious (or as Kerrowdown has mentioned, relaxed), and a little dramatic.

I think that you're spot-on with your analysis, the white top and the pose did not "keep" the theme.
12-15-2014, 01:43 AM   #6
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yep, her position is very awkward, and you can also see that in her expression. And I also find tha flash light a bit harsh, could be somewhat softer.
And for low key it could have been even a bit darker, so for next session, just increase your shuttersoppeed and experiment.
12-15-2014, 02:41 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kerrowdown Quote
Definitely not a good idea, it would have been much better without any top.

Seriously though, I like the facial expression but the posing with arm looks awkward, not relaxed and hence unbalances the image.
@Kerrowdown, I see the lack of balance clearly....now! Thanks! @drypenn I have learn't a lot from my first shoot mistakes and I am ready to make more! Thanks! @Macario Hopefully in the days ahead I will let my eye and mind control the exposure, not the camera! Thanks!
12-15-2014, 03:36 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Inexorable Quote
@Kerrowdown, I see the lack of balance clearly....now! Thanks!
If you ever unsure about a pose, try the pose for yourself... then ask yourself does it feel comfortable and could you hold that pose for some time, if not... that's how it will also look in the finished image.

12-15-2014, 05:49 PM   #9
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I like the idea of a more natural pose. If you have her back in for a shoot, ask her to wear a dark top, sleeved, and hair down (or up, or both) Then have the shot be more from upper-warm upward (portrait or landscape.) Try to light her from the top down to avoid light splashing onto the backdrop (and to get more natural lighting.)

For posing, just ask her to look at the camera as though it was someone who had something interesting to say. Or ask her to imagine that the camera is a friend telling her something funny that happened to another friend. And try some different camera positions -- slightly higher up might work somewhat.

I think your lighting solution, in terms of the amount of light, works really well. (actually, the placement is pretty good, too, so putting it above her more may not be time well spent.)

Try a version in black and white, too.

Otherwise, a pretty good result for what can be a tricky type of portrait to do exceptionally well.
12-21-2014, 11:27 PM   #10
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WB seems off.
12-21-2014, 11:44 PM   #11
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I wouldn't consider this to be low-key at all. The reasons are that the model is somewhat front-lit and exposed just about on key, and the white shirt is dominant in the frame. It is a nice photo, though. To create something more low-key, I'd recommend placing the lights at 3/4 positions behind your model. Essentially, using rimlights as your keys, then filling her in if you wish. Here
s an example of this type of setup:




This way, you'll have a predominantly dark image, but one in which your subject is outlined clearly. Side light is another option. It's difficult to do low key with frontal lighting, though, as the only darkness in the image will come from underexposure.

p.s. I have no idea why the copy of the image I just posted is so low-quality, but I don't currently have access to the drive that would have a higher-quality copy. I think it demonstrates the point about lighting, though, despite it's poor presentational quality.
12-22-2014, 12:51 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by K David Quote
I like the idea of a more natural pose. If you have her back in for a shoot, ask her to wear a dark top, sleeved, and hair down (or up, or both) Then have the shot be more from upper-warm upward (portrait or landscape.) Try to light her from the top down to avoid light splashing onto the backdrop (and to get more natural lighting.)

For posing, just ask her to look at the camera as though it was someone who had something interesting to say. Or ask her to imagine that the camera is a friend telling her something funny that happened to another friend. And try some different camera positions -- slightly higher up might work somewhat.

I think your lighting solution, in terms of the amount of light, works really well. (actually, the placement is pretty good, too, so putting it above her more may not be time well spent.)

Try a version in black and white, too.

Otherwise, a pretty good result for what can be a tricky type of portrait to do exceptionally well.
Davd,

Luckily I will have her over for another shoot with a dark colored top! Thanks for the posing tips. This time I will be sure to try B&W also.

One of the challenges that I am facing is on account of low lighting in such photography. How do I get a sharp focus on the full face with the shutter as wide open as required to ensure shutter speed doesn't drop below 1/30 resulting in motion blur from the model's breathing and balancing in a standing posture. I just have FA 50/1.4 and FA 35/2.0 in my lens bag so far.

A bright portrait lens with adequate telephoto would give me more wiggle room, but I am sure I have a lot to learn before yielding to my lust for another lens.

---------- Post added 12-22-14 at 01:53 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by imaspy Quote
WB seems off.
I messed around with the exposure on the top in PP to subdue the distraction.

---------- Post added 12-22-14 at 02:09 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by fuent104 Quote
I wouldn't consider this to be low-key at all. The reasons are that the model is somewhat front-lit and exposed just about on key, and the white shirt is dominant in the frame. It is a nice photo, though. To create something more low-key, I'd recommend placing the lights at 3/4 positions behind your model. Essentially, using rimlights as your keys, then filling her in if you wish. Here
s an example of this type of setup:




This way, you'll have a predominantly dark image, but one in which your subject is outlined clearly. Side light is another option. It's difficult to do low key with frontal lighting, though, as the only darkness in the image will come from underexposure.

p.s. I have no idea why the copy of the image I just posted is so low-quality, but I don't currently have access to the drive that would have a higher-quality copy. I think it demonstrates the point about lighting, though, despite it's poor presentational quality.
You are right! I wanted rim lighting based exposure but, as I explained in another post, couldn't do it with my lowly FA 50/1.4 dealing with a standing breathing model! Shutter speed would be too low.
12-22-2014, 01:38 AM - 1 Like   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Inexorable Quote
...couldn't do it with my lowly FA 50/1.4 dealing with a standing breathing model! Shutter speed would be too low.
I'm pretty sure that this image, though not an outstanding example, was made by an even "lowlier" K55/1.8, wide open, without any special lighting, except for a reading lamp. Camera was set on a tripod though (and the model (wifey) is unaware that I'm taking photographs of her). It's sharp enough to see the pores and lines of her face. Post-processing involved conversion to JPEG and some de-noising. No cropping, nor USM.

12-22-2014, 02:09 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by drypenn Quote
I'm pretty sure that this image, though not an outstanding example, was made by an even "lowlier" K55/1.8, wide open, without any special lighting, except for a reading lamp. Camera was set on a tripod though (and the model (wifey) is unaware that I'm taking photographs of her). It's sharp enough to see the pores and lines of her face. Post-processing involved conversion to JPEG and some de-noising. No cropping, nor USM.
Wow! As goes the adage, a picture is better than a thousand words.

I guess the trick is to choose the degree of under exposure, not strve for correct exposure?
12-22-2014, 02:13 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Inexorable Quote
Wow! As goes the adage, a picture is better than a thousand words.

I guess the trick is to choose the degree of under exposure, not strve for correct exposure?
Yup, there was a deliberate underexposure. Our room's a mess so I had to resort to low-key to hide it.

I almost forgot, I selectively desaturated part of the image, because the frame of her glasses is colored purple, and I find it too distracting.
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