Christmas Family Portrait Rescued from poor lighting and posing technique
The set-up, after a fun afternoon of shooting informal family portraits outdoors for some friends and their little kids their teenage son came home from work and we shot a formal Christmas portrait. I had my tripod with me and a single cheap clip lamp with a 60W PAR 30 or some-such in it. My wife held this up about 45° from them camera-right and a little higher than head height aimed down at them. The overhead ceiling fan was fill. Nice try, but woefully inadequate, and probably a bit too harsh. I had an extra person in the room who could have held the 5ft round diffuser in front of the clip lamp at much closer range, but that’s water under the bridge.
The real problem was the background – a wall that’s essentially skin-colored, at least for these white folk (and with massive spillover from the keylight).
So, my process (this was in the GIMP 2.6, and I used a layer for each section of the process as a safety to undo any major screwups)…
1.) Cloned out the distracting wall things – Light switch, pics, shelf (this was planned – there was no better spot in the house)
2.) Selected the wall carefully using magic wand (threshold at about 30) and then cleaned up selection with lasso
3.) Feathered the selection (experimented for best results – from 5 all the way to 60px – settled on 20px)
4.) Darkened the wall to the level you see (I think it was about -30)
5.) This left a thin, soft halo in some places which I cloned out where it was noticeable
6.) I tweaked the color a bit cooler using the “Color Balance” dialog
7.) Sharpened using Unsharp Mask at a 3px radius
8.) Applied a mild skin treatment to the noisiest skin areas. I won’t go into detail, but it involves a High-pass filter and a layer mask.
9.) Cropped to 5x7
10.) Ran it through Noiseware Community Edition (Full suppression Luma noise) to cut remaining noise (from sharpening)
11.) Added a vignette effect (using a black layer set to “soft light”) that mostly darkened the tree and added a nice gradient to the upper right corner.
I’ve seen Kelby’s “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it” book. This was more like Light It, Shoot It, Try to Fix it in Post, Wish you’d lit it better and shot it differently.
I’m not proud of the process, but I thought it was a good recovery.
Camera: Canon EOS 500D Lenses: Canon 18-55 f/3.5-5.6, Canon 50 f/1.8
Remembering old skills, learning new ones, and sharing what I know.