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How I Took It – In Retrospect

In this post I’ve asked one of our Candleman (Jared Luke) to talk us through how he took the two shots below. I love to hear what goes on behind images and thought sharing the story and technique of these shots might prove to be educational for us all. Thanks to Jared Luke for being prepared to share his work in this way.



Lets start with the lighting, because I reckon lighting is as important as the subject, if not more so in certain circumstances.

The lighting was as basic as it gets, simply natural light from two windows.

It was late afternoon so a lovely glowing light was beaming in through the window behind me and onto the left hand side of her face. I love natural light and in conjunction with the Kelvin scale the possibilities are endless, one can create any mood with any temperature light instantly. Anyway. That’s beside the point.

As I was saying, the other window was on the opposing side of the room, letting in some fresh air and just the right amount of fill light.

The features in her face grabbed my attention when I noticed how interesting her skin was, and all the little lines and markings of time looked suddenly very interesting against the dark couch behind her. That’s about the time my brain exploded and I realised this was the perfect time to execute a style of shot I’d been wanting to try.

The set, settings & model

I don’t yet have the luxury of a studio, so the set remained where the light was best, which was on my couch near the window. The cushions from the other couch were stacked up behind her to hide the white wall.

She was already comfortable and relaxed, so to get what I wanted, I just asked her to lean forward and rest her elbows on her knees.

I found this looked really good as the forward slouch tended to sink the head lower than if it was done at a table. Naturally, being 65 years of age, she didn’t listen to a word I said. If I said “give me a lovely big smile”, it turned into a gaping yawn, or if I said to relax her face and feel “relaxed and tired” I’d get a big grin. None the less I worked with what she gave, showing her the nice ones to boost her confidence a bit. This was about the time I pulled out my secret weapon, (courtesy of another DPS Forum poster) by asking her to show me her “grumpy face” when she tried to be grumpy she started giggling like a little girl and that’s the moment I got the image I like the most, of her smiling with her eyes.

I use aperture priority as my bread and butter and I cranked it open all the way to f/1.8 to ensure I got nice sharp eyes and everything else, especially the background, was lost to make editing easier.


I wanted her popping out of the darkness, but still being a part of it at the same time, so this meant some post production editing.

It started off with a custom gradient map which increased the contrasts and darkened the image all at once. This also gave a bit more control than the “increase contrast” slider.

Her dark hair kindly disappeared very quickly, and with some selective burning I achieved the darkness I was looking for.

I used several masked layers primarily consisting of multiply, and soft light effects to get the burnt colour I wanted on her shin. Then with some dodging and burning of those layers I just brought out the eyes a little and reduced a few areas on the face that were a tad too bright for my liking.

The Title

The title “in retrospect” came out simply because she’s had such an amazing life. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.

Much of it one would say “is this actually true, can so much happen to one person”, but in spite of all she has endured she is without doubt the most generous and forgiving person I’ve ever come across. She has a heart of gold, she’s forgotten and forgiven, and is just living to the end of her allotted days enjoying the things that matter such as her five great-grand children.

So, in retrospect what does she see?

I think she only sees good, in people and in the past.

Who is this lady?

She’s my mother-in-law, and I’m glad my wife has the same love for people that she has.

Til next time!

Got an image that you’d like to share the story of – share it in the How I Took It Section of the DPS forum.

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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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