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  • Saving Photos from poor lighting,...

    The sad news is I am new to photography and especially new to lighting techniques. I like to stay close to my original image most of the time, and it has occured to me that rather than busting my but making images work in horrible lighting conditions, I could instead work with what I have and do any repair work in my digital darkroom. If anything my skills will improve for situations when I have no choice but to work under poor lighting conditions. Always a silverlining to making the best of what ya got!

    Anyway, [I know I ramble], this is a picture I did a month or so ago, and while cleaning out my hard drive today and transfering a dozen gig worth of pictures [YIKES! I'm addicted] I tucked it aside for tonight. I am more into the expression, the message, what the picture says about this person or subject. The eyes are the major draw in my hho, and every picture I look at I immediately look into their eyes. It is a peek into their souls. Many people do not like my youth pictures, as many times they are not smiling, they are pensive, and sometimes sad, or haughty, or cocky. I try to get their natural expressions, the ones I see all the time as I interact in their daily lives. Guess you could call my style 'reality based'. Save the straight on traditional smiles for school pictures or one or two traditional shots just to have them.

    Okay, now I have overstayed my welcome! Could I possibly get a technical critique on the lighting for this picture? And if possible any suggestions to deal with the hard edges on the left lower side, the bottom and the right lower side. This is a cutout on white. So anymore 'edge' softening will eat into her face and hair, I hate to blurr up her eyelashes and the hard contrast of her right pupil and eye white. So I guess this one is double loaded. Seeking evaluation to assure I am truly getting some more of an understanding on the shadow, lighting and contrast. I realize how important it is very every single aspect of photography, from 35mm, darkrooms, digitals, to printing and digital art. Hey, I love to learn.

    Thank you in advance, in case I can't get to it later.

    PS,...sorry I asked for the technical eval, but I gotta know. You could make it a triple loaded and give your opinion on the style or impression you have from this picture. thanks again, Nite Owl
    Attached Files

  • #2
    nite owl,

    i am not a photographer and can't answer most of your qustions, in fact, look forward with you to an authoritative response.

    but from a layman-with-a-little-ps-experience standpoint, i like this pic but find the shadow of ? whatever it is across her face distracting, also the thing with cloth texture lower left corner, i want to say it's her knee, but that doesn't make anatomic sense. oh - now i see, i think - it's her arm and her knee, right? at first i thought her arm was a shadow too

    you've captured adolescence well . . . . one part of it, anyway
    Last edited by kathleen; 01-13-2003, 12:38 PM.


    • #3
      Thanks Kathleen,...sorry it took so long to say it

      Thanks for responding, I am so go go go, that I get the cart before the horse in just about everything I do! I am learning, and eager to learn,...glad to hear that you too are still learning. All of us should always be in that mode.

      This has been a tough transition for me, going from Networking in IT, to independant work and a more artistic side, but I am addicted to taking pictures, and wowsers...what software can do to help us manipulate them! Awesome.

      I see, there are still no answers, so maybe another day.

      Take care and hope you the best,


      • #4
        I am not sure there is a clear question to answer

        The fact that it was done with a wide angle to distort perspective and not-perfect lighting (in terms of a traditional flattering portrait) is what gives this the "real & edgy - putting on a different kind of show that feels more honest" kind of look that you like...

        You have a triangle of repeating shapes betweeen the ear, jaw and forhead, a flipped reverse shape between the jaw and knee. the cropping is right for the shapes and sizes of the light and dark areas - these kind of elements add a graphic simplicity and balance to an image that gives it power.

        There is detail where you need to see detail and the lighting feels real - the portrait definently works for what you are trying to do

        Yes, I like it - I think you have done good - How to make it better? depends on what bothers you about the image that makes you ask the question in the first place - Respnse has more meaning when tailored to the intent ... or are you just curious what others will think?

        Yes the ear is a little hot and buzy - it draws the eye away from the eyes- but that adds to the edgy feel which you would lose if you kept "cleaning it up", pick the mood then adjust the image to support the mood... don't worry about perfect - worry about impact

        Hope this helps, Roger


        • #5
          Appreciate your comments,...

          I am a bit raw from the other forums i have been on, and they seem to have ravaged my attempts...I was hoping that I might be able to save a picture I really liked but received horrible critiques elsewhere.

          This is all so new to me, that half the time I wonder if I am even going in the right direction. I have been told repeatedly how bad my lighting and composition is,...a bit gun shy now.

          Thank you for you input, even if a bit indecisive,..I don't blame you. I didnt really make it clear what I was seeking. My biggest problem is the edges of this print and making it look better standing alone. I hope that makes sense...

          Again, thanks for you thoughts and comments, definately well appreciated.

          Take care,


          • #6
            I'm with Roger on this one. I think you succeeded in achieving what you set out to do. The hard edges you mentioned, to me, help to define her and offer a contrast to her soft features. You set out to capture real life the way we see it and not some artificial light of a studio and I think you got that. The shadows and highlights are the elements that create that for you. Photography as in art are in the eye of the beholder and what pleases you as the artist is what's important.

            I must add here that I am no photographer or photographic critic so you are getting a purely laymens assesment. I only know what I like.


            • #7
              When I looked at your picture, I thought about the girl. I wondered what she was thinking. I thought she looked interesting. To me, that is a sign of a successful portrait. I would take a lot more pictures of her. Then see if you don't have one that knocks your socks off.


              • #8
                Hi NiteOwl,

                I haven't responded to your questions because I feel unqualified to answer them. So, whatever I say here is from a layman's perspective.

                I find that the lighyt from two different directions is a bit distracting, but it does add to the tension of the photo - which I think is what you were trying to achieve.

                As far as what to do about the edges. I tried a couple of things that trimmed just a little from the sides. I felt that a "distressed" or harsh edge would be consistent with the feeling of the photo. The first was using the "charcoal 14" brush in Photoshop to create a mask. I went around the edges in an uneven manner and came up with the image on the left. The second version is using the torn paper tutorial at I added a slight drop shadow underneath that one, which gives some depth to the overall image. I did these quickly, so they could use a little more work, but you get the idea.

                Hope this helps.

                Attached Files


                • #9
                  I like it !

                  Thanks Jeanie, I will have to check out the tutorials. I really like the effect you have acheived.

                  For all of the rest of you I really appreciate your input. I don't think anyone has to be a 'professional' photographer to make an intelliegent opinion of a photograph, so all of you input is very welcome!

                  I think I will get a hold of DJ and see if she wants to take another shot at it, [pun intended ] Her photo really struck me because of her eyes. She is a somewhat troubled girl and I worry about her often. I think it shows when you look closely, there is a 'sadness' about her.

                  Well, you are all pretty cool people, and I think I am going to enjoy being on this site, it appears that I have a LOT of learning to do!

                  Take care all,
                  Nite Owl


                  • #10
                    I hope that you will take this as a critique of the photo you posted and not as an attack on you or your skill level etc.

                    I find a number of things with this that kind of bother me. I will start with the black eye (her right). That side of the face seems to be brite or even over exposed but the area just around the eye is black, did she get slugged?

                    I find the wrinkles on her forehead and the way you show her neck to be most unflattering.

                    I do not mind the hi lite on the cheek (her left cheek) but wish you had not let it also cover her ear, a part of the body usually not noted for innate beauty.

                    All of that being said, I can see the pose. Your background lite is a little strong, and it looks like its "blooming" around her face. That can be a good effect, but I do not think that its strong enough if you are going to try for that effect. Blooming is usually done not at all or a whole bunch!

                    Altho one can "fix" lighting mistakes in PS, I find that the less fixing I have to do the better. If you are shooting digital, I would spend more time trying different lighting techniques (take notes!) so that you do not have to spend all the time at the putor.

                    Anyway, you asked, and thats my thoughts. But we are talking art here and of course one persons art (or opinion on art) can be another persons description of pure garbage!



                    • #11
                      No offense taken

                      Mike, I appreciate your candid honesty. I too try to not take anything from my pictures, and actually, I have done some since that are much better lighted based on what I have been hearing, reading and researching.

                      Sometimes understanding the concept is just not enough, and I am learning this the hard way. But I am learning and that is what counts.

                      Again, thanks for your honesty and the technical critique. This is the only way I will get better.

                      Take care,


                      • #12
                        I'm not a photographer, but I like the picture very much. Keep it up. You've said you've been ravaged on other forums... you gotta forget about that cuz the majority of what you read from users on boards or usenet is usually twisted, more often than not. You have a good eye, do your own thing.



                        • #13
                          Great wisdom Mig,...

                          Thanks for your opinion and your input on the 'dorks' who seem to think it is okay to trash people rather than photos. I am learning, and it is people like you, my husband, and, Danny Raphael, [super guy, btw] who are teaching me to be more selective of what I actually take to heart.

                          Your post was such a tweak to my day! I think this girl has something special about her, and I worry about her home life and her situation at present, and I think it shows in her face and her eyes that she is not happy. There is a sadness, and that is what I saw,...not lighting issues, but her eyes.

                          I think I have found a great place to hang out and learn and grow, and give back if I can. This is truly a special special site, and the people here are very special as well.

                          I always thought I had an 'eye' for art, and or artistic value, and your reinforcement is a nice end to my day! Thank you again for your candid and honest response. I know my style is a bit harsh and 'different', but golly jeepers, people have been calling me odd and different most of my life....I might as well go with my natural being.

                          Hope to run across you again,

                          Take care,


                          • #14
                   black eye....

                            I had to add here that DJ does not have a black eye, it was just the hard and harsh lighting on my part that made it look that way. She has a bad home life to deal with, but thankfully no physical abuse. She would probably be living with us if that was the case.

                            Just had to make that is a pic I did of her and my daughter, they were goofing around with the flower rings for candles, and I absolutely loved the look! I just HAD to do something,...this is basically my first 'poster' type of print.

                            No black eyes, though. Just had to clear that up!

                            Thanks again to all of you for being real people with real hearts!



                            • #15
                              My two cents... The only thing I think that needs changing is that bit of dark blurred something-or-other down in the lower right. As for the blooming and the dark eye, this is far preferable to having that half of her face in shadow, in my opinion. I like the way the backlight outlines her face, and the patch of light by her ear shouts "hey, there's light in front of me too!" She is bathed in light, and it shows us clearly her less than cheery mood...she can't hide her real feelings here! It all works, and I think it's great.

                              Phyllis (ex-photographer)


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