Portraits and Photoshop Filters

Last week a good friend called up and asked if I could stop by his work and photograph a young Thai lady who was weeks away from the birth of her first child.  Often times I’ll agree to such a shoot because it keeps me in practice and it’s good to spread some goodwill every now and then.  In this case it was especially satisfying because I was getting the chance to serve a young lady who otherwise could not have afforded to pay a photographer on her own.

The workplace was very average and industrial in appearance.  Basically what you’d expect from any Thai workplace.  Whiteboards hanging on the walls, refrigerators with pots and pans set on the top, boxes and bags of ‘stuff’ against the walls, and of course that wonderful florescent lighting which makes portraits so warm and colorful (that was sarcasm folks.. ;o).  In other words it was the worst possible environment / backdrop for an emotional type of portrait.

I didn’t want to disappoint this young lady so I sat there and studied what was available and ultimately decided to take advantage of some natural backlighting coming through some glass tiles, and that Photoshop filters would be the only way to mask the clutter and starkness of the workplace.  Looking around for a stool I had to settle on an old box and it was on the box top I placed her in the best location I could find.  Posing her the best I could, we produced the following raw image by angling in directional light on her face and belly using my off-camera portable strobe manually adjusted to expose her face and belly, while using the camera to expose the background 2 stops under (the natural backlighting was very bright).

 

Studying the image there were a few things I noticed which I didn’t care for.  The writing on the whiteboard, visible books, bottles, fridge, ugly box we were using as a stool, and her legs were swollen and discolored and probably not anything she wished to remember.  So.. I started with a strategic crop and adjustment of the levels keeping in mind her desire for an 8x10 perspective.

 

As you can see post processing this into a decent emotional pregnancy portrait is going to take some work!

The first thing I did was to decide on black and white toning.  Actually, my friend requested this and because it fit my goals it was an easy decision.

Studying the image there were a few things I noticed which I didn’t care for.  The writing on the whiteboard, visible books, bottles, fridge, ugly box we were using as a stool, and her legs were swollen and discolored and probably not anything she wished to remember.  So.. I started with a strategic crop and adjustment of the levels keeping in mind her desire for an 8x10 perspective.

 

Now that I had a nice cropped image I had to deal with the distractions in the frame still remaining, and do my best to give it an emotional “mood..”

 

Now that I had a nice cropped image I had to deal with the distractions in the frame still remaining, and do my best to give it an emotional “mood..”

After some selective dodging, burning, and feathering I had darkened the areas around her legs, the bookcase, and the far walls and ceiling.. and then it was time to use Photoshop’s Filters menu to add some selective blurring with some motion added.  The resulting final image appears below.

 

I was careful not to blur her features, and to not overdo the blur.  During dodging and burning I focused the light on her face and belly in a sort of glow.. and blurred outwards from these areas.  I’m pleased with the resulting image, but only because I know what I started with and what I started with wasn’t pretty (the background, the girl was plenty pretty).

 

I was careful not to blur her features, and to not overdo the blur.  During dodging and burning I focused the light on her face and belly in a sort of glow.. and blurred outwards from these areas.  I’m pleased with the resulting image, but only because I know what I started with and what I started with wasn’t pretty (the background, the girl was plenty pretty).

The most important objective, pleasing the client, I accomplished.  Feedback reveals her to be very happy with her portrait.  This makes me happy...