18 May 2012

Natural side light + baby blues + square cropping through the middle of her face = something luminous and magical

my baby girl

About This Photo:
Aperture: f/1.4
Exposure: 1/40
Focal Length: 50mm
ISO: 320
Lens: 50mm f/1.4

"It goes by fast!"

Boy, does it ever! I can hardly believe that my baby girl is 4 months old today. She's growing so fast (and so beautifully), I wonder some days if I will wear out my camera trying to keep up with her.

I've been wanting to get some photographs her in some good, natural sidelight for awhile now. Today was my chance, and what you see was the result. I left the aperture open wide so I wouldn't need to set the ISO too high, and I followed the one rule I never break when a person's face is the subject: set the focus point(s) on the eyes. I figured her skin would look this luminous, but I honestly had no idea the eyes would look this brilliant.

This photo required only minimal processing: I did some sharpening, and I boosted the colors slightly before blending in a subtle and soft pink layer and doing the square crop. The way I cropped might seem like an unusual choice. Why cut it off in the middle of someone's face?

To answer that, let me start by showing you the SOOC (straight out of the camera) shot for this photo:

kirsten_051812_0054

Now pay attention to the eyes. The right eye (from the viewer's standpoint, the one we see on the left side of the photo) is sharp and clear. The left eye, on the other hand, is soft and blurred. This is because I had the focus point set on the right eye and had the aperture open wide, creating that soft creamy bokeh all around the focus point. When you're talking about eyes on a subject who is facing the camera almost directly (like she is here), it just doesn't really work to have one sharp and one blurry.

I didn't really want to cut off half of her face, but there wasn't going to be anything I could really do with the left eye to bring it into as clear of focus as the right eye is. I don't know how to explain why I chose a square crop except to say that "it just felt right."

So I went with it. And I don't know about you, but I love the result.

processed_kirsten_051812_0054

* * *

Lessons Learned or Affirmed:

  • Focus on the eyes! I know I've said it multiple times already, but it is affirmed in every portrait. Sharp, in-focus eyes for portraits are a must.
  • Don't abandon a challenging photo that has something great going for it. If you can, use cropping or other creative editing techniques to create a look that might be a bit avant garde or otherwise unexpected.
  • There is nothing like using side light from a window to create some drama.

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