Portrait Tutorial – Kitchen Portraits – Part 2

In the first part I was explaining how to take near studio quality photos at home without the need of any extra lights, flash or Photoshop. Here I will show more sample photos.

The most difficult part of making a good portrait is to set the subject in the right mood and place her so that the light falls pleasantly. Too harsh light makes a person look older. The lack of light on the eyes can create a lifeless or impersonal look. A modern camera usually takes care of the rest.

Autofocus is Easy

Most mirrorless cameras can automatically focus on the eye, which is nearest to the viewer. In fact Olympus OM-D cameras do this by default. In general mirrorless cameras are faster and more accurate in focusing at immovable subjects, while the top of the line DSLRs are better at tracking moving targets. It is easier to take a great portrait using a relatively cheap mirrorless camera than using an entry level DSLR. Entry level DSLRs usually lack autofocus micro adjustment – a feature found in bigger and more expensive DSLR. The lack of auto focus micro adjustment means that the camera might make a small mistake in auto focusing. Mirrorless cameras use contrast based auto focus, which doesn’t suffer from this problem. Any mirrorless aka small system camera should be automatically calibrated to focus accurately.

Don’t be Afraid to Shoot in High ISO

You can dim the lights to create softer lights and use a fast lens.

Don’t be afraid to use high ISOs even if your camera is small. Even though I am using micro four thirds (m43) camera with a relatively small sensor I can use ISO 1600-6400 without any noticeable noise and almost zero loss in detail in resolutions smaller than 4 Mpx. With Olympus OM-D E-M5 there is still enough dynamic range to adjust the image by 1 stop if needed, but in low light I try to avoid under exposure and rather over expose a bit to keep the shadow noise low.

I use DxO Optics Pro PRIME for noise reduction (NR) for all of my photos, even those which are shot with ISO 200. PRIME is very slow, requiring 1-2 minutes per image, but it is really worth waiting that time. So far it has proven to be superior in noise reduction. I don’t like the noise reduction in Adobe products. Adobe NR is really good at keeping all the detail at low to middle settings, but it removes barely any noise. At high settings it makes the image to loose to many details.

Colors Matter a LOT!

Another crucial step is to get the skin tones correct. The most typical indoor lighting has the color temperature of 2850 Kelvins. This is especially true about the tungsten lights, but it also true for most the fluorescent lights sold in Finland. I haven’t tested enough LED lights to say what is the most typical color temperature for them, but for my eyes their light looks more blue.

In post processing I first set the color temperature either adjusting it manually or using the color temperature picker tool on some white or gray part of the picture. If you want to make it really simple and accurate, you can consider using SpyderCube. I don’t yet own this device. If you want to person appear more aloof, you can add some blue/cold tones to the image. If you want the person appear more friendly, you can use a filter to add warm/brown colors to the image.

More Photos Taken in My Kitchen

Once again I didn’t use any extra lights, flash, make up or Photoshop. The only prop used was a banana. I let my girlfriend have her revenge and she also took some funny photos of me. You can once again see a 2560×1920 resolution of the images by clicking them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Custom color film emulation, Olympus 75 mm, F/1.8, 1/160 s, ISO 1600
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Custom B&W film emulation, Olympus 75 mm, F/1.8, 1/160 s, ISO 2000
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Custom B&W film emulation, Olympus 75 mm, F/2.0, 1/200 s, ISO 1250
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Custom color film emulation, Olympus 75 mm, F/2.0, 1/200 s, ISO 1250
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Olympus 75 mm, F/2.0, 1/160 s, ISO 1600
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Close to natural skin colors, Olympus 75 mm, F/2.0, 1/160 s, ISO 1000
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Close to natural skin tones, Olympus 75 mm, F/2.0, 1/160 s, ISO 1000
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Close to natural skin tones, Olympus 75 mm, F/2.0, 1/160 s, ISO 1000
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Close to natural skin tone, Olympus 75 mm, F/2.0, 1/160 s, ISO 1000
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Natural skin tone, Olympus 75 mm, F/2.0, 1/160 s, ISO 1000
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Natural skin tones, Olympus 75 mm, F/2.0, 1/160 s, ISO 1000
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Natural skin tones, Olympus 75 mm, F/2.0, 1/160 s, ISO 1250
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Despite my reddish face this is close to natural skin color, Olympus 75 mm, F/2.0, 1/160 s, ISO 1250

In the next part I will illustrate the most typical mistakes in shooting portraits under the same settings + more new creative shots, which succeeded well.

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2 thoughts on “Portrait Tutorial – Kitchen Portraits – Part 2

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