Nini’s Favorite Preset, Nacogdoches TX
Nini has been begging me to finish processing this photo since the day we did this shoot. We looked at these photos over lunch actually, and I applied a preset that I adapted from one of Marcus Bell’s free presets, and Nini immediately loved the photo and kept coming back to it. Now she keeps telling me to apply that preset to every photo! But I did a lot more than just apply a preset to this photo.
I think this photo conveys a strong emotion, despite technical imperfections. I think these recent portraits of Nini have a good fit and consistency between pose, hair, makeup, location, lighting, and processing. To me, all of these elements feel like they go together nicely. What do you think?
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Critiques are always welcome.
Daily photo: February 26, 2013, taken February 9, 2013
UPDATE: Thank you to everyone that gave constructive feedback on this photo. Several people mentioned that they did not like the blurry pole on the left side of the frame and no one said that they liked it. To balance out the conversation I’ll walk you through my thought process on the pole. This is in no way intended to be a rebuttal. I think the pole is a legitimate critique and understand that some people may not like it or may find it distracting according to their own criteria. Just like some people may not like the background at all, or Nini’s pose, or my retouching, or any other element of the photo. I’m only writing this in the spirit of sharing and hopefully someone will find it helpful. I always enjoy receiving constructive feedback no matter how harsh. I am a ruthless critic of my own work and have developed a very thick skin as a result!
My thought process on the pole on the left side of the frame is two fold. First, and most importantly, my wife and I both were really drawn to this photo. Nini kept hounding me to process it, and I too kept going back and looking at it, trying to decide if I should process it. My hesitation was that it isn’t tack sharp on Nini’s eyes and I’m not thrilled with her facial expression. But something kept drawing me in. The photo has a consistent feel to it with the gritty background, gritty makeup, gritty wardrobe, and maybe even gritty pose. So I started to think maybe the pole was also consistent with the feel of the photo. Further, I started to think the pole was enhancing the photo in the same way that shallow depth of field does, by focusing the interest on the only sharp thing in the photo, which is Nini. But I still wasn’t sure, so I looked to see if any pros are including blurry objects on one side of the frame to force the eye elsewhere. Sure enough I found several wedding photographers that do include blurry objects in their foreground in much the same way I did here (Marcus Bell, Jasmine Star, and especially Todd Laffner). The final straw was when I was watching fashion photographer Lindsay Addler on Photoshop Week on CreativeLIVE, and she was adding in blurry objects to several photos both in camera and through compositing with photoshop. I actually processed the photo while watching Lindsay on CreativeLIVE Monday night and used some of her techniques, albeit in Lightroom.
Second, I asked myself whether I think the blurry pole is distracting. I knew that it was supposed to be distracting based on traditional compositional techniques, but I wasn’t sure that it actually was distracting. In fact, shallow depth of field is a common technique for removing distracting objects from the frame precisely by making them blurry. I thought about it more. What does it mean to be distracting? When the eye is drawn to a part of the photo that the photographer did not want to draw attention to. What causes distraction? Usually the eye is drawn to the brightest part of the frame, the darkest part of the frame, the sharpest part of the frame, areas of high contrast, and colors. This is why shallow depth of field and black and white is so common in portraiture, both make most compositions less distracting. Does the pole meet any of these criteria? No, it’s not the brightest or darkest part of the frame (it’s a midtone), it’s not sharp, it’s not high contrast and it’s not colorful.
I decided the pole is not distracting in theory. But is it distracting in practice? I spent about 5 minutes looking at the photo in different sizes, even down to thumbnail sizes, and turning my head to and from my computer screen to see where my eyes were drawn each time I looked at it. Never once did my eyes go to that pole. I asked Nini do the same and we got the same results. Instead, I think the pole actually reinforces the vertical pattern in the background that keeps the eye moving up and down on the brightest/darkest, sharpest and most high contrast/colorful part of the photo, which is Nini.
I’m glad I thought this trough, because now I’m convinced that in general, blurry, low contrast, desaturated midtones are not distracting to me. Also, by my own criteria the dark hole in the door in the background is distracting as a dark spot, so I’ve removed it. Thanks for those who suggested doing so.