Updated: Apr 12 2022
V1.2 – Last winter was the, longest I’ve ever experienced… and you may be feeling this too.
Spring is now here, and with lockdown, here in the UK, finally coming to an end I can get back to shooting some beautiful images. Meanwhile, here’s a lovely, previously unused image of Cody, taken in Richmond Park, London, UK. As usual, her easy way and relaxed pose look effortless. We shot this on a warm summer day back in 2019. Whilst processing this image it dawned on me that it is a good example of why using a higher megapixel camera is preferable, if you are shooting portraits… for more information you may like to read the Pixel Peepers’ Notes below…
I hope you enjoy the image – Colin
Cody – Richmond Park, London, UK
Pixel Peepers’ Notes & Newbie Hints & Tips:
Sony A7RIII – FE85mm f1.4GM – 1/500 – @f2.0 – ISO100 – heavily cropped and rotated – (pixel array 3051×4569).
Lighting Set Up: This is shot using the natural sunlight with a single white reflector on the left, that can be seen in the catch lights in Cody’s eyes. You can see the position of the sun from the shadow on her neck.
Let’s Talk Colour: Some of you may notice that there is an apparent warm (magenta) colour cast in her hair. If you look at the full frame image below you will see that the glade in which we shot this was flooded with sunlight. The mixture of reflected verdant uplight from the grass, and the shaded light through the green oak leaves, fooled the auto white balance (AWB) in the camera.
It captured a very green image indeed.
Of course, this does not matter, as I was shooting RAW, so having the camera set to AWB is simply a convenience, as it usually renders jpg “preview” files with acceptable results. In fact, a close look at the hair will reveal that it is reflecting myriad colours. Her hair is bouncing light, and the translucent nature of it is both reflecting, and transmitting all sorts of colours. There is also a magenta/green cross across the entire image*. The highlights are warm (magenta) and the shadows are cold (green).
And finally, I have added an subtle orange – warm filter in post production, leading to the overall warm feel. My advice is not to worry too much when colour crosses like this happen to you (and they will). Unless you are using colour corrected studio lighting there is always some kind of cross in most images. I could spend many hours removing this, but I don’t feel that it would add to the shot in any way.
*Newbie Note: What do I mean by cross? A colour crossed image sometimes happens when the sensor captures complimentary colours in different parts of the tonal range. This can happen because the environment (the grass) is reflecting coloured light. It may not influence the direct sunlight but is seen in the shadows. In plain English, and in this case, magenta (pink) highlights and green shadows. The implication is that you can’t warm up the image in post production as by adding warmth to the highlights as it will be very magenta. But if you want to remove green in the shadows you would need to add magenta… Catch 22. Clearly, there are avanced techniques in Phtoshop to retify this, but I am speaking to newbies who are looking for first principles.
With this in mind, I would advise you to review some of your images that are shot in ambient light. You’ll quite often see this. It usually occurs as yellow/blue or red/cyan(Turquoise) or as in this case magenta/green. In addition to this, it can be reversed eg green highlights and magenta shadows, etc.
Pretouching: The model is wearing very light, translucent foundation and equally light day make up and glossy pink lipstick, She has false eyelashes above her eyes. This can be seen on the grab below.
Retouching: This shot has been graded and retouched. I have taken out a few blemishes under the eyes where the mascara had flaked off during a wardrobe change. I have not shaped or sculpted any features in any way. There’s no softening of the skin. If you can see blemishes it’s because the make up is very light.
It’s all Cody and Yep! her eyes really look like that!
I have screen grabbed the image so you can see the detail on the file:
1:1 Close Up
High Resolution Sensors: As a professional photographer it is essential to be able to have “creative options” regarding the final composition after a shoot. Sony R series cameras, with their high megapixel sensors help with this enormously. I simply cannot remember the last time I didn’t crop and, or rotate an image for professional use? I have created this image to illustrate the options that the sensor has given me. Anyone who says “I make my choices in camera” has never had either a client or a brief.
Cropped Image overlaid on the original file
Pro Tip: Cropping and rotation are part of the professional workflow and amateurs and hobbyists alike should adopt the technique and make the most of the creative opportunity it affords us all. It’s very rare that the brief calls for an image that is the same aspect ratio (posh term for shape) as the 35mm frame. There will often be “topping and tailing” of almost every image, to match the aspect ratio of the publication or poster as can be seen in the illustration below:
Vogue Magazine Cover compared to 36×24 aspect ratio of a 35mm frame
The Sony groups on Facebook are a litany of opinion on the subject of cropping in camera. There’s also so much discussion regarding high resolution vs lower resolution versions of the Sony cameras. They often cite autofocus speeds and better video in support of using a camera with less pixels on the sensor, as though they have experienced a real, meaningful improvement when comparing one to the other. This is all really moot to a professional phhotographer.
“Newbies should take these opinions with a pinch of salt.”
Cameras have, and always will be, incrementally better. Making direct comparisons about functionality is to entirely miss the point. Unfortunately, bad information and received wisdom abounds online.
More often than not shooting with less speed is a good thing, not a bad thing. By that I mean you slowing down and considering your shots. Not slowing down the functions on the camera. Any value that a shot has stands and falls on the subject and the composition first and foremost. If you own a any Sony camera I can assure you that you do not need faster auto focus. It’s fit for purpose, and some! And, as for pixels, the very oldest and least specified Sony Alpha camera very probably exceeds your needs, if you are starting out. Yes, more pixels are almost always better, but not required. And this applies to Nikon and Canon users too.
“Well, that’s all well and good if you are a professional, but I don’t have a client, I only shoot for me. So I get it right in camera.”
Debating whether to use a higher megapixel camera quickly fades into the distance at the post production meeting with the client, when they decide that the shot they want to use for the cover was shot landscape, not portrait, as you had something else in mind when shooting…
This client request essentially crops nearly two thirds of the image. Very much like the image of Cody above.
It’s at moments like this that you realise that professional tools allow for unexpected requests, and in turn a professional response. If I had shot on an A7III series I would struggle to be able to use it for a magazine cover, or if I were a social photographer, a portrait picture for a bride, or a commercial photographer, when the client wants to use a real estate image portrait when it has been shot landscape. The A7III is a fantastic camera. It simply lacks flexibility, and flexibility trumps imperceivable improvements in auto focus speeds every time. In 3 years of using the A7RIII I haven’t experienced slow auto focus once. The 85mm f1.4GM lens is noisy but uber-fast when focussing.
Newbie Note: Don’t be put off by some professional banging on about clients. If there’s no paying client, then you are the client. Be a critical client and your photography will improve. Just don’t be too hard on yourself at those post production meetings
I always think that amateurs and hobbyists have it harder…
If there’s no client making decisions that push you, then it’s you alone who needs to be doing the pushing. Push yourself to be better. Push yourself to be more professional. Do this and you will see your photography improve in leaps and bounds. Even if it’s only your friends who see the images.
Some words about cropping: Since 1978 I have been taking pictures for a living. I can count on one hand the times I have used a full frame image directly from the camera.
“Allowing oneself the room to be creative in post production has always been, and will always be part of the process for pro and hobbyists alike.”
If I choose not to do this I am denying myself the opportunity of creative expression, and this applies to everyone.
Still not convinced?
Below are some very important, iconic images from the 20th century that have been heavily cropped…
Cropped Image overlaid on the original file
Credit: These images can be seen in the context of the composition article at: https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/56318241
Pro Advice: In camera composition is not, and should rarely be, the final crop.
We should all allow ourselves the breathing space to make the final composition decision in the darkroom (latterly the lightroom). Ask yourself why you choose to crop using an in camera EVF, and not the large colour corrected monitor on your workstation, or that lovely Mac screen you tell your friends about? You know… the one that comes with image cropping and rotation tools?
“Compose in-camera & crop in the darkroom (latterly lightroom)”
I hope this information is useful to some people starting out
Please feel free to comment below – Colin
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