Suiting Up

Welp, it’s been over a week since the US election, and while I am still mortified, I’m also motivated. I’ve joined a few local groups and have already been involved in some planning sessions. Meanwhile, Trump is giving white supremacists high-level appointments and blocking the press from attending his meetings with international leaders while allowing his daughter, who has no security clearance and serious conflicts of interest to boot, to sit in. Oh, and of course he’s still lying on Twitter. Yeah, we’re off to a great start.

But enough about that for now. Monday afternoon a friend of mine asked if I would take some photos of her to use on her professional website and LinkedIn, so we made a day of it. She threw a few outfits into her car and we drove around the area looking for good locations. The neighborhood she lives in has a ton of great locations, but unfortunately we were out and about at the worst time of day for outdoor shots and the sun was incredibly bright. A few of our indoor locations worked well, and we managed to find ways to get into the shade and do our best, but a lot of the photos are requiring some major Photoshop magic to get them to work. Fortunately I am up the task:

candace6

This was probably the trickiest one I’ve worked with so far. It isn’t perfect, and truth be told I could have just ignored all these park shots and edited photos from other locations (I’m far from done working with them and will have to more to share later) but I wanted to see if I could make one of the blasted-out afternoon outdoors shots work. For reference, here’s the final shot up against the original:

can6_collage

She was standing in the shade, so while the light on her was pretty dim, behind her you can see how blasted out the color was from too much sun (oh and also, one of her other tops was sitting on the bench behind us, LOL). I managed to use both PortraitPro and LandscapePro to bring her into the light and add some color depth to the background; PortaitPro in particular has been helpful with these shots, because among other things you can completely change both skin tone and light on a subject to compensate for lighting problems in the original. Very useful here.

candace1

This lovely flower wall was inside a greenhouse facility located in the community center of a neighborhood near my friend’s house. It’s a fairly well-to-do, brand-new development, and the whole community center was amazing. We would have taken a lot more shots there, except wouldn’t you know that within 15 minutes of our arrival, a huge group of elementary school kids showed up for some reason and we felt it best to leave. It was disappointing, because the whole place was fantastic. It had a greenhouse, two clubhouses, and various garden areas with very nice seating arrangements. The buildings themselves were made out of a variety of stone and steel and dark wood, with a huge lake and fountains in the background. There were also large balconies, winding staircases, and lovely outdoor sofas and rocking chairs and the like that provided lovely interest to the photos. One of the big balconies even had a glassed-in fireplace, and the fireplace was lit and roaring even though it was about 85 degrees outside (it was November 16th, so I guess they just decided screw it, we’ve got this damn fireplace, let’s use it anyway). In short, it was an awesome location, and I hope to go back there soon to take more photos as for a shoot, you really wouldn’t need to leave this place at all to get tons of interesting shots.

Anyway, you know I love a good B&A, so here it is for this one:

can1_collage

Again, there were a ton of shadows on her face that needed to be eliminated, but PortraitPro came through for me again. And let me just say that working on a 33-year-old face is a hell of a lot easier than editing a 47-year-old one; her skin tone on its own is so much more uniform than my multi-colored, splotchy one (not being self-critical, just stating a fact). I often will have 4 or 5 different colors happening on my own face that I have to correct, and she basically has one. The shadows created problems for sure, and it was still tricky to get the skin tone even and bright enough, but at least I didn’t have to contend with any sun damage!

candace4

This was a candid I took while she was fluffing her hair for the shot; I was just testing the lighting but I liked the photo so I edited it anyway. This is also taken at the community center; it’s a second-floor open balcony overlooking a large rest area around down below. Opposite where she’s sitting here is the fireplace I mentioned. You can really tell how nice the place is – just an awesome spot for a photo shoot! I had brought a few floaty dresses along so we could perhaps take some levitation shots for me to work with, but we basically blew it off and just focused on getting pictures of her in her regular clothes. I just didn’t feel like setting up such shots, and she wasn’t much in the mood to change into a real costume – it was 85 degrees out, remember, and this is Houston so it was also humid.

candace2

This was our first location – the county courthouse. It was already around noon so the light was already an issue, but she’s standing under the front awning of the building here, which made it work. I added some light glow to her hair to accentuate that, since I thought it looked pretty, but I tried not to overdo it so she could use this as a professional photo. It was hard though; I get so into the fun of editing that I tend to over-do it at times. Still, I really like the end result of this one.

can2_collage

We also went inside to take shots; one thing I like about Candace is that she isn’t inhibited about posing for photos in public or basically wandering in anywhere to do so. We strolled into the courthouse and just started snapping away; something I might have been cautious about doing without her just going for it. There were people around, so when we passed by the receptionist we asked if taking photos was OK, but we’d actually already taken a bunch and the woman said it was fine anyway. I tend not be as confident and feel awkward about going around taking shots in public, which is something I need to get better at, but it is what it is.

candace5

Without the light and shadow problems we faced outside, the indoors shots were easy to pull off. I’ve only edited this one for now, but I’ll work on a few more later. She wanted to be sure she came off professional and not too “pretty girl,” which is always a tough balance to strike when you are, well, a pretty girl. If you’re too pretty you risk not being taken seriously, but you still have to look well-groomed and professional. Honestly, after finishing up for the day (we took about 1000 shots) we realized she should have put up her hair for at least some of them, because the long flowing locks can read too young or “sexy” which wasn’t what she was going for, obviously. But we didn’t think about it at the time, and as a photographer I am such a sucker for long flowing locks, especially with the sunlight hitting it as it was on this day, that the idea of pulling it all back bores me. But there were plenty of shots like this where her hair was pulled to the back for the most part, and it did help make her appear, not older necessarily, but just more mature. She still gets mistaken for a high school student at times, even though she’s 33 years old, so it’s something she still has to contend with (I reassured her that at some point, yes, even she would no longer look ‘too young,’ which is definitely a mixed bag. In a way it’s a good thing, but it also means you’re starting to look ‘older’ which can still suck. Anyway).

Remember when I said I was a sucker for  long flowing locks in the sunlight (and if you don’t remember me saying that, I’m a little worried for you, because I just said it in the previous paragraph)? Well, here’s one of those instances where the hair totally gave me what I am always looking for. I told her I was going to edit some of the photos just for the hell of it even though she probably wouldn’t want to use them for professional stuff, which she was fine with (she doesn’t care how much I edit or mess with her shots for the most part), and this was one of them.

candace3

This was another outdoors shot, so as with the others light was a problem, and I used various Photoshop tricks and tools to get the effect of a sunrise instead of it being three in the afternoon, like it really was when we took it. I mean, the light in the original was really awful, and I really wasn’t sure when we were taking these if I’d be able to make them work:

can3_collage

In some cases, though, my editing madness ran amok and I totally overdid it. This usually happens when I work on too many photos in one sitting, because I start to get bored with making the same old edits and changes and become too experimental; I really shouldn’t work on more than three in one sitting because that’s when I start to go off the rails. This last one is a pretty good example of that.

candace7

It’s interesting how different it can  be to work with a different face. Her face is very round whereas mine is long and oval; and there are little edits I’m so used to making to positive effect that I really thought doing the same things with her portraits would also work, and none of them did. Her hair color, skin tone, and eye color are all so different from mine that I had to play around with new techniques to make any changes. Her eyes, for example, are such a dark brown as to almost be black, and her pupils really don’t show in photos, which isn’t nearly as effective in a portrait as being able to see the color of the iris. But lightening them too much made her look a little strange, so for the most part I accommodated for it by adding light reflections in her eyes to give them depth rather than too much iris-lightening. Changing her eye color for fun was also more challenging than it is with my eyes, which are much lighter in color. And other little tricks I use on my own face, like accentuating the cheekbones by adding shading and light, I had to use very sparingly on her; my little cheekbone trick, on her round face, tended to make the face look rounder and more full, which wasn’t flattering on her, and whereas my pretty small, close-set eyes look better when I add the makeup and mascara enhancements PortraitPro provides (they are a miracle for my beady little peepers) most of that overwhelmed her, so I kept it minimal. Blush, in particular, she just didn’t need, and her big eyes looked too ‘done’ with the mascara enhanced, so I ended up barely using those tools at all. And even when enhancing the light and shading on her face, the effects I tend to use on my own just didn’t work on her. None of it was a problem, it was just interesting to play around with.

All that said – ugh. I don’t like this last picture at all. I used a lot of the techniques I use on my own portraits but they just didn’t work here. I tried to change her hair color, for example, but it wasn’t very successful, and as I mentioned before, her eyes came out more freakish than I intended. Basically I played too much and somewhere along the line I think I ruined it, so I added some texture to it to detract from its flaws (not sure that worked, because I even over-did the texture) and called it a day.

In closing this post, I realized there were two selfies I took recently that I never shared here – well, we can’t let that stand, so here they are:

birdy1

I took these in October, actually, so I’m not sure how I missed getting them uploaded. That fuzzy yellow jacket thing I found at Goodwill for 99 cents and after shooting a bunch of videos I decided what the hell, since I had some heavy makeup on, and I threw the vest on with a wig I’ve had for a while and some yellow lipstick. I didn’t take too many shots, since I planned to only edit one, but I did do a few wig and lipstick changes so as to get more than one pic out of the whole shoot. The one above was definitely the best of the bunch, though.

birdy2

I’m basically in the exact same pose here, just with a different expression, so yeah, not really all that exciting. But here it is anyway.

8 thoughts on “Suiting Up

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