Critique some of my Elsa shots

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#1 figment1986 on 5 years ago

Pick what you think is the BEST and WORST shots form this album, and critique them.

[url]http://figment1986.smugmug.com/CostumesandCons/Photo-Shoots/Elsa-by-Tinka-Cosplay[/url]

if you don't think you should say it in public, you can message me them... I've heard everything under the sun.

#2 nathancarter on 5 years ago

Thanks for leaving EXIF data intact; that helps me evaluate more than just about anything else.

These are all just my opinions. I'm not intending any of this as a personal attack or harassment. My only goal is to see you make better pictures. To that end, I'm providing specific things to learn to improve upon, none of which require the purchase of additional equipment.

Remember, as a portrait photographer, your NUMBER ONE GOAL is to make the subject look good.

---------------

Best: IMG_5175, second in the set.

Good connection from the model to the camera. Skin is properly exposed, bright and clean. Framing and composition are acceptable. No weirdly cut-off body parts. I'm generally not a fan of the ol' Dutch-Tilt angle, but it works here for that pose, to help her fill the frame.

White balance seems a little too green/teal here, but I'm not viewing on my calibrated monitor right now. It's all over the place within the rest of the set, though (that's the effects of Auto white balance).

The eye sockets are dark, which could have been improved with better use of the flash.
Camera settings are inappropriate for the subject and style... well, more on that later.

-----------

Worst: IMG_5183, last in the set.

Skin processing is what puts this one at the bottom of the list, for me. I dunno what happened with the blotchy skin - did you overlay a texture, or crank up the clarity? That's appropriate for a hard, dark, tough/masculine character, but not appropriate for a bright and cold ice queen. She needs clean, bright skin, with just a tinge of pink.

I see where you're going with a demure pose, touching the water in a way that's key to the character, but it just didn't work here. The pose has her turning away from the camera, so there's no connection between the viewer and the subject.

My eye is drawn to that huge hand in the foreground; the short distance to the subject and the very short focal length have resulted in a perspective distortion that's unflattering.

The wig is also not fitted well, exposing her dark hair in both front and back, which also draws the eye in an unflattering way. While you're not directly responsible for the wig, you ARE responsible for evaluating the subject beforehand, and advising the subject if there's any component of the costume that's not photo-ready. Have her take a moment to adjust, and if the wig just doesn't fit properly, find ways to frame the photo to minimize the appearance of the defect. For instance, have her pull the braid over the other shoulder, and pull the bangs down a little to cover the near side (exposing the dark hair on the other side that we don't care about).

-------------

Overall, I have three pieces of general advice, at least directly relating to photography.

First:
Learn the exposure triangle. Learn the exposure triangle. Learn the exposure triangle. Shutter speed, aperture, ISO. Those are the barest basics of controlling the camera.

Get off automatic mode. The camera wants to make everything average, and if you give it full control, your photos will never be better than average. You're only allowed to use automatic modes if you pay attention to what the camera is doing, and don't let it make stupid decisions for you. There's no valid reason to shoot portraits at f/22 and ISO800, which is what the camera chose for you in this set.

If you can get your hands on it, pick up Bryan Peterson's [U]Understanding Exposure[/U]. Your local library might have it, or here it is on Amazon:
[url]http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Exposure-3rd-Edition-Photographs/dp/0817439390[/url]

If you can't swing that, at a minimum read this thread, then read it again until you've grasped those three critical components of photography.
[url]http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=414088[/url]

Learn the exposure triangle. Shutter speed, ISO, aperture. Choose the right settings for the shot. No excuses.


Second:
Get your framing under control. Specifically: You're consistently shooting too tight, cutting off fingers and toes, and not leaving enough headroom for a pleasing composition. Body parts are touching the edge of the frame, or cut off by the edge of the frame, in five out of the seven images in this set. It's also been a consistent issue in images you've posted in the Picture of the Day thread.

This is something that I struggled with for a while, too. Shoot loose, crop in post. Until you're sure you can get the framing right in camera, shoot loose. You can always crop in tighter, but you can't bring back those cut-off body parts.

There are some guides out there for appropriate places to crop portraits. As a general rule, never crop at a joint (knee, elbow), and never crop off half of the hand, foot, head.


Third:
Stand farther away and shoot with a longer focal length. Unless you're intentionally using perspective distortion as part of a thoughtful composition, perspective distortion invariably works against you in portraits.

Here's a good read on perspective distortion:
[url]http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=672913[/url]

No more shooting 18mm from 3 feet away. That's how you get one oversized hand in the foreground, drawing the eye from the rest of the image. Shooting a full-length shot from a standing position, you get a huge goofy head and little tiny feet. Shooting a full-length shot from a kneeling position, you get huge fat hips and thighs, little tiny button head and stick feet. Shoot from farther away, and use a longer focal length if necessary for framing.

If you ABSOLUTELY MUST stand up close and use a short focal length - and I'm talking about the hordes of close-pressed flesh like the mezzanine in the Marriott at Dragon Con - be extremely mindful of the effects of perspective. Guide the subject into a pose that benefits from a little perspective, shoot no more than head/bust, don't try to do a full-length shot at 18mm.

Otherwise, stand farther away, and shoot full-length shots from a kneeling position or waist-level.

#3 figment1986 on 5 years ago

Thank you for the critque. I'll send you a PM with a different photo I shot of her at evilcon where I used manual settings, not same cosplay but im trying to get ahold of her to do some re-shoots at a better location.

#4 Foques on 5 years ago

Looking at the images in question, I can tell you right away - you have absolutely no basic knowledge.
And that's ok. Just don't claim that you do.

1) First thing i'm seeing is that you are using an 18mm focal length.
Unless you are going for a specific result, you should be looking at 55mm+.
To me, my preferred focal length is 85mm (or 200mm.. but, that's a different story and 5k lens).
2) you are shooting from your full height (I myself did that before. with longer focal length, it is no longer a problem.)
3) 1/200th at f/22. Start shooting auto.
4) Watch out for limbs - toes, fingers. (hands, legs)
5) As the poster above mentioned, the skin is definitely needing more help. In large part, this is due to high iso was used. 800ISO during the cloudy day, while shooting at f/22 is inexcusable.

Read and learn the rule of thirds. Once you are comfortable with it, learn to break that rule.. tastefully (this one will take years..)
Read and learn posing techniques. The girl is gorgeous, but clearly is an amateur. She does not know how to pose herself; and it is your job, as a portrait photog, to tell her what to do.
Stop with white Vignetting. I assume it was added in post. It doesn't add anything to the shot, this is not how a vignette is intended to use.

if you want a critique on a specific shot, post that specific shot, not just drop a link to a handful of images.

#5 fam-cosplayphotographer on 5 years ago

Since a lot of this has been covered let me beg you to spend the $25 on lynda.com and hit up all of the foundations of photography courses. You will get it if you watch them....you can also pirate it on thepiratebay if you use torrents.

On an explanation of what the F stops do since youre getting beheaded on your use of f22, f22 is an extreme f stop, even though its a high number, its considered "small\low" because of the tiny hole it leaves open in the lens where a large\fast lens that can do, for example, 2.8 opens the hole super big to let in more light. The bigger the physical number of an F stop, the more EVERYTHING is in focus...so f22 would be great for something like a landscape, but for a portrait you want the number to be as low as your lens can do. It separates the subject from the background, some kit lenses may only do a 5.6 max so to get some separation and blue the background (called bokeh) you may just have to add some distance between your subject and the background. With a big F stop like 1.8, depth of field (area that can be in focus) is so small you have to really watch what youre focused on (like the nose could be in focus and the eye wouldnt depending on focal length and distance).


Throwing your camera into portrait mode and then looking at the settings in the viewfinder is a great way to figure out what the camera is doing before eventually manually controlling it on your own. I see you were using exposure compensation which is ok in those auto modes if the exposure isnt coming out right, but in manual mode there's no need to use it, just bump your shutter speed, aperture, or iso to get what you need.

On ISO...you were shooting in 800 ISO with FLASH, for a crop sensor t3i there's no point in doing that with flash. ISO as you bump it up, shoots more electricity into the sensor to try to pick up more light, but basically it just makes it grainy and with more noise....big full frame pro cameras can shoot into the thousands without evident noise, but crop sensors show the grain @ 800 a little bit, bumping it much more and you may have to change your images to black and white because of the noise. You would want to bump the iso up from your default (100\200) when youre shooting with natural light and your at the biggest aperture you have (smallest number) and your shutter speed that you have to have to freeze motion (or elimate camera shake from your hands) is too slow....lets say youre in a dark area and to shoot at F4 at 200 iso means it would be 1/20th of a second to get a balanced exposure...the subject is moving, your hands are shaking..everything comes out blurry, what you would do is bump up that iso until the shutter speed you really want (say 1/100th of a second) can be achieved. Be aware and dont leave the iso up there when you dont need it (it will make your shots all grainy for no real purpose).

Im hoping some of that makes sense...if not...you have some downloading to do.

#6 figment1986 on 5 years ago

[QUOTE=Foques;4819811]Looking at the images in question, I can tell you right away - you have absolutely no basic knowledge.
And that's ok. Just don't claim that you do.

1) First thing i'm seeing is that you are using an 18mm focal length.
Unless you are going for a specific result, you should be looking at 55mm+.
To me, my preferred focal length is 85mm (or 200mm.. but, that's a different story and 5k lens).
2) you are shooting from your full height (I myself did that before. with longer focal length, it is no longer a problem.)
3) 1/200th at f/22. Start shooting auto.
4) Watch out for limbs - toes, fingers. (hands, legs)
5) As the poster above mentioned, the skin is definitely needing more help. In large part, this is due to high iso was used. 800ISO during the cloudy day, while shooting at f/22 is inexcusable.

Read and learn the rule of thirds. Once you are comfortable with it, learn to break that rule.. tastefully (this one will take years..)
Read and learn posing techniques. The girl is gorgeous, but clearly is an amateur. She does not know how to pose herself; and it is your job, as a portrait photog, to tell her what to do.
Stop with white Vignetting. I assume it was added in post. It doesn't add anything to the shot, this is not how a vignette is intended to use.

if you want a critique on a specific shot, post that specific shot, not just drop a link to a handful of images.[/QUOTE]

Thank you for your input, I learned basic knowledge... but kind of forgot it as the time went on and my models didn't care about "professional" wuality and only wanted to show their stuff off and not helping me too. I know i have a long way to go to get up to even a hobbiest level. I'm trying to learn. I actually used the wrong lens for these shots as my "better" lens was being used by my sister. I got that lens back, what I was using was my "go to theme park and shoot photos" lens 18 - 200 promoster. something I know i should stop using for shoots outside of theme park random shots. that and use manual settings and not auto settings.

#7 figment1986 on 5 years ago

[QUOTE=jonashley;4819833]Im hoping some of that makes sense...if not...you have some downloading to do.[/QUOTE]

while everyone was going on all of this. I was pulling out my old text books on "video" and my text book on "photo" and pretty much all you said I've been re-reading in those. I have some specialty lenses I have not had a chance to use that can get me a low enough aperture and want to use it. in fact I'm setting up a black box tonight and playing with them with some of my anime figurines since I cannot get any models to help me till next week at earliest.

#8 nathancarter on 5 years ago

Had one more thought: Since you said you shot these in raw, you have a lot of flexibility in adjusting the image in your raw processor (Lightroom, DPP, whatever). That's the point of raw, after all. Truth be told, raw images with just the default processing will often look worse than comparable jpegs, because they lack the contrast, sharpening, and saturation that is applied in the camera to the jpeg - so if you're shooting raw, make the most of it.

At a minimum, adjust your white balance settings in your raw processor, so they're all the same within the set, and preferably correct for a pleasing skin tone.

Next, adjust the exposure/highlights so that the skin looks good, and is consistent within the set. Generally, I like skin to be about 1/3 to 1/2 stop brighter than "correct", especially for women, since that helps to minimize the appearance of blemishes and fine lines. That opinion would work well with this model, as the character she's portraying is very fair-skinned.

There's a great thread on photography-on-the.net showing before-and-after shots using just a raw processor. I think I've linked you to it before.

[QUOTE=Foques;4819811]
1) First thing i'm seeing is that you are using an 18mm focal length.
Unless you are going for a specific result, you should be looking at 55mm+.
To me, my preferred focal length is 85mm (or 200mm.. but, that's a different story and 5k lens).[/QUOTE]

EXIF says he's using an 18-200, so that longer focal length is definitely available.

Maybe not the sharpest lens there is, but that's the least of our worries right now.


[QUOTE=Foques;4819811]3) 1/200th at f/22. Start shooting auto.[/QUOTE]

EXIF says it's in auto mode. I have no idea why the camera chose f/22 and ISO800, but at least the shutter speed makes a little sense: 1/200 is going to be the max sync speed for the flash.

[QUOTE=Foques;4819811]Stop with white Vignetting. I assume it was added in post. It doesn't add anything to the shot, this is not how a vignette is intended to use.[/QUOTE]

Ye gads, yes.



[QUOTE=jonashley;4819833] but crop sensors show the grain @ 800 a little bit, bumping it much more and you may have to change your images to black and white because of the noise. [/QUOTE]

The sensor in the T3i is pretty capable; it's the same sensor as the 60D and 7D. In a properly exposed photo, the sensor noise is pretty manageable, with a little bit of noise reduction in post.

Still, there's nooooooo reason to use ISO800 outside in the daytime.

#9 figment1986 on 5 years ago

I played with one of my figs, what do you think I should look into to improve this photo? (Black felt is from a black blanket duck taped to a cardboard box...)
[IMG]http://i59.tinypic.com/33krhbn.jpg[/IMG]

Same camera, using a 35mm lens at F2 at 100 ISO 1/60 of a second with flash turned on.

Same box, just no flash:
[IMG]http://i61.tinypic.com/2ivbk1l.jpg[/IMG]
Same camera, 35mm lens at F2 100ISO at 1/100th second using exterior lamp as light source

#10 fam-cosplayphotographer on 5 years ago

It depends on what youre trying to do. The felt is visible, and I think the image would be stronger if you got it far enough away where it was just a black background. I would put you figure on a stool or table with it really lit up and have the black backdrop a few feet away, that would make the felt disappear into just a black background... I would shoot at a few angles (where the bottom of the base goes into the bottom of the shot so you cant see what the base is sitting on (kind of like a ground level)...even though its a figure...eye contact matters...it makes it have a personal connection so im constantly telling the models to make eye contact (then i say a creepy joke to make them laugh). Obviously your figure isnt going to move so youll have to move and see about eye contact. Dont be afraid to get in close, the whole figure doesnt have to be in the shot.


In this photo, spawn is on top of a stool, in a light green room, but spawn is lit bright enough that once youve got it dialed in, the room will be pretty dark (and in raw you can quickly dial down some settings to make it look like its black) PS I dont know why I was messing with exposure compensation on this shot...I may have accidentally hit it in my stupidity)

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/thegreatjonashley/10619818843/][img]http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5485/10619818843_c585ab06c7_c.jpg[/img][/url]
[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/thegreatjonashley/10619818843/]spawn[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/thegreatjonashley/]-FaM-[/url], on Flickr

#11 nathancarter on 5 years ago

[QUOTE=figment1986;4819898]I played with one of my figs, what do you think I should look into to improve this photo? (Black felt is from a black blanket duck taped to a cardboard box...)[/QUOTE]

1) Fix the white balance on one or both.
1a) Get in the habit of fixing your white balance in the camera, every time the lighting changes. Get good at it. Get great at it. Get fast at it, so the subject doesn't have to stand around and wait.
1b) Even though you can correct it easily in the raw processor, it's necessary to have a neutral reference if you want a neutral white balance. Therefore, a gray card is a good investment. A piece of white paper will work in a pinch, as long as it's not overexposed to the point of clipping any channel.
1c) I prefer to set a custom white balance in the camera. That in-camera white balance info is recognized by Lightroom, so I don't have to fix white balance in post.

2) Move the subject away from the backdrop, so you can control the lighting in such a way that the light falling on the black backdrop is minimized.
2a) Related: If you can't see detail in the black background in these shots, you need to calibrate your monitor.

3) Bearing in mind that the sculpted cartoon face is only a general analogue of a real human face: Evaluate where the shadows and highlights are falling on the subject's face and body. What's flattering and what's not? Why?
3a) You will likely need a larger and more realistic face to get very far with this experiment.

4) Manipulate your single light to create each of these six portrait lighting styles:
1. Loop
2. Rembrandt
3. Butterfly
4. Split
5. Broad
6. Short

4a) See 3a.

5) Evaluate what happens when you move the light closer or farther from the subject. Pay attention to falloff, highlights, shadows. Do you grasp the inverse square law, as it relates to photographic lighting?

6) Put a second figure in the scene and repeat 5.

#12 Foques on 5 years ago

Nathan, you're totally correct.. about auto. I meant to say stop using Auto.. my apologies.
And yes, I did see the exif.

#13 figment1986 on 5 years ago

thank you for the advice, I put the black sheet in the wash so hopefully it gets clean enough for tomorrow... im gonna do some more test shots. I'm trying to fix the white balance as much as i can. I just didn't have a white card yet (i'll get something tomorrow)

I will also try to get another black sheet so i can extend the surface i can play with some more, I appreciate the help!

#14 nathancarter on 5 years ago

For this figure, you can probably use the white feathers (?) on her belt as a neutral point. If you're using Lightroom, click on the eyedropper in the Basic pane, then click on the white feathers. Not perfect, but WAY better than AWB.

#15 Sufida on 5 years ago

Wow.. I was going to reply on here when it was just nathan's first reply was up. Let me catch up and reorganize what I was going to say since I didn't get a chance to post it.
...........
Man what is it with everybody having the 35 f/2.. THE LENS I WANT

Anyway it appears the technical aspects of this have been beaten to death so I will focus on other aspects. I'll start by focusing on the photos over all and then I will dissect two photos as requested

The first thing that kind of caught me off guard was that there were 7 photos on here and they were all kind of similar. Looking at the exif it appears this shoot only lasted about two minutes. I feel a shoot generally allows a lot more time to experiment and direct. Here it is more like an extended hallway shot and I can relate because I do those all the time.

However when you begin to get more serious and have some longer shoots you may want to do more with your photos rather than just capturing the subject. With all these shots you seem to be taking them at the same distance. You may want to challenge yourself and offer some variety to your shots by doing some close ups or shots from further away. To me, great cosplay photography embodies the following three

- Make the subject look awesome
A given for anything

- Capturing the detail of the costume
I notice in this Elsa cosplay there are some details on the arms we don't see much and on the back of the trail. So maybe some nice behind shots or from the side.

- Providing some sense of story, emotion, mystery or intrigue
Subjects should never appear like they are in some car wreck fashion show nor as "somebody in a costume". Make us think they are living those characters. You do touch on this a little.. particularly with that second and last shot.

The only technical thing I will touch upon is that the color of the dress keeps changing in every photo. Likely a white balance issue that can be fixed with RAW post processing. Also.. make sure when you fix the WB to check that it matches with what you remember or what it is based off of. A certain shade of blue can turn into a certain shade of green before you realize it. Miku wigs have always been the worst about this.

2/7
Easily the best photo. Great facial expression, the colors look good. The contrast isn't blotchy like some of the others and the lighting is even enough. All and all I wouldn't take a quick glance of it and think "that's bad". It could be improved and that has been explained in some of the other posts.

7/7
I actually really wanted to like this, but .. the flash just killed it. The wig is shining like the north star, the face looks blotchy and the make up just doesn't do her any favors in this lighting. The wig and hair problem is even more out of control in this shot. Composition wise it isn't bad.. and you got a good idea here... just it will look better when you get the technical down better. I'm not a huge technical guy myself, but this is where it really does make and break the photo hard.

So just get those technical aspects down and your photos will take a life on their own. Also try to allow more time to be creative with your shots and directing your subjects.

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