Daily Photo – Stephanie at the W

The Daily Photo series focuses on the two or three key creative choices, in terms of composition and processing, that go into creating an image.  Specific technical details about the shot have been left out — you won’t hear me talking about tone curve adjustments and whatnot unless it was a key component of the end result.

Last summer the W began construction on a new hotel which, for better or worse, is next door to where I live in downtown Austin.  The entire block was initially ringed with covered pedestrian walkways, painted bright white except for a number of promotional images put up on the south facing sidewalk.

The afternoon light in downtown Austin bounces off quite a number of buildings in the area and in some cases snakes down the east-west streets to create some interesting backlighting opportunities.  This shot of Stephanie is the first in series we did around the construction walkways, before they became covered in dirt from the construction.


  • Shutter:  1/200
  • Aperture:  f/1.4
  • ISO:  800
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM


Composition and Processing:

  • Models must hate me.  Really.  They show up with their hair all done up and the first thing I do is ask them to mess it up.  Hair can be used to great effect when framing the face though, and in many cases you can get radically different looks (where the model looks almost like a different person), just by moving their hair around a bit.  In this case I asked Stephanie to pull her hair forward, then bring the chin up enough that I could just barely see both eyes.
  • Despite Stephanie’s wonderful red hair, I had black in white in mind from the start.  I was more interested in the tonal differences between her skin and everything else.  Plus, blowing out her skin really highlighted the eyes and brought out the texture of the hair.
  • I expected to crop this shot more tightly later, but it wasn’t until I was done processing that I decided to push it into the upper right corner.   I liked the north-south lines created by her face and neck, and this positioning emphasized that.  The hair is a little squarish going into the corner, but not too bad.
  • When Stephanie posted this to her flickr account, one viewer asked about the catchlight in her eye (particularly since this is a natural light shot).  It’s actually the entire sky, right after sundown, framed on four sides by the awning above her head, the two buildings on each side of second street, and the fence one block away.  Not exactly planned for, but an added bonus nonetheless.

January 02 2009 06:07 pm | Photography

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