Daily Photo – Brigitte in Color

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.

This shot of Brigitte was taken the same day as this one, before we lost the sun and had to switch to studio lighting.


  • Shutter:  1/500
  • Aperture:  f/2.8
  • ISO:  200
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM


Composition and Processing

  • The setup was fairly simple for this:  use the setting sun to backlight the subject and illuminate the hair.  That’s not how I processed it though — instead, I let the background blow out, which really gave the scene a nice airy feel to match the casual pose and expression.
  • It’s probably not as obvious in the shot above, but what really makes this work in larger versions is the eyes.  They’re razor sharp and staring straight at the camera — it’s the first place you look in the image.  While there are plenty of good exceptions, anytime I shoot a subject at a shallow depth of field (f/2.8 or wider), I always make sure the eyes are in the plane of focus.

January 18 2009 08:58 pm | Photography

4 Responses to “Daily Photo – Brigitte in Color”

  1. Conor Ogle on 26 Feb 2009 at 1:26 pm #

    Love the original. Was there not something “in the middle” that you could go for?

  2. KG on 26 Feb 2009 at 4:07 pm #

    Yeah, probably. It was definitely a creative choice to amp the exposure that much. An alternative approach would have been to push up the exposure of the model to about 1/2 to 3/4 of what I did above, and on an alternate layer blend in the background (the transition should be fairly smooth because of the backlighting). Oh, and leave the white balance a bit warmer. That would have kept the nice sunset glow of the original.

    Better would have been, at the time of the shot, to simply expose for the sunset and use a strobe in a large softbox for fill.

  3. RON! on 11 Mar 2009 at 3:39 am #

    I’m new to digital photography and stumbled across your blog while doing research on portrait techniques. THANK YOU for posting this. You and one guy on youtube are the only people I found that show your original photos along with the final images. This is exactly the kind of look I want to achieve! Can I ask how many shots you took and had to choose from to pick your original?

  4. KG on 11 Mar 2009 at 1:08 pm #

    Ron: this particular sequence took 15 shots. I shoot about 10 – 20 shots for any particular setup. Why so many? Well, here’s the way it usually breaks down:

    1 – 3 shots: checking exposure (although I’m getting pretty good at predicting the exact settings just by looking at the light).

    1 – 4 shots: lost to softness. Autofocus systems tend to be less accurate in low light situations, and since I’m usually moving about when shooting (or the model is), a low shutter speed will also produce a fair share of blurred images. That, and the Canon 50mm 1.2 lens I sometimes use has a mild backfocus problem.

    2 – 5 shots: lost to model expression. Caught them while blinking, mouth isn’t quite right, whatever.

    1 – 3 shots: wardrobe malfunction. No, I’m not talking about Janet Jackson style disasters, but simply clothing bunched up or falling wrong, hair obscuring the face or weighted too much to one side, etc.

    So about half the shots are usually a waste on technicalities. The rest are pose variations: minor adjustments to body posture, changes of mood or expression, or having the model look a specific direction (with the eyes and/or head).

    For the shot of Brigitte above, there were five “acceptable” shots and two good ones (the other good one had her looking down and adjusting her dress; I chose the one where she’s looking at the camera because her eyes are such a strong element of the composition).

    Hope this helps!

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