Daily Photo – Leslie in Purple

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.

Leslie poses in the fading afternoon light.


  • Shutter:  1/125
  • Aperture:  f/2
  • ISO:  800
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

Composition and Processing

  • We had a dark overcast sky during this shoot, and the sun was pretty much done for the day by the time we got around to this shot.  I hung a large piece of sequin material on the wall behind Leslie to reflect what little light there was.  That turned out to be a benefit, as it muted the reflections and showed more texture (there’s even a bit of a gradient due to the angle of the light).  In post, I processed it to match Leslie’s eyes, although the blue cast may have made her skin look too yellow in contrast.
  • The question I’m always faced with when cropping is where to chop part of the subject, if at all.  Cropping tight can make a shot more personal;  it can also help re-arrange the lines in a more pleasing fashion.  But it can leave limbs looking amputated or disembodied, and can lead the eye to dead ends at the edge of the frame.  In this instance, with the face being the focus (particularly with the background reinforcing the eyes), I chose to work around the lines that led in that direction:  the arm, the straps of the dress, the bend of the body.  I then tilted the image so those lines, along with the eyes, led to the upper left corner.  Chopping off the right side of her body was a tough call though.  My hope was that Leslie’s gaze into the frame would keep the viewer’s eye from wandering off the left edge of the image.  For much the same reason, I didn’t leave any of the right arm in there — that would have completely distracted the viewer as the eye tried to follow the shortened arm and got nowhere.  The arm at the bottom isn’t so bad — it’s shallow angle nearly matches the bottom border and doesn’t distract.


March 30 2009 06:52 pm | Photography

2 Responses to “Daily Photo – Leslie in Purple”

  1. Robin on 31 Mar 2009 at 1:40 am #

    When your article said F2 I thought no way because of the lack of bokeh depth on her body, but I didnt stop to think that the shot was taken from this distance and cropped in. Helluva post job on her Kevin. What’s your post weapon of choice? PS? Lightroom? I am also shocked at the lack of grain at 800, or is that something that was taken care of in post? I use a 40d, and at 800 some grain gets visible.

  2. KG on 01 Apr 2009 at 12:57 am #

    Thanks. I usually start in Lightroom (exposure, white balance, and other small changes) then go to PS for corrections (I like the stamp tool better than Lightroom’s take on it, not to mention selective color, liquify, etc). I also use specific plug-ins as necessary: Noise Ninja, Portraiture and Nik Color Efx for the most part. Then back to Lightroom for final contrast, HSL, sharpening and vignette work (although I sometimes do some of that in PS).

    Cropping gets done in Lightroom either before or after PS, depending on the type of shot. If I think I’m going to use one of the Nik filters, I go light on the tone curve in Lightroom (because some of the Nik filters introduce a lot of contrast on their own that’s hard to control).

    As for this shot, there was a little noise that I cleaned up with Noise Ninja (for everything but the face and arms). I used Portraiture on the skin, which is kind of redundant with Noise Ninja in some ways (which is why I didn’t use it there).

    As a general rule, the larger the receptors in the camera sensor, the more accurate the light they’ll receive and less “noise” will occur. If I recall, there are also issues with how close the receptors are together (and what technologies are used to combat that interference/bleed, not to mention making the receptors more sensitive/accurate in and of themselves).

    That’s a lot of variables, but all other things being equal (same technologies), sensors that are the same number of megapixels but different sizes (e.g. a full frame vs. a crop sensor vs. a point and shoot) will favor the larger sensor in terms of noise.

    Of course, there are tradeoffs. The 21mp full frame 1Ds mIII I used on the shot above is pretty good about noise, but the 10mp 1.3x crop 1D mIII I used in the next post is about one stop better (i.e. ISO 1600 on the 1D is about the same as ISO 800 on the 1Ds). I lose resolution, but gain quality.

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