Daily Photo – Doa in the Window

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.

Doa leans against a storefront window in downtown Austin.


  • Shutter:  1/125
  • Aperture:  f/1.2
  • ISO:  1600
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L USM

Composition and Processing

  • Night photography always feels like the “land of hard light” to me.  There’s no control over the lights, and diffusing them tends to make what little there is unusable.  I had seen this frosted glass storefront window a few times before and thought the glow might make for an interesting background.  I was also thinking the soft light through the window might dilute the hard shadows falling on it.  That mostly worked (the hard shadow on her left is visible but almost undetectable), although as a side effect I also picked up some blue fringe on the hood.
  • As interesting as the color and light distribution are (including the reflected lights from across the street), what really makes the background work are the window seam and lettering.  They turn the soft amorphous backdrop into an actual surface, with a specific relationship to the subject.
  • People should use hats, sunglasses and other props more often in portrait shoots.  Hats in particular can dramatically change a person’s look, even if their expression has been well covered in other shots.  Doa brought this sleeveless coat along mostly to keep warm, but the hood turned out to be a nice change of pace after a long day of shooting.


May 03 2009 08:00 pm | Photography

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