Before and After — Zion Up Close

The Before and After 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.

Zion poses near the Austin Music Hall.


  • Shutter:  1/250
  • Aperture:  f/2.0
  • ISO:  200
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

Composition and Processing

  • There’s nothing quite like a whole lot of soft light to enhance the skin tones of a subject.  I took this at one of my favorite outdoor locations for creative portraits, a deeply recessed patio out behind the Austin Music Hall that faces west.  In the afternoon, the light bounces off the light concrete floor and blue metal roof to completely encase the subject (you can see the width and direction of the light from the catchlight in Zion’s eyes).
  • The background for this shot is fairly bland, but combined with the soft light offer a wide range of processing options that all seem to work.  Good photos can usually be processed multiple ways — that may say something about the primacy of composition over other variables.  A couple extra examples are included below.
  • I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Zion’s smile.  Even if all the other variables — light, crop, color — were perfect, this photo simply wouldn’t work without that tangible emotion on the Zion’s face.
  • I cropped this tight to make it more intimate, but I had a secondary goal as well:  the hair wasn’t quite working.  Cropping in a bit eliminated the issue.

Version 2:

Version 3:


February 20 2010 08:53 pm | Photography

2 Responses to “Before and After — Zion Up Close”

  1. kris on 22 Feb 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    welcome back. it’s been what seems like forever.

  2. KG on 22 Feb 2010 at 11:17 pm #

    Yeah, the break was longer than I thought. Good to be back though– lots of photos to post and talk about.

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