Light, Choices, Refinements, Etc

Got an email from a reader regarding yesterday's post - as usual completely different than something I would have ever guessed anyone would ask based on what I wrote. In a very condensed paraphrasing it was: "what do you mean about refinements in relation to my little anxiety attack at the end of the post. Hmmm that's difficult to answer because the inventory of such things is just about infinite. They defy any sort of recipe or list beyond broad brush strokes that merely scratch the surface of what I would consider refinements.

The only way I can think to begin to answer that is via a proxy example. Proxy meaning that it serves only as a placeholder for a million completely different things rather than just the one or two things I might mention. It varies wildly based on subject, circumstance, location, etc. The only way to think about it is more along the lines of "kinds of little things" to explore rather than a checklist. Checklists only cover broad strokes.

Let's take the image at the top of this post from that same set I shot within a couple of minutes. There are many things that are different about the two images as well as many things that are the same. Let's focus on one tiny little refinement that is the same in principle but different on execution between the two shots. A topic I have brought up once or twice - micro backrounds - A term I think I invented. I use it a lot when shooting hi-key work but it's equally applicable in just about any circumstance. I just happen to pay much more attention to it in extreme conditions. Check out the right edge of Mary's face where the sun is blasting onto it. For reference here's yesterdays shot. Check out the right edge of her face there as well.

Ignore the different post processing treatment, ignore the massive exposure difference, and ignore the subject pose, etc, etc for a moment. See the similarity of the use of a micro background. Specifically the dark door frame. Trust me if I let the right edge of her face merge with the general background of the same tone - which is completely gone in terms of color, detail, and luminance contrast it will not be remotely the same image in either case. By using that doorframe in both cases you can still see the shape of Mary's face on that side. Merged with the overall background you can't. Huge difference. You may define thinking about something like that and trying it both ways as a refinement - and it is.

But wait there's more refinement to be played with. Not better, not worse. Possibly better/worse but that's very hard to tell as you delve deeper in to the category of refinements until you actually try them in any given picture taking situation. Choices - it's all about choices. The more you try and the more you exert as a matter of choice the better in my book. Can you see the refinement I made between the two images in just terms of micro backgrounds?

Of course I will tell you in case you can't… I changed the angle of my relationship to Mary so that I could use the door frame as two micro backgrounds - one for the right of her face and the other for the blown out pieces of hair on the other side. The image from yesterday allows that hair etc to merge completely with the overall white of the background. It was very very tight positioning the highlight on the right side with the tiny part of the door to provide that contrast. Crazy tight actually. I got lucky with the image at the top. Not with that tight positioning, lucky that the position of Mary's hand also lined up with the now huge blown out area on her upper chest. Yet another new micro background relationship. I definitely was paying way way more conscious attention on that tiny little piece of door frame than I was timing the situation for her hand crossing that area.

Maybe it was lucky - maybe it was just that I was prepared. Hence another minor point on my Preparedness vs preparation diatribes I let loose here and there. I couldn't possibly tell you if the hand was luck or not at this point down the road. I will venture to guess that I am far more lucky with that kind of thing than people that don't shoot a lot of human subjects in motion. Generally speaking of course.

The micro background thing is not accidental. Consider this little tidbit one of the kind of things you pick up when doing a hands-on workshop that is considerably different than watching a canned video or reading about things, etc. There are lot's of things to be learned via the virtual experience and the study of other images but not everything. At least in my experience. It's just about impossible to remember all considerations let alone document them. Completely different in a real live situation with dialog. Food for thought.


Ps. The top image - I wish so badly I would have asked Mary to rest the hand you can't see on to the left on the opposite door frame. Damn it. Compositionally it would have been much better. Next time.

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