Even if you don’t use my film presets or Capture One hang around for a few thoughts that might jolt you into trying something else… or not…
Okay, so I was doing a mini-coaching session to help another photographer get to where he wanted to go last year with Mika. I love shooting with Mika. She’s on my same wavelength — the kind of person that I really wouldn’t care if we were chatting over dinner or making photos or both. Anyway, we set up some speedlights in a gritty industrial section of the building. Me — I shot with the really horrid available light consisting of about 32 differing types of overhead florescent lights. I only took a few pictures as I was giving some options on direction and getting to the feel he was after.
The screen-shot at the top is OOC Capture One RAW defaults… blah. Sometimes shooting RAW digital can leave you with too many options. One option that’s always what the mob tends to gravitate towards is all the things one could do to make this shot perfect as if it wasn’t shot in the dark under horrid conditions. You can open the screen shots in a new window to see them in all their 27” glory.
- color correct it to pristine accuracy
- get rid of all the noise — can’t have noise can we. I shot this at ISO 3200 but it should look like it was shot at ISO 100
- get rid of any blemishes on Mika’s skin, people should have blemishes, all photos should look as if they’re intended for some skin product advert right?
- optimize contrast making sure it’s super bright but not one pixel hits 255
- bring out all the shadow detail in the so interesting black fabric of Mika’s skimpy wardrobe as if we are selling the fabric it’s made out of.
- paint in some fake highlights
- wash iron dry.
Or… screw that. One of the nice things about shooting film and the nice things about constraints are you decide or are forced down a road and an aesthetic that either works or it doesn’t. In this case I definitely would have shot 35mm film so that I could use my f/1.4 lenses. Hmmm ISO would have left me two choices 1600 or 3200… that would have put me at 1/60 or 1/100th either would do as I want a bit of motion blur — even if I didn’t I would get it unless I was directing Mika to hold still which was exactly opposite of the feel we were going for.
So instead of perfecting this lets embrace that aesthetic it’s a natural for this kind of thing. The question is what do I like about his image in the first place? For me two things are interesting. The motion blur in Mika’s gesture and the way the shadows and highlights are playing on her skin — very beautiful. Might be hard for you to see in the color version — easy to see in BW. First up lets apply an appropriate aesthetic as if I did decide to shoot some BW at 1600 or 3200. First up how about TMAX3200P — the normal variant.
Wow — much better, at least for the feel I’m after. Can you see the way the highlights and shadows play on the skin now? I went the opposite way that one might go. I switched from film standard to film high contrast for the base curve of Capture One.Oh, I added +0.09 exposure to get the skin mids exactly where I wanted them. Perfect but let’s see what happens with film extra shadow instead. That base curve might register as what you want to use so that you don’t crush the blacks…
Yuck — to flat on the skin. A perfect example of why you might not want to go the pedantic committee think route to how a perfect image “should be”. I’m not going to bother to show how it will look even worse if I start cranking the shadow slider to get “more detail” in the shadows. Screw the shadows in this picture, there’s nothing interesting there anyway.
Okay but lets also try the other option I might have went with vs TMAX3200P… How about TRI-X pushed two stops…
This time with the box stock Capture One defaults of film standard base curve and no tweaking of nothin’ I really like this to. In fact I like the way the skin looks in terms of gradation even better. Honestly TRI-X pushed and TMAX3200P are very similar in terms of response shape. TRI-X pushed to 1600 can look a lot like TMAX 3200P pushed to 3200, that’s the P in the name I think. There are differences in color response and grain but similar.
What else might we do to this? Me? I would blob some big sloppy burns of about a half stop here and there like this…
Mostly to ad a bit of dimension as the back ground is too similar in tone to the man subject but flatter in terms of that crucial mids/upper-mids/highlight play Mika’s skin has.
Here’s what that blobbing of sloppy half stop burns does…
Don’t go too far. Unless of course your style is WAY TOO FAR… that might work for you.
Next time instead of using a grainy, contrasty, 35mm aesthetic on something that “makes sense” from the perspective of what film choices you might have made for logical reasons under the same conditions we’ll go the opposite way. Quirky decisions that have no logic behind them but can work very well. Things one might discover again due to constraints. Like having TMAX3200P loaded up and 4 frames left that you burn for the hell of it in perfectly good outdoor light on a subject that you might really want pristine color at ISO 100 if logic dictates.