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In the Douglas Kirkland on Photography series, well-known photographer Douglas Kirkland explores a variety of real-world photographic scenarios, sharing technique insights and critiquing the results.
In this installment of the series, Douglas explains how he works with natural light to create beautiful portraits. He shows how to make subtle changes to the light to improve its qualities and make the most of the environment he's working in. He reviews the images he considers the best of the day and also shows examples of how he uses Photoshop to complete his workflow and finish the images.
Okay, I feel this shoot with Natalie worked very well. I was very pleased. And I want to show you some of the images. This is what I really saw when she was sitting there. I mean, we weren't intending to take pictures, but I saw her and I said, we've got a photograph. That's how she was. And I did some variations, some very simple variations. We got these different images all with the light wrapping around her beautifully. She was just sitting there. The room had white walls and it sort of reflected everything and that's the beauty of, again, watching it.
You have to see pictures and feel them like this, it's very important. Here is another one. this is one of my favorites. I like this one very, very much. I did very little to it, because I didn't have to do much. But there was one thing I did. I brought her face out a little, just a little like that, because I wanted to brighten it up a little, which we could do very simply in Photoshop, not difficult stuff. It's all part of the process of doing it. I'm really analyzing my own work all the time and I want to get the best picture always, as I'm sure you will want to.
So here is now, this is where it all began. Natalie came in to us to see if I'd like to work with her, and she sat down on this very chair that she is in here, in our living room. And we have a skylight up there and it went into her eyes, and I said, that is an image, I know it's an image, and so you're going to see the process of how it evolved. I had her sit there and I saw that the background was very confusing, so I asked to have just a black board slipped in behind her, and it made it work better, it came through, the image came through.
Again, the light is still beautiful in her eyes. The only distraction, then I started being troubled by this leather chair. We build. It's a process of building, that's what photography is about. And so I had this piece of black cloth laid there on the chair, and after a few minutes I realized that she has a fairly wide arm, and so I asked her to pull the cloth over the arm a little, just to slim the line, and you can do devices like this if you are watching and feeling.
Remember, as a photographer, it's like you are a creator. It's like a beautiful painting that you're making. Let's go on to the next stage. I wanted you to see, again, looking into these eyes, how beautiful she is, really. That's the magic that brought us there in the first place. Look at those catch lights in her eyes. But unfortunately, even with the board that we had helping the lighting a little, it was a little dark here, so we did a little touchup, very little touchup, a very light hand with Photoshop. I use minimal.
Because I like to actually make a picture that requires a minimum of Photoshop. I do not take pictures-- I don't want to take pictures-- ever saying "Oh, we'll fix it in post. We'll fix it later." I don't think that's the right way to do it. Make it as perfect as you can without ever thinking of anything other than the image you are taking at that moment. So here she is. Now, you'll see one last thing I did. I decided that this was a little distracting, so I got rid of that, and in the course of doing it I also made one other touch here. I just softened this line a little.
This is the minimal refinement. And then you get to this last image. She is glorious. This is the success I feel of working with natural light. Very, very simple, you watched it. Now, I want to take you outside where we get working outdoors and that's going to be pretty exciting too.
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