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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 demonstrates how shooting in a studio allows for precise lighting control and consistency. The course begins with a look at the strobes and light modifiers that Douglas frequently employs for studio portraiture. Douglas positions the lights and then shoots a variety of portraits, demonstrating how he works with a model to capture different moods and positions.
Finally, he reviews the best images from the shoot, analyzing the lighting techniques he employed and showing how judicious use of Photoshop can enhance a portrait without making it look unnaturally processed.
When I shoot portraits, I want to make the image as perfect as I can in the camera. I feel that's the right way. However, when I look at my pictures carefully, I see some small refinements I can make. Let me show you some of them. Here is Courtney. I was very happy with this image. I felt we had it, but as I looked it a little closer, I saw a few little things. For example, these are normal little specks and little hairs here, just not in the perfect place. A little spot in their nose. And then I wanted to soften this a little bit.
It's normal, but we are conditioned to see such refinement. So here is what I did. A very light hand. I have a very light hand when I'm retouching. I don't want people to look at the pictures and say oh, he's retouched her. I don't want them to be aware that she's been retouched. That's my philosophy on retouching. So there she is. I feel I have the right picture here. Now there are a couple of other things I found. Look at this. I see a little problem here. As I speak of that as a problem, it's a normal thing, but line of her dress and then she is leaning against the table, which I asked her to do.
And there is one other thing. her head was a little close and the lens gave a distortion and it was a little large. So what did I do? Here we did. So I can get rid of that, smoothen this. And don't smoothen that too much. Don't make it perfect. It should have a few little wrinkles, because you don't want it to look retouched. And then we make the hand a proportionate size that looks better. And this is the image we come up with. This I feel is my final statement, my final image of Courtney, the one I care the most about from this series.
I feel it's really quite successful, but I want to show you something else that we did. This was a picture, this is one of the pictures we were taking against a dropout white. And I was in the studio and Courtney had these shoes she thought were really cool and when she showed them to me, I thought yes, those are very nice, but how can I get those in the picture, because I want to see her sort of from the waist up? And then I thought maybe asking her to sit on the table, but I quietly-- I can tell you this. I said to myself, the probability of getting those in the picture is rather small, but I tried it anyway.
And as I looked through the camera, I said to myself, looking at the lens, I said, hey, it's something kind of cool here. It's contemporary, it's a cool look, if I can make it work. But I did see through the viewfinder, I saw there was a cord here, a little bit of the edge of the umbrella from lighting the background. And I could have stopped things and said, okay, let me move this, but you know what would have happened? I would have lost the momentum. I would probably have never gotten that same feeling of fun. There is a little fan in her hair, it's all the elements are working.
So I kept shooting, because I knew it'd be very simple to remove this, especially since it's on dropout white. It was got in a second. And finally, I thought, I've got an image that I really like here, but there was one thing. I said to myself, I know actually there is a little edge I can give it here. The composition can be better and it can become a better piece of artwork. So this is what I did. I crop that side off, giving it a sense of a line going from the top-right corner to the bottom-left.
And then it became a composition that I was really much more comfortable with and an image that I felt really was my statement of how I've wanted Courtney to look. I love working in the studio. Why? Because it gives me great possibilities creatively. All the elements, whether it's lighting, whether it's music, a fan in the hair as you see here, all these elements. They all help make the image. So I hope you've enjoyed being part of our process today and I hope you get something that helps your photography and carries you to a new place.
Thanks very much!
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