This picture of my daughter was a casual portrait as she leant on our bed one morning. I can’t remember what it was that she wanted but I was so taken by the naturalness of the pose that I grabbed my camera and captured it.
The soft light was from the windows on the other side of the room with some reflection from the light bedspread she was leaning on. You can see the catch-light from the window in her eyes.
It is one of my favourite pictures of her as a little girl and it would have been almost impossible to duplicate the expression in a studio lit shot.
This is a picture and the commentary that goes with it from a page in my new e-book Introduction to Natural Light Photographic Portraiture Indoors and Out to be published on 5 February. Go to https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/785760 to see details.
Not long ago I was looking at one of the portrait pictures I had made when shooting on film in a Mamiya C33 camera many years ago and rued the fact that I had not opened up the aperture enough to reduce the depth of field and so blur the background. The result was that the background was just too sharp and so tended to take the eye away from the sitter. To my mind, it destroyed what was a good image of the model.
In film days, that meant that the transparency was all but useless; today, we have Photoshop. So I scanned the transparency and began my experiments with what I thought was the most likely way to achieve the result I was after — to tone down the background by blurring it but to leave the model sharp.
I opened the scanned file and made a duplicate layer. From the Filters drop down menu I selected Blur>Gaussian Blur and played with the slider until I had the background as I wanted it. Of course, this adjustment did not only apply to the background but it blurred the whole image. I then made a Layer Mask (if the Layers dialogue box is not already open, select ‘Layers’ from the Windows drop-down menu at the top of the screen, then click on the grey square with a white circle in it at the bottom of the Layers dialogue box) and inverted it by clicking on it and then clicking Control ‘I’ so that it wiped out the adjustment I had just made and the unadjusted image re-appeared. I made sure that the white square was on top at the bottom of the Tools menu and selected the Brush Tool, adjusted the size to suit and began brushing over the background so that the blurred adjustment began to show through. I had the brush set to 25% so that I could maintain a fine control over the brushing. This approach did work but, having used Photoshop since version 1, I knew that there were always several methods to achieve a result so I began searching through my photographic library and soon found some answers.
More ways of improving your portrait pictures can be found in my e-book in formats for tablet readers and your computer.
How to Improve Your Digital Photography. An e-book based on my topic e-books including Introduction to Filters for Digital Photography, Black and White Photography in the Digital Age, Optimize Your Portraits, How to do Well in Competitions, Into the Light, How to Show Movement in Still Photography, Starting Macro Photography, Starting Nature Photography. It is aimed at beginners to intermediate photographers to help them improve their photography. The individual topic e-books would cost $23-92 while this compilation is $15-99.