Monday, May 2, 2011

Towards a Perfect Portrait

I had come along to a meeting about a new hospice. Being known to the organisers of this event, I tried to make a couple of grab shots during the meeting but was told "later!". When the meeting ended and I had no photograph, I was asked why I had not taken a photograph and that I should have discussed the matter with them previously. This misunderstanding was partly my responsibility yet someone I did not know was the main speaker and she was obviously in charge and is someone who cares about her image, making sure she is projected in the best light, as I suspected and later came to know. It is never easy to photograph such situations where one wants to record what is going on and avoid the obviously setup photograph.

The original JPEG, sent to me via email
So later on, I was asked to take a photograph which showed the main speakers at the event, posing for the camera; I was able to do this with relative ease though being told to take off the cap from my flash (it was in fact a Stofen diffuser filter) was a reminder that the subjects and speakers at the meeting wanted it their way! The photograph was made using a JPEG, something I rarely use preferring the RAW format, and the image went straight onto a memory card belonging to one of the speakers.

Later on, the image was mailed to me (see above) so that I could prepare it for the website; in the meantime, it was posted on the internet by someone else who manipulated it a little by cutting off the top and sharpening it slightly as well as downsizing it ...

image posted on the internet
I decided to work on it myself to make it a bit more palatable; it was at this point, that one of those pictured mentioned that she'd like the bags removed from under her eyes! I decided to oblige and worked to soften the faces of all the women in the photograph as well as improve the look of the founder, seen in a photograph in the background.

Almost the final cut - faces softened, Levels applied etc

I wonder if this final photo is any better? Certainly a little clearer. The woman with the red face (it is like that in real life) looks a little less red but more scarlet than a more natural beetroot while the other two women have lost their lines and their faces look more cosmetically appealing. Probably the image could be worked on more! here is another attempt which changes little but magenta has been reduced while minus clarity has softened the image overall.

This image was accepted by the webmaster yet probably only because I sent it to one of the women in the picture who wanted her bags removed and who requested for this image to be used.

In the meantime, I have bought a booklet on portrait retouching! Its' an incredibly complex craft and one wonders how much one really wants to do. Striving to make someone look perfect can make them look unreal.


  1. I think you are so patient Amano. Hope you find a 'model' who will let you experiment without your fear of upsetting him/her.

  2. Thanks for your comment!
    I think there is a "fear of photography" which can b felt by the subject, the one being photographed; sometimes this is projected onto the photographer.