Portrature Practice Round Two, First Results
NOTE: Images with an icon next to them have been artificially shrunk to better fit your screen; click the icon to restore them, in place, to their regular size.

photo and processing by Stéphane Barbery

As I've mentioned recently, I'm trying to get more skillful with formal portraiture, and to that end yesterday I had another practice session with fellow Kyoto resident Stéphane Barbery.

友達一緒のポートレート撮影練習、第二回目。前回と比べて、今回道具は兆レーバルアっプしましたけれども、能力はまだまだです。 上は友達撮ってもらった今回の僕です。

We had a ton of new lighting equipment but very little experience on how to use it, so our main goal was to just try all kinds of lighting setups to see what worked and what didn't work. I'll write more on that later.

We also tried to see what worked on the human level... there's so much more behind a good result than technical skill... you have to have/create a certain connection between the one shooting and the one being shot. We've known each other for years, but it's a very different thing to put a camera in between, so in one sense we were starting from scratch.

But there's clear progress from the first time we did this, back in June. To revisit that shoot, here's the lead photo from “Trying a Little Formal Portraiture, Round 1: Stéphane Barbery Shoots Me”:

From Round One 前回の僕、三ヶ月前 photo and processing by Stéphane Barbery  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Stéphane Barbery, http://www.flickr.com/photos/barbery
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/800 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400 — image data
From Round One
photo and processing by Stéphane Barbery

Maybe it helps that this time I have a shave and a shirt with a collar (a ¥790 collared version of the Uniqlo Dry T), but I think it also represents progress in lighting, in Stéphane's skill behind the camera, and in my comfort in front of it. Maybe my max cliché photo shoot helped in that regard.

I'm happy to be able to show one of the shots I took:

Stéphane Barbery
photo by me, processed by Stéphane

As of this morning, the computer that I do all my photo stuff on is currently in the shop for repairs so I don't have access to the photos, which is one reason I'm posting Stéphane's copies. Another reason is to continue progress in learning to let go of my self-image hangups by showing someone else's photographic post-processing, especially someone else who artistic sense sometimes differs from mine.

Along those lines, here's a shot he took of me that we have different feelings on:

photo and processing by Stéphane Barbery


Something about it is downright creepy to me, as if the caption should be “Your children were absolutely delicious!”, but it's one of a small group he picked as the best of the whole day, so I dunno. What do you think?

I think these shots from yesterday were taken with the unparalleled Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5; I'll add data under the photos once I get my laptop back and can check the details.

To be continued...

All 7 comments so far, oldest first...

You should learn to fix the dental problem with the one tooth setting back away from the front. My son has been shooting portraits for many years and teeth are one thing that always needs fixing when you are doing portraits. Or so I was told.

I talked to an orthodontic surgeon about fixing my teeth, but it’s too late now and would be major surgery for purely vanity reasons, so I gave up on it. Maybe I should just always present the other side to the camera. —Jeffrey

— comment by Abraham Lincoln on September 18th, 2012 at 8:26pm JST (4 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

“… orthopedic surgeon about fixing my teeth …” — Jeffrey.

By chance did you mean “orthodontic surgeon” (or “orthodontist”)?

Hah, yes, thanks, fixed.

Too thin of a depth of focus is more of a distraction to me than the processing in last two images.

And in the first one your (Jeffrey’s) ear is sticking out (no offense intended) due to being sharper than the any part of the collar underneath. Was the camera (severely) tilted downward to cause that?

I don’t think it’s all that sharp… maybe just a well-defined ear vs. a cloth collar? I’ll have to check the camera data when I get my laptop back. —Jeffrey

— comment by parv on September 19th, 2012 at 1:16am JST (4 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Probably Abraham Lincoln was meaning “fix the dental problem by post-processing”…

I know, but these were post-processed by someone else. If it were me, I’d not fix that…. I’d just not choose photos that show it. —Jeffrey

— comment by Gianluca on September 19th, 2012 at 5:04am JST (4 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Part of portraiture is to light the subject in a way that flatters them (typically, that will most please the buyer, who in my case is usually the sitter). So if you were my client and you expressed a desire to minimize the tooth, I’d put the light on the other side.

The reason it stands out here is that the recessed tooth is in shadow. If the light were on that side, this wouldn’t happen.

Yup… just have to remember to keep it all in mind at the same time… we’ll see whether I next time is better. —Jeffrey

— comment by Mark Sirota (Philadelphia, USA) on September 19th, 2012 at 7:45am JST (4 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

The last image has some weird focus. By focussing the outer part of your eye-brows and having your left eye slightly out of focus you get some psycopath look (in addition to the dental problem, which could be relieved by lighting from the other side).

The first image is pretty cool, you just need a white shirt and an untied bow-tie. And an Aston-Martin in the background.

Thanks for posting these images! I did learn something 🙂

— comment by Nils Pickert on September 19th, 2012 at 7:55am JST (4 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

You may want to check out these two video from B&H with Joey Quintero:


They’re really good in showing how to get quick results using flash/strobe. He uses a light meter a lot, so if you don’t have one it’s hard to “follow along”, but the theory is certainly helpful.

— comment by David Magda on September 19th, 2012 at 9:04am JST (4 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

I guess the challenge is finding that line (that is comfortable for you) between documentary/realism and aesthetics. For that ‘creepy’ photo of you, in my opinion it comes down to that little tooth problem and also the whole shot looks a little bleached. For that shot, you HAVE to Photoshop the smile, otherwise it looks like either you were trying to be funny or the photographer wants to show you in a bad light. As evidence, I submit FROM ROUND ONE where the smile is not so toothy and the whole photo makes you look handsome and humble.

Different cultures judge teeth differently. Even though you’ve been in Japan for decades, I can imagine that you still have American leanings when it comes to making judgements about smiles. But I almost have to wonder if your friend is pulling your leg about his positive attitude toward that 2nd photo of you. (On a side note, I bet you’ve seen in the Japanese news all the fuss about some young women there going to the dentist to get there canine teeth capped to stick out like double snaggle teeth… because that makes them kawaii).

My hats off to you and your friend for having the guts to candidly shoot yourselves in a honest fashion. I can’t encourage you enough to keep pursuing this ‘study’ because you will start to distill what YOU find appealing, and that is as valid as any art in any gallery.

— comment by Ron Evans on September 20th, 2012 at 3:00am JST (4 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink
Leave a comment...

All comments are invisible to others until Jeffrey approves them.

Please mention what part of the world you're writing from, if you don't mind. It's always interesting to see where people are visiting from.

You can use basic HTML; be sure to close tags properly.

Subscribe without commenting