J

The following is an example of the basic idea of the recipe that I gave in the parent page. The model is “J”. The location is Colorado; the time frame is May 30th at about 3pm. The sun is fairly high in the sky.

With J facing almost into the sun, this is the result:

J facing into the sun

J facing into the sun

It’s pretty clear that this is not the best setting for a portrait. There are harsh shadows everywhere. J is forced to narrow her eyes. Even her lashes are casting strong shadows across her eyes and obscuring our view of them. This was taken at ISO 100, f/10, 1/250s with a D700.

We can turn J around and have her face away from the sun, but as you see from this screen shot from Lightroom 4, if we get her face more or less properly exposed, the sky behind her is totally blown out:

J away from sun

J away from sun

In addition to be a very amateurish shot, the wind that day was from the southwest and such that, as you see, putting J in the open with her back to the wind and the sun yielded a very poor result. This was taken at ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/250s. At that aperture, there is just too much light in the sky.

As you can see from this studio shot taken just before we went outside, none of these images are doing J justice:

J in the studio

J in the studio

So, what can we do. Well, we apply the recipe. First, we get her out of the direct sun (and wind) and set in enough exposure compensation that we are not blowing out the highlights:

Beginning the recipe

Beginning the recipe

This last image was shot at ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/1250s in aperture priority with -1 2/3 stops of exposure compensation. Now, we add the flash. In this instance, I found that only +1 stop of flash compensation was sufficient to get the desired effect:

J with flash

J with flash

This is a screen shot from within Photoshop CS6 after RAW conversion in Capture NX2, some sharpening applied to J’s eyes, and skin retouching with Imagenomic’s Portraiture. This was taken in aperture priority with -1 2/3 EV of exposure compensation and +1 EV of flash compensation at ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/800s. The lens was a 28-105mm set at 90mm. The flash was a single SB800 off-camera and to camera right, as may be apparent from the location of the catch lights in J’s eyes and the direction of the shadows. At this shutter speed, Auto FP mode is functional but there is not much lost power. The green color of J’s eyes balances very well with the soft greens of the background, IMHO. I’d say that this image is about 63,000,000 times better than any of the other shots without flash.

Some portrait artists would go further than what I’m showing here and relocate the catch lights a little further up in J’s eyes, clean up some of the wind-blown hair strands, and so on. I’m not going to run through those steps here, since this little exercise is about the Zone System and flash, and not about retouching. So, I’m calling this one done at this point.

Since this is about the Zone System, here’s a B&W conversion of this last image, done using TrueGrain emulating Ilford FP4 with a Wratten 21 orange filter and 35mm film grain. I kind of like it:

J after TrueGrain

J after TrueGrain

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