Category Archives: Portraits

Depth of Field – In Depth

Depth of Field – In Depth

Everything you wanted to know about Depth of Field and some things you didn’t but you will be glad you did

So you may think you understand Depth of Field (DOF) but do you? Let’s try to confirm what you do know and maybe show you a couple things you didn’t.

What is Depth of Field?

Let’s start with a definition: Depth of field is the total distance that is in “acceptable focus” from our actual point of focus. Let’s clarify that definition further because we artistic minded hate reading definitions.

When you focus on an object, you have a “point of focus” that is the only part that is 100% sharp and in focus, then you have a “field of acceptable focus” in front of and behind that point. That area is the total Depth of Field Continue reading »

The HDR Portrait – Done My Way

The HDR Portrait

OK, so last week I had a challenge and I did an HDR Portrait, but it was a composite, marraging a HDR background with a standard image shot with OCF (Off Camera Flash). It was fun, it came out right but it wasn’t what I saw in my mind. How it should be done. One Take, 3 exposures done in real time.

I had to shoot some stuff for a magazine article on Saturday night with my beautiful model Noelle. We finished the shoot and she was tired, cold and hungry but I saw an opportunity for something and asked if she would do one more shot. She sighed and pouted. I said you don’t even need to smile, just stand there. She said OK one more.

I quickly set up the tripod and did 3 quick series of three shots. The first exposure (0) was shot with Noelle lit by an off camera flash, the other two were shot with just the natural light of the scene and I asked her to stand as still as possible since the  exposure times would be quite long

I shot at ISO 400, f/11 and Shutter speeds of 5 seconds(with a flash burst on her which stopped her motion), 1.3 seconds and 20 seconds. I had no idea if this would work.

These are my 3 images, The first image was about how dark it was at the time. It was 5:52 well past the 5:15 sunset.

 The OCF Shot

The 20 Second exposure which she did really well holding still

 I knew the biggest problem I would have would be ghosting from the merge of the OCF shot and the 20 Second shot. The first image was no problem since she didn’t even show up in it.

I knew I needed the best de-ghosting in the business so I turned to Photomatix Pro 4.1 and it’s selective De-Ghosting tool. I made a selection around Noele and then used the 0 exposure to de-ghost. It worked really well with just a little orange halo around her head which I worked on in PP.

I merged the 3 image s and then used the following settings in Photomatix Pro 4.1

Tone-Mapping: Detail Enhancer

Strength: 50
Saturation: 56
Detail Contrast 4.0
White Point .250%
Black Point: .200%
Gamma: 1.20

With the image the best it could be I brought the image into Photoshop. The biggest job there was first cloning all the Bird Poop off the area she was standing,  It glowed. After that I did an over all levels adjustment and some dodging and burning on her face and dress. A little work with the saturation brush to remove the orange halo around her head. And a little dodging of the white water.

I still wasn’t satisfied with her look, as much as the increased saturation from the HDR process improves landscapes, it is damaging to complexions. So I once again turned to the B & W contrast layer placed below the top layer and I reduced the opacity of the top color layer to about 65% I then created a mask around her so that the rest of the image’s color remained at full saturation.

The last process was to run the entire image through some noise reduction. This time I chose Neat Image because it does a good job of retaining detail in skin areas while reducing noise

And this was the final image
















If I had it to do over again. I wouldn’t have done it when Noelle was already warn out by a full shoot. I would have shot earlier so I wouldn’t have needed ISO 400 and I think I would have made the OCF shot the -2EV exposure. Since the flash exposure is the same regardless of shutter speed. I actually could have got that shot and had her run off because she wouldn’t have been captured by the low ambient light. I think it would have made for just a bit more detail in her and no problem at all with ghosting.

Overall, I’m really happy with it. It was a beautiful evening and a great night to shoot. I would have liked it if Noelle was a little more energetic but I understand why, but in a way I actually like her melancholy with the shot itself. She really did a great job the whole day and I can’t thank her enough for all the work she did.

Let me know what you think. I did it.  HDR + OCF = OMG!


Compositing the HDR Portrait – Topaz ReMask 3

Compositing the HDR portrait – Topaz Remask 3 

I was challenged to do this by a few people, last week a Long Island Photography group asked if it was possible (most said no). Then this week, a friend sent me a link to Joel Grimes and his commercial work blending HDR and sports photography and kind of challenged me to see what it would look like if I did it. (Never challenge me) 

I’ve had this idea for almost a year now but I had a different vision for it, which I still will try next weekend when I have a model for a different reason but if we have spare time I will try my other method. But inspired by the above I thought I would give an HDR Portrait a whirl using compositing of two images using Topaz Remask 3 to make the selection masking process as easy and precise as possible. 

First let’s take a look at out two images. 

Our background: this was an image I shot in San Diego’s Balboa Park a little over a year ago. It is a 3 exposure HDR, finished in Photomatix Pro.






















 The Model Image was shot two months prior when I was shooting images for my book, How to Take Great Photos. It is a standard photograph shot using OCF


Topaz Adjust 5

The first thing I did was take my background image and it needed more of an HDR look to it…yes I actually wanted to grunge it up a bit. I could have started from scratch and reprocessed the image in Photomatix, this time with a heavier hand. But I knew that wasn’t really necessary as I had a tool that would do it with much less work: Topaz Adjust 5 

I opened the image in Photoshop, duplicated the background and then used my plug-in for Topaz Adjust 5. I went to the HDR Presets and selected HDR Heavy Pop Grunge. This provided just the look I was after


 With my background image as I wanted it, it was time to move to my Model Portrait of lovely Noelle and to start the masking process for a smooth and precise selection

 Topaz Remask 3

Opening the image in Topaz Remask 3, It was a simple task of painting red what I wanted to remove, painting green what I wanted to keep and using the Blue Compute brush to paint a line around the subject to compute what stayed and what went


After about 15 minutes to really get things right, slowly refining the mask till it was perfect. I had the mask I needed for the selection


Bringing it back into Photoshop, here is the selected image of our model Noelle.


After a few adjustments it was time to drag our model onto ourBalboaParkbackground. Using the move tool, I simply dragged the selection onto our background image. At this point I needed to mirror flip her so that she was facing the right direction to fit into our scene. I did that with Edit>Transform> Flip horizontal. Then, again using the move tool, positioned her where I wanted in the frame.























At this point she really wasn’t blending well into the scene so I thought she needed a little HDR look to her too. I duplicated the layer and again I returned to Topaz Adjust 5 but this time I went a little lighter handed and used one of the Vibrant Collection presets: Detail – Strong. 

Now she had the detail I wanted to match the background but she still didn’t blend with the tone of the image as much as I would have liked. So I used a trick I showed you a year ago when I did the shoot at the harbor. I duplicated the model layer again and this time opened Topaz BW effects and selected the Platinum preset. 






















I then turned the color layer above back on and changed the opacity of the color level to about 65%. Now she seemed to blend in pretty well, but I still wanted her to look more natural because going too far can highlight things that are not flattering to a woman. 

After a few tweaks here and there with position, and a little use of the blur tool around some of the edges and a little dodging and burning. I had the look I wanted for the image


The last step was to take a soft brush and some dark gray set to a medium opacity and on a new layer add some shadows behind her feet to make her blend in better


























 At this point I though it best if the image was cropped but I couldn’t decide which way I should crop it to 8  x 10 proportions, so I did both.
























You tell me. 

I hope you enjoyed that. It actually was a lot of fun and challenging to do. I haven’t been a fan of compositing, preferring to do all my work in camera. But I am happy with the results and of course I really can’t resist a challenge from anyone.


Hope that helps,