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
Detail Contrast 4.0
White Point .250%
Black Point: .200%
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!