Photography

A Simple Portrait - Beauty & The Beast of a Background by Christian Webb

The Mrs. -  Christian Webb Photo

I received a few inquiries regarding the above portrait of my wife.  A few had questions regarding the lighting, the retouch and the background.  A few just wanted to know how the hell I got so lucky having her as my wife!  That's a whole separate post!  But I can discuss the portrait.  

While I'd like to make this seem like some incredibly artistic, grand portrait of master photography that involved a $3,000 hand painted backdrop, a medium format camera and a fancy light......in reality, this is nothing more than a 5 min natural light photo of her sitting in front of an ugly old painted piece of foamcore I keep around.    In reality,  the subject here is everything and fortunately....she photographs so well.  I had little to do with it. 

Here's the SOOC shot with that nasty background. Nikon D800. Nikon 50mm 1.8,  f/2.8, 1/50, ISO 800.  

I sometimes shoot videos in my home studio and use that same piece of foamcore for my background.  I originally purchased a couple of them and spray painted them black to be used as vflats of sorts.  Over time, they got broken up and ugly.  I keep only the one laying around and will use here and there for random whatever.   Mostly to absorb or block light.   

My wife was preparing to leave for work. I saw her in her soft cashmere sweater, her beautiful belly, full and round at 31 weeks so I asked her to sit for a minute.  She was waiting on her UBER so literally, I only had a few minutes.  We haven't shot any real pregnancy pics as of yet and may not even bother.  As far along as she is though we wanted to be sure to highlight it, even if just a little and more casual.   

Oh that's ugly yeah? Works fine for when I'm sitting in front of it to shoot a quick video.  But for a beautiful portrait...it's the last ting you'd think of yeah? 

Oh that's ugly yeah? Works fine for when I'm sitting in front of it to shoot a quick video.  But for a beautiful portrait...it's the last ting you'd think of yeah? 

There are a few large windows and a large set of glass doors on the other side of the room that I use for the natural light.   She sat,  I got my exposure, posed her and took a total of 10 shots before she had to leave.  

Once I had her there, I immediately saw the vision of what I wanted and knew of course that I'd need to do some work in post to deal with that mess behind her.   

A bit of clean up in PS, some color adjustments and some final work in Exposure 7 and I was done.  If I were more skilled in my post work, I may have been able to come up with some even better looks. 

So the point of this post?  I just wanted to show that anyone, in a limited space, with limited gear and even the most random background can create truly beautiful portraits so long as the fundamentals of good portraiture photography are what lead your work.  Would I love a custom Oliphant backdrop? Heck yeah!  Do I really need one to get a decent portrait?  Not at all. No lights, 1 light, 4 lights or 10...hand painted muslin, seamless or a crappy piece of foamcore....doesn't matter.  

A portrait is all about the subject, the person.  If you focus on photography fundamentals, understanding light and know how to pose people,  you can pretty much shoot wherever with whatever in little time, with no prep or planning at all.   Get in the habit of finding random, spontaneous moments to see what you can come up with and learn fundamentals of light/exposure.   In addition,  master the basics of your post processing including how and when to utilize the right tools when you need them to create your final image as you see it.  

Here's one of my selfies while I prepped the set up for my video.  My wife of course makes a far better subject! 

Black turtlenecks are cool!  Someone said I look like I'm modeling a watch! lol.  Well, on that note then - Shout out to G-SHOCK! 

Hope this inspires some to use whatever they have to work with and not feel restricted by the lack of certain things. 

Photography: Competition & Success. by Christian Webb

Christian Webb-Headshots-Actors-Cinema-Blues-MAIN-2.jpg

Someone asked me recently about my thoughts on competition to which I replied  “What competition!?”  Let me explain:

I don’t see competition.  I'm in my own zone.  I simply do what I do and do it the best I can.   I strive to shoot the absolute best headshot my client can get and use for their career purposes.  That has nothing to do with being better than other photographers,  it’s just me….telling myself, committing myself to being the very best at my chosen profession and then,  working at it to make it sure I deliver.   If anything,  I'm in competition with myself and my personal visions/goals.   It all goes back to what I always tell people when they ask about how to market or get clients:  

"GET REALLY F'IN' GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO! DO DOPE SHIT & THE CLIENTS WILL COME TO YOU!" 

I shoot how I do, provide a service.... and if people like it and keep booking me…that’s all I see.  There’s room for everyone to do what they do.   Some will succeed a little, some a lot.  Some won’t at all.  None of that affects what I do.  I just keep shooting, keep on my game and stay booked.  One of the components to our own success, is putting out the right energy and wishing success for others.   Anyone feeling that I’m competition for them or feeling a certain way about my success because it’s infringing on theirs…..isn’t competition,  they’re usually just people who haven’t put in the same effort I have and are having a hard time finding their own success.   So to those folks I say…”I wish you all the success you can imagine.”   

You’ll notice that the truly successful are usually madd cool with each other while the less successful….will often just…be on the sidelines, throwing shade or being bothered.  Think of it like this:  If a band and artist has risen to a level and is to the point of selling a ton of albums and/or selling out arenas, all they need to do is keep up it up as long as they can.   If a band isn’t selling records or selling out arenas in different cities,  it’s not because of the other bands out there, it’s because…well…..they’re just not that good.   So in closing I say to you….don’t worry about the next person doing what they do.  If you want success….get better at what YOU'RE doing and focus only on that.  If you find yourself still not successful……work harder and show more love! It'll eventually all come back to you!  

In the words of Jay-Z:

"Respect the game, that should be it.  What you eat don't make me sh-t!" 

How do you see it? If you found this interesting, feel free to LIKE/COMMENT and even SHARE. (just try not to steal or rip off my words then pass as your own.)   

UPDATE: So just to update and add to this post, it's truly amazing that some of the so-called "competition" or shall I say, "wannabe competition" trying to compete with me comes from Atlanta - A city that I don't even shoot full time in!  Atlanta is my 2nd city and I'm only there shooting every few months or so during a year.  Yet, there's always a clown or two wanting to compete with/for my business. LMAO.  That's got to be the most comical thing considering I should be of little threat to anyone who resides there and does full-time business.  The few times I'm in town,  I'm fully booked, I shoot and leave.  If the 20-30+ clients I shoot each trip are taking away from some other person's business, well then, that photographer has issues that go beyond me being in town.   For real though, that's not even me trying to be nasty, it's more a statement about the attitudes of people finding it necessary to compete.  JUST DO. Shut your mouth and shoot!  If you're THAT good, Christian Webb coming to town every now and then to shoot his clients won't have any effect on your business!  Not to mention,  when it comes to headshots/photography in general,  there are different styles, looks and price ranges.  The people paying me for my level of work are a totally different class of people than the the people looking for bargain basement specials.   I'm not going to get those clients paying my prices and a photographer shooting semi-professional, cheaper quality work isn't going to get my clients.  It's just balance and reality.   People, photographers.......try and live and get along.

Uploading sharp images for Facebook by Christian Webb

After a unsharp mask and resize for Facebook action. 

After a unsharp mask and resize for Facebook action. 

SOOC

SOOC

I've gotten a lot of questions lately about my images being so sharp even when uploaded to Facebook.  I promised to post a blog on the subject and as long as it's taken to get this post up, you'd think I had some super secret,  complex technique that would take ten pages to write about.   Well, that's not really the case.  I've just been tied up lately and just a bit lazy with my blogging.  So,  here we go,  the big reveal to how I get my headshots so clean and sharp:

An unsharp mask followed by resize to 2048 width.  Voila!  Done! 

The end.  

Okay so,  that's really it.  I even have an action for it now so, at the end of my retouch, the very last thing I do is click FACEBOOK RESIZE AND SHARPEN and it's done. ( pretty sure you can Google search and find a bunch of options available.)    Here's a screen shot of the action:

I took screen shots of an image sooc in LR (the second shot.) Then, took that screen shot and applied the action in PS. (the first shot.) You can hopefully see the difference. 

Now, I think it would be irresponsible and kind of silly to suggest that this one step will make all of my images sharp and clean.   It obviously starts with a having a well focused, sharp image to begin with.   And this is where the work comes in. 

QUICK NOTE REGARDING SHARPNESS:

The following is written with the assumption you're shooting headshots/portraits of some type.  There are PLENTY of types of images where the sharpness thing isn't too big of a concern depending on the content of the image and it's intended use.  For headshot/portrait, most of what I'm referring to though is the sharpness when it comes to the eyes.  Even then,  it's a subjective thing. If shooting at low apertures like 1.4, 2.8 or 3.2 as I do...you're not always going to get completely sharp faces and in fact, both  eyes may not be sharp. They don't need to be usually.  However, it's important to remember that the eye closest to the camera should definitely be sharp and in focus.  If the rest of the face and features are soft....that's fine and a matter of taste, choice...artistic vision. 

That said....let's move on:  

I shoot with a Nikon D800 which is a 36mp BEAST of a machine.   My lens of choice is the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8VRII which is a BEAST of a lens!  The two together give you one hell of a starting point to some serious images....IF...you know how to handle them. I see a lot of photographers uploading images to FB where the clarity/sharpness is just poor and not tack sharp at all.  And it's not because of the upload to FB.  What's worse is, some of these guys are shooting with PhaseOne cameras,  Hasselblad, Nikon D800/810 and Canon 5DMkIII!  It's crazy!  That's a whole other convo.   I don't want to make this a long post about shooting technique and all sorts of technical stuff.  I just want to say that it's imperative to learn to get really good, clean sharp images from the get go. Especially if you're shooting portraits of people up close.    It's something that takes a lot of practice especially when using these high megapixel cameras these days as they're not so forgiving when it comes to mistakes.   Whatever method of focus you have, make sure you master it!  (there are TONS of blogs and articles out there on all of the numerous methods of AF.)  I personally shoot hand held in manual mode.  (for headshots on location. In studio, shooting a portrait or beauty I'm on a tripod and higher apertures so...clarity is a given.) That sounds crazy to some but that's just my preference and I love the feeling of knowing that I have 100% control over my focus. If I mess up, it's on me and my eyes, not my AF system.   I also shoot at shutter speeds anywhere from 200 to 1250+ depending and of course use VR so, the hand held thing isn't so much a factor.  When I upload my session to LR and start going though images,  I have some images that aren't sharp. Oh well, it happens.  Sometimes it pisses me off as that particular shot may be so damn good save for the fact that the focus is soft.  For the most part,  I nail most of my shots though and it's not so much an issue.  I do adjust clarity and contrast some in LR before exporting to PS but still,  I make sure to have a clean, clear, sharp image prior to even doing so.  

In addition to my focus techniques,  my lighting of course makes a difference.  Getting my key light positioned correctly in both height and distance from my subjects is obviously a major factor prior to even shooting.  

So that's it.  I know I didn't get into a bunch of stuff regarding how Facebook resizes and handles images upon upload.  I believe there are tons of articles on that out there  I just wanted to share exactly what I do and give some insight and guidance on getting sharp images to begin with.   The unsharp mask and resize definitely contribute to my final image upload and how sharp it is.  I recommend experimenting a bit with unsharp mask and definitely resizing to the 2048 size for upload to FB.  I have heard other sizes as being optimal such as 1200x628 but that's a matter of preference I guess.  Pretty sure 2048 gives you the fullest size.  In the end,  nothing beats having a clean, sharp well focused image to begin with!  Hope some of this has been helpful.  If it has, feel free to Comment, Like and Share.  If you have other methods and suggestions,  feel free to share in comments.  

~ Christian 

The Crazy Eye Lights- Catch Lights Gone Wild! by Christian Webb

Christian Webb Photo

Christian Webb Photo

Just a quick post regarding catch lights in headshots.  I've seen some headshots where the catch lights become the most dominant thing in the photo.  Using multiple lights, a variety of shapes and different sizes to get all sorts of funky things going on in the eyes. I'm pretty partial to natural looking or classic catchlights whether round or square.  However,  I know that there are some lighting set ups that have become pretty regular where a rectangular lighting set up in one way or the other produces that same rectangular or square catch light in the eyes.  Cool.  I think it's gotten to be a pretty specific, contemporary look and for the most part, it looks great when done right.  But what happens when it goes overboard?  I'll tell you what happens: You end up drawing way too much attention to the eyes for all the wrong reasons and the catch lights take on a creepy effect making your subjects look like androids.  First and foremost,  any use of lighting and the arrangement of such lighting needs to be specifically for ONE thing - To effectively light your subject according to the goal in mind.  Specifically, I'm  referring to headshots more than anything.  With a headshot, you light and photograph with the intent of capturing your subject and conveying their look and character in a shot.  Trying to purposefully design "cool" catch lights with a superfluous amount of lighting or elaborate placement of those lights serves as nothing more than a distraction.  I guess if you're shooting an artistic portrait of some kind then anything goes yeah?  But for a headshot, try and let the catch lights just be as they are without obvious manipulation of the process.