Not Your Everyday Banana

by Bart Arondson

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I am a pretty novice photographer, and I just shot some pictures of my 9mo baby girl outside next to our garden. This was my first shoot outside that I want to really make the pictures special.

The pictures turned out pretty good, but I've never done post-processing on an outdoor shot. What are some typical workflows for post-processing an outdoor portrait picture, specifically when the subject is an infant?

Here is a low res version of the shot:

Outdoor infant photo

It was shot w/ 35mm lens on a nikon D7000. I haven't cropped, color corrected, or anything like that.

I have the RAW picture on my harddrive and PS CS 5.0.

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Its not post processing, but next time try a longer lens and move the subject further from the background. Get something more like this. –  rfusca Jun 28 '12 at 14:57
    
Thank you for the tip! I'll try that when I get home :) I have a 55-200mm that I'll crank out to 150 ish and see how it looks. Thanks for the example too! –  joe_coolish Jun 28 '12 at 19:05
    
moving the subject further from the background is important too. –  rfusca Jun 28 '12 at 21:53
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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

During session

For shooting outdoors, your going to have a lot more variables to consider when shooting the photo itself. Get it right in the camera. Review the histogram anytime the lighting changes. While exposing on the dark side is better than light, this is something that could have been improved when taking the picture and can come back to bit you during post. A glance at the histogram would have flown some red flags here.

When working outdoors, you will also have a lot going on with your environment that you don't have to deal with in a studio. If you are running a decent amount of MP (15+), step back and get a little more breathing room around the subject. This will give you options for cropping once you get to post. Often you will find something in the image that you didn't realize was either included or cut-off and it's always safer to include more in the photograph than less.

Post Production

First thing is white balance. If you don't have an 18% grey card, find a neutral color to white balance against. The best solution is to shoot raw so you can do this in post. Next would be exposure. Properly expose the subject first, don't worry about the background. Next you can drop into items like saturation, contrast, curves, highlights, shadows, etc. Get one where you like it, and move on to the next. They will impact each other so you might be going back.

For infants, many photographers drop saturation and clarity slightly, but this depends on your preference. You have a busy background, so you may want to consider some blur on the background since the bokeh didn't come out strong. As @ElendilTheTall suggested, a vignette would bring out the subject more.

Almost every post production artists does some work with the eyes. You'll wan't to get some color out of them and brighten a bit. A brush with saturation, exposure, clarity, and contrast can go a long ways. Lightroom comes with one that is a starting point, but doesn't drive it home quite out of the box. The white of the eyes needs to be cleaned up as well.

The last step you should do is sharpen. Even though you may want a soft dreamy look, a good unsharp mask can really help.

If this image is in RAW, I feel it is salvageable. The only concern is the darkness of the eyes. Even a carefully used on-camera flash can make a difference in the eyes.

Regardless, the client will probably love it. Their biggest concern is a capture of the expressions and cuteness in a good picture. Great quality post is secondary to them. Not giving you an out, just trying to ease some stress.

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Thank you for your comment! That was definitely what I was looking for. The picture was in RAW, so I'll work on that. The client is my wife, and she's happy with pictures take from her phone. I'll probably re-shoot it and see if I can get some better DOF. Plus I can always use the practice! –  joe_coolish Jun 28 '12 at 19:03
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Whether the photo is taken outdoors or indoors doesn't really make much difference to the post-processing. The main difference you may encounter is white balance, but that is easily corrected in ACR. So really you are just doing the same things as always - exposure, contrast, sharpening, denoising, and cropping.

In this case I would definitely boost the exposure somewhat, as it's a bit dark. The flowers and lawn aren't adding much so I'd crop them out and add a slight vignette, then do an overall sharpen in ACR and a more selective sharpen (just the eyes) in Ps before export.

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Thanks for the comment. I started my normal workflow and it seemed to make the background really distracting. I should have shot at a lower f-stop, but trying to focus on a wiggling baby is hard enough as it is. I'll try again and focus more on working with the white balance first. –  joe_coolish Jun 28 '12 at 14:13
    
well, cropping the bg out will help make it less distracting, as will a vignette. I would have definitely shot with a wider aperture, and used AF-C to help with focusing. –  ElendilTheTall Jun 28 '12 at 17:53
    
I think I'm going to go reshoot it. Maybe take a longer lens and shoot from further away. I usually shoot on AF-A, and rarely take it off (because it's quite a process on the D7000). I'll try and set it to AF-C and see if I get better focusing. Thanks for the help –  joe_coolish Jun 28 '12 at 18:55
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