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Couple’s Portraiture: Shaylene & Sepand

I had an opportunity to spend a couple of hours one Saturday afternoon with a lovely young couple.  They wanted to have some couple’s portraits taken at Prince’s Island Park in Calgary.  The biggest challenge for this shoot was, of course, the weather.  We were doing this shoot in February and the temperature was around -5 degrees (Celsius).  That made for some cold fingers and rosy red cheeks.  The sky, however, was overcast and this made for some very nice soft lighting.  We wandered from the Peace Bridge, to the causeway, and ended up on the band stage in the park.


All images were shot using a Nikon D600 and a Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f.2.8GII ED.  All shots were hand held and employed only natural sunlight filtered through the overcast grey clouds of a wintery February afternoon.

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Faking it with a Speedlight

Sometimes you just come across a scene that has all of the right lighting elements to inspire a photograph.

Example of using a speedlight to imitate real lighting.

Example of using a speedlight to imitate real lighting.


One evening a couple of months ago I noticed my son playing video games in an otherwise darkened room.  I was in an experimental mood, so I just fired off a few quick images of him (mostly to test the low light capabilities of the camera).  The results were less impressive than I had hoped.

Nick playing video games no flash 1 of 4

While the TV or game console may seem to give off a lot of light, from a photography perspective, it is a poor light source.  The best image I could capture of the excitement going on in my family room amounted to 1/15s, f2.8, ISO6400.  Even if I could live with the motion blur around his eyes and the not so bad noise in the image, the colour of the room was dominated by the colour of the walls.  In other words, it was an un-inspiring image and nowhere near the dramatic lighting that I had first observed and wanted to capture.

Speedlight to the rescue:

Not content to move on to other subjects, I saw an opportunity to “build” the image.  I set up a Nikon SB-700 speedlight in a Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe soft box right beside the TV my subject was focussed on.  I then set my D600 on Manual exposure with an 85mm f1.8 lens at 1/200s, f/3.5 and ISO 100.  Without the flash this pretty much killed all of the ambient light, allowing me to then use the Nikon speedlight in TTL mode to imitate the lighting from the TV, but with an intensity that was more appropriate to photography.  The soft box allowed me to direct the light in the scene.  I feathered the light so as to not hit the gamer with the full brunt of the flash.  I wanted it to imitate the lighting off of the TV.

lighting-diagram-Nick gaming with softbox

Results better than Ambient lighting

On the whole, I think I succeeded in recovering the original lighting my eye had seen, but the camera needed some help with.  The fast shutter speed removes head and eye motion blur and captures the dramatic intensity of the moment.

Nick playing online

While natural light photography is a beautiful thing sometimes, at other times the lighting just sucks for photography.  It is in these moments that a bit of supplemental lighting can help out a lot.


A test drive of onOne’s Perfect Mask 5.2

I have never used photoshop (and never will for various reasons) but have always been envious of its abilities to mask and do composites. I recently acquired onOne’s Perfect Photo Suite 7 in the hopes of being able to do the masks without spending all of my time at the computer to get the results that I want.

While there are several different modules within Perfect Photo Suite 7, this article is going to focus on my first impressions of Perfect Mask 5.2.

While my overall experience with the previous product offering, Perfect Suite 6 was generally a positive one, I never could get Perfect Mask 4 to work for me.  It crashed often and was very difficult to get the results equivalent to those  the online tutorials implied as possible.  With the introduction of the latest version of Perfect Mask 5.2, I thought I would give the product another try.  In a nutshell, I am very impressed.

Here is the result of my second experiment with the product. I managed to smooth the skin (using Perfect Portrait 2), mask the lovely lady and place her onto a different background in under 15 minutes total (could probably be faster once I get more familiar with the product and workflow). The whole process was simple and intuitive (unlike the various PS directions I read in places that sound like a NASA pre-flight check list) I guess I have found the right product for me since I get bored spending too much time editing. What really impressed me was how easily it preserved the little wispy hairs behind her neck and the subtle area around the lace on her negligé.

The product impresses me very much.  It is more stable to use than its earlier version and the tools are much more intuitive in how they have been implemented.

I can see myself using this product a lot more in the future.  Well done, onOne.  I think you have a winner here.

Example results of using Perfect Mask 5.2


Oh, and by way of disclosure, I am an affiliate marketer of onOne products, but will only endorse products in my blog that I have used and trust.


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