on-location portraits – when simplicity counts

on-location portraits – when simplicity counts  (model: Anelisa)

This is one of those images – a portrait which is simplicity itself – and yet there is something about it, with Anelisa‘s riveting gaze and her pose, the muted complimentary colors – and the photograph just falls together somehow in a way that makes it one of my favorite photos that I’ve shot in a while. Even the lighting is simplicity itself – an off-camera flash in a softbox. But this didn’t need anything more complex than that.

Perhaps it is the juxtaposition of the rough texture of the wall, and the soft look of her skin that gives this image some of its impact. I’m not one for (over) analyzing photographs to figure out why they work – I much more prefer that the photograph’s impact comes from an “I just like this” level. I took several compositions, but preferred this off-center horizontal version.

It was taken during a recent on-location lighting workshop, the first one held at my photography studio in NJ. The technique is the same as described in this article – add off-camera flash for that extra bit of drama – (w/ Olena) – where the off-camera flash gives some of the punch to the image with soft directional light.

camera settings:  1/250 @ f/5.6 @ 200 ISO … TTL flash


photo gear (and equivalents) used during this photo session



I changed up my usual post-processing for this image. After the initial skin-retouching I normally do, I ran the usual Photoshop plug-ins as a self-made action. This runs Shine-Off and Portraiture on different levels at reduced opacity, as described in the retouching for portraitsI combined these levels, and the layers were merged to become the new Background level.

Then I ran a RadLab action with a home-made recipe on a copy of that that new Background level. Then, something entirely new for me, I ran Portraiture with the Enhance Tones preset on another copy of that Background layer. I really liked the result, especially when the opacity was pulled down (as shown in the screen capture).

You can download some of my RadLab recipes to try out and modify.


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9 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 1Zack says

    Great work ! Interesting image.
    I had few sessions with softbox and all I can say – it is actually a lot easier than photographing in available light only.

    I was always curious, how to separate the subject from the background, if the lighting on them is the same, for example, on a cloudy weather when everything is dull and you have no light modifiers ?

  2. 3 says

    Gorgeous photos! I love the simplicity and mood of the shots. The contrast of textures is striking. Have to say I am partial to the second version – just my personal preference. Keep sharing. I always learn a great deal from your posts (and books).
    Thank you.

  3. 5 says

    Her skin tones next to the textured weathered wall makes a perfect contrast. Love the pictures. I have enjoyed your lessons on Craftsy.

  4. 7 says

    Lovely images! I’d like to upgrade my radio transmitters from my Pocket wizards (Plus 2-manual only capable) to something that can handle both TTL and high speed sync. Thinking of radio poppers. I use Nikon D800 and SB 800 outdoors. Do you have a recommendation? Or are you setting up flash through the Nikon CLS?

    Thanks for your articles and books!

  5. 8 says

    We use the RadioPoppers in the workshops because it allows me to change the transmitters between Canon and Nikon, depending on how many people attend.

    Personally, I use the PocketWizard TT5 units.

    Nikon has a real gap at the moment, compared to the built-in radio capability of the Canon 600EX speedlites.

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