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Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

In this episode with Mark Wallace and AdoramaTV we will show  how to create a high contrast grungy  portrait, with nothing but natural light.  

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

With help of his awesome model – famous traveler Polo,  the couple has a really simple lighting setup.

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

 

There’s this really nice soft shade, coming through a tent roof right above them. And there is also an  open shade, with a lot of  light coming from the street size.

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

Mark continues – “Now what that  is going to do for us is, that it is  going to give Polo some amazing specular  highlights in his eyes. If we look at  this from a different vantage point, you  can see that the light is shining over  the patio and reflecting off of the  buildings on the other side of the  street.

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

You can also see that these  buildings reflect different amounts of  light, and that they are different shapes  and sizes, and so what that’s going to do  for us is — that when we crank up the  contrast in Lightroom, and do our  post-production, that’s going to make his  eyes very sparkly, and because he’s  wearing a black jacket, he’s got this  really dark beard with just a touch of  grey,  and we’ll  crank that up, and that’s gonna make  everything on his beard  to be really, really pronounced.

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

Mark gets really focused on his  eyes, and his beard, while shooting with my 50 mm  prime lens and wide open aperture at f/1.4. According to Mr. Wallace: “…now that’s gonna  do two things for us,  Number 1. Again, it’s going to make sure  that the focus is on Polo”s eyes.  They’re going to be crystal clear, and  everything else is going to sort of fall  out of focus.”

It is interesting to note that the background –  a simple balcony glass door is not really a ‘cool’ background, but because  it’s out of focus, and because it’s also  reflecting all the light, and the images  of the buildings across the street, it’s  going to turn out to be pretty nice.

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

Let’s  start shooting!  Always give yourself options, shoot  some horizontal, and some vertical shots to present a variety for your client.

After a shoot is over, let’s switch over to Lightroom. Mark has  already decided that he will do two versions, a color version, and a  black-and-white version.

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

For color version, first let’s work on  some color toning, and change the clarity  and the blacks, the mid-tones, the  highlights, to get that really  high contrast look.

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

We are driving for  a really cool tone, which is achieved by changing the color temperature. 

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

Mark continues: “I’ve also changed my highlight shadows,  and whites etc, to create the contrast  that I want, and then I also cranked up  the clarity to + 20, that is a pretty  significant jump for a portrait, and then  last but not least it took my saturation  down to – 17, and we can look in  here and see that this is pretty punchy  as is, but we need to, we need to take it  one step further.” And that is to finish editing in Photoshop – to add  some layers, some filters, and most notably utilize Mark’s favorite Nik  software collection, to really add punch  to this image.

Steps in Photshop:

  1. copy the original photo to preserve a  non-destructive image. Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -
  2. In filters, Mark uses the Nik software  collection. “Of course it’s one of my  favorites, and I’m going to use analog  effects Pro 2. Now once again” For this example Mark has created a  custom  camera, named ‘Polo Grunge’, which has following settings applied. Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -
  3. Play with Basic adjustments, add some detail extraction  at 56%. Mark changed the brightness, contrast, the saturationBecome Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -
  4. Good idea to add a very mild lens vignette,  “and most importantly I changed the film  type to subtle, and then chose this first  image in the second series here, so that  gives it that toning. It’s really what I  want.” Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -
  5. Change the grain. Mark cranked it up to 254, and  made this  over to the hard side, to give it that  really grungy look. So if we zoom in to  100%, you can see  this  artificial grain, and that’s really  making Polo’s eyes, really nice and  punchy.Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -
  6. Add a high-pass filter. That’s just gonna  over sharpen this image and give Polo’s  beard his eyes and his hair that  extra-special sharp look. To do it, create another copy  of the layer. Go to ‘ filter’ -> ‘other’ -> ‘High Pass’. “Now I want to do  this a pretty, pretty, strong filter. So  I’m going to take this up to 2 pixels.  That is way more than you would ever use  on a standard portrait, but we’re going  for grunge. We’re going for really high contrast.” Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace - Change the layer to an overlay layer.Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

With these settings you can really get very pronounced catch light reflections in model’s eyes.

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

To compare again,  this is our image straight out of Lightroom.

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

This is our analog effects Pro  that grunge, and the grain, and this is  the high pass filter, giving that even  more of a grungy look. Looks pretty cool!

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

Let’s do even better!

 

Now we are going to create  black and  white version of the image  by clicking ‘black and white’ setting in Lightroom, and  then adjusting the  highlights, shadows, whites and blacks  and working with the  ‘clarity’ to give it a little bit  more pop, and contrast.

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

We’re going to finish editing it in Photoshop. Editing steps in Photoshop would be the same as for previous image. But this time, we’re going to  be using ‘silver effects Pro 2’ in Mark’s favorite Nik collection (since it is made for that).

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

Our global  adjustments include taking the mid-tones up just  a little bit, Bumping up the contrast,  really bumping up the structure, that’s giving us all of this really, really fine,  control over the hair, and his beard,  making it look a little bit whiter than  it actually is. 

Mark continues: “The other thing that  I have done, it’s probably the most  important is, I’ve changed the film types  I’m using an Agfa APX 400, that’s adding  some of this grain to make it look more  like a 1970’s photo, that was shot on film”.  The last touch is to add a High Pass filter.  That is it!

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

Let’s do a final comparison – our   black-and-white image, straight out of  Lightroom:

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

Our image in Silver  Effects Pro, with high  pass filter (so it’s over sharpened) , but  that’s ok!

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

Now that is a really grungy image!

Become Better Photographer: How To Shoot High Contrast Natural Light Portraits with Mark Wallace -

WANT TO LEARN PHOTOGRAPHY?

Check out our WORKSHOPS in Los Angeles that teach you hands-on how to make great photos!

One of our closest workshops – Studio Lighting 102 : Portrait Photography Lighting

 will take place on November 29th, 7-9pm, in one of our Los Angeles studios !!!

 

Watch the full episode with David Bergman and Adorama TV:

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