High Contrast Natural Light Portraits: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace


In this episode I’m going to show you how to create a high contrast grungy portrait, with nothing but natural lights! Hi everybody, welcome back to another episode of Exploring Photography right here on AdoramaTV, brought to you by Adorama. It’s the camera store that has everything for photographers like you and me. Well in today’s episode, I have a very special friend his name is Polo. Come on out here Polo. This is Polo ,Arnaiz and he is from Madrid – Spain. Which is where we are right now, and I met him, because he is a world traveler like me, and has been all over the place. You can follow him @conPoloacuestas. Did I say it right? Yeah. Okay good, and so what we need to do is Polo is going to be doing some new trips and some public speaking and events, and he needs some really grungy high contrast images for all of those events. And one of polos signature items, is his hair, and his luscious beard. So everybody knows him around the world, because of this crazy beard, and so I really want to make sure that stands out in these images, and so Polo if you go over to your space. He’s got.. your space, over there, in your cage. So what we have here is a really simple lighting setup. Now you’ve seen me do this before, but there’s a little bit of a twist. We are on Polos back patio, and there’s this really nice soft shade, that is really bringing us into nice shade, and we have open shade, meaning that we are right up against a lot of light coming in this way. 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. 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, nothing wrong with that, and we’ll crank that up, and that’s gonna make everything on his beard to be really, really pronounced. Now I want to make this really focused on his eyes, and his beard, and so to do that, I am shooting with my trusty 50 mm lens wide open at f/1.4. 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, specifically this background. This window back here, it’s not our favorite 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. So there you have it soft open shade specular highlights! Awesome beard, cool background, f/1.4, 50 mm lens. Let’s start shooting, and I’ll see what we get. Always give yourself options, I’ll shoot some horizontal, and some vertical shots, so that way, depending on who is promoting Polo and his rides, they have some options as well. Okay Polo, we have our images, but what needs to do next is to throw those images into Lightroom, make ’em really grungy. So let’s do that next. Now that we’re in Lightroom, let me show you exactly my approach to editing each of these images. Now these are the images that came right out of the camera. I’m gonna go through here, and check these one by one, to pick my winners, and once I’ve done that I want to make sure everything is edited in a consistent way. Now I’ve already decided that I’m going to do two versions, a color version, and a black-and-white version. Now to save time I have done some of the work in advance. So let’s start with a color version, because everything is based on this image, and this develop process. So if I zip over into the develop module. The first thing I want to do is, I want to do some color toning, and change the clarity and the blacks, the mid-tones, the highlights, etcetera. To get that really high contrast look. Now I’ve already done this. I’ve done my homework, so I’ve got this snapshot called baseline Polo. So if I click that, you can see that I’ve toned this, so it’s a really cool tone. I did that by changing the color temperature. 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 farther. So to do that I’m going to right click on this image, and I’m going to say edit in Photoshop CC 2018. Now I’m doing that because I want to add some layers, some filters, and most notably I want to work with the Nik software collection, to really add punch to this image. Now that we’re in Photoshop we can start adding some magic. So the first thing I’m going to do is copy this background, so I can have a non-destructive image. I’m going to go into my filters, and use 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, I’ve already done my homework. So I’ve done some things to make this go very quickly in the video, and so I have created a custom camera. Now this custom camera I have named ‘Polo Grunge’. So what I’ll do here is, I’m going to go down and choose ‘Polo Grunge’. Let me show you really quickly the settings that I have applied to this image. So I did some basic adjustments, some detail extraction at 56%. I changed the brightness, I changed the contrast, and then again I took the saturation down just a little bit. I added 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. The other thing I did is, I changed the grain. So it’s at 254, and I made this over to the hard side, to give it that really grungy look. So if we zoom in to 100%, you can see I’ve added this artificial grain, and that’s really making Polo’s eyes, really nice and punchy. So I’m going to click OK to bring this back into Photoshop. But there’s one more thing that we need to do, and I think you’ve already guessed it. If you’ve been watching any of my post-production videos, and that is to 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. So now our image has loaded into Photoshop from analog effects Pro 2, and then what I’m going to do here, is create another copy of this layer. I’ll rename that to HPF for high-pass filter. I’m going to 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. Once that’s done, you need to take this and change the layer to an overlay layer. So that’s the blending mode you’ll use, now check this out. Once we’ve done all of that, if i zoom in to Polo’s eyes at 100%, you can actually see the reflections of the buildings on the other side of the street, and that’s me taking the picture! So let’s step back in time, this is our image straight out of Lightroom. 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. So if I go back here, and sorry about that, but go back here, and look at this, and a normal view is exactly what we want. So let me save that, and then we’ll do the black and white version. Now that we’re back in Lightroom, we can do a quick comparison. So this is our image that I toned in Lightroom, and then this is what it looks like after we did our analog effects wizardry. So that looks really grungy and cool, but I think we can do even better. So what I’ve done is I’ve taken this original image here. This original color image, and I’ve created a black and white version of it in Lightroom. So what I’ve done over here is I created black and white by clicking black and white, and then I played just a little bit with the highlights, shadows, whites and blacks and with the clarity to give it a little bit more pop, and contrast. We’re going to take that, and of course we’re gonna go edit this in Photoshop. Let’s do that really quick, and we’ll do the same thing that we did before. We’ll go in, we’ll take a copy of our background layer. I’m gonna go into filters, into the Nik collection. But this time, we’re going to be using silver effects Pro 2. Because this is a black and white image, and silver effects Pro 2 is specifically for black and white images, and again I did all of my homework in advance, and I have created a custom preset for Polo, and it is called ‘Polo Gritty’, and so this is way over the top, but I loved it. So what I’ve done here is I’ve made some global adjustments, 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. Sorry Polo and then that’s pretty much all I’m doing here. 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 and that’s it! So I’m gonna click OK jump back into Photoshop, and then we’re gonna add one last touch, and the last touch is as you guess… we’re gonna copy this, we’re gonna rename it to a High Pass filter HPF, and we’re gonna do my favorite other High Pass Filter. Here it is, and again, we’re gonna really go over the top with this. This is at 2 pixels, you can play with this on your own images to see exactly what works best. We need to change the blending mode to overlay, and wow this is crazy. So let’s go in here, at 100% zoom in to Polo’s eyes, and we’ll go back in time, and see exactly what this looks like. This is the black-and-white image, straight out of Lightroom. This is what we did in Silver Effects Pro, and that’s what the high pass filter it’s over sharpened, but that’s ok! That’s what we want for this really grungy image. Now that we’re done editing this image. We’re gonna do the same thing for all the other images, and then I’ll show you the results. Thank you so much for helping me out. Thank you for joining us, make sure you follow Polo on his website. We have all the links in the description of this video. So you can see his travels around the world and has cool custom motorcycles and all that really awesome stuff, to make his beard so Awesome.. so make sure you check that out. Thanks again for joining us, don’t forget to turn on the bell! So you get notified when there’s new videos, and of course subscribe to AdoramaTV. It’s absolutely free. Thanks again and I will see you next time.

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