Evolution of a Self-Portrait

photoshop, RAW, artistic, self-portrait

A blog post I read recently by Autumn Lockwood (here) reminded me of an attempt at a self-portrait a few months ago. I had recently picked up a Nikkor 35mm f1.8 for my D5000. I’d played with for a while and set it aside. On a gloomy day, I was looking for something to shoot. It was rotten outside but it did make for a nice soft light inside.

The image below is the RAW output (converted to jpg) from the camera, 1/50s, ISO 400, F4. The camera had been set up on a desk and put on a timer with the autofocus set for the center of the frame. Since I knew where it was focusing, I just made sure I could see my eye in the center of the lens.

self-portrait, critique,

Camera output of a gloomy day self portrait

I’m really rather reticent in putting my image online. There is a reason why I’m the guy with the camera, I’m not a big fan of my own image most of the time. But if your holding the camera, its less likely your image will be the one captured. And now that I look at the image, I’m not exactly all that photogenic to begin with.

But there is a reason why its posted.  I liked how the eyes were captured. But it just didn’t come out very well. Photoshop, more specifically the RAW plug in, allowed me to non-destructively manipulate the image. The non-destructive nature was important. After 17 jpeg versions I finally landed on one that I was fairly satisfied with, below. The image was achieved by increasing the contrast (100), exposure (+0.45) and brightness (+144), but they are not blown out. Vibrance (+51) and saturation (+21) brought the eyes out. The orange and blue on the cropped sides were from gradient filters, but the face had no spot treatment.

photoshop, RAW, artistic, self-portrait

Camera Output of a gloomy day self portrait, RAW edited

The colors in the eye are all natural, albeit exaggerated with increased vibrance. Wiping out the skin tone and leaving only the most contrasted parts of the image, nose, eye brow ridge, and eye brows, adds emphasis to the eyes.

But still, the asymmetric nature of the face bugs me. Can’t bitch too much because its my face, but the right eye seems more awake than the left. What would it look like isolated? The window of natural light are clearly seen in the reflection, but only really dominates the top part of the eye and is somewhat lost in the eyelid. The bottom part is clear and shows the iris quite clearly.

photoshop, RAW, artistic, self-portrait

Camera Output of a gloomy day self portrait, RAW edited

It is a bit softer than the first two images, but that is more likely from post work than anything else. This bottom image was converted from the RAW file in LR4.4 instead of a previously generated image using the RAW editor in CS5. The cropped eye is certainly a much stronger image than the whole face. In the whole face image, the nose, cropping, and asymmetry really draws the eye from the best parts of the shot.

Summary:  A gloomy day self-portrait was changed into a more artistic shot. But the most revealing feature, the eye, was isolated for the most impact.

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About CameraChemist

Biochemist by training and photography enthusiast by nature. Posts are based on my own work to avoid copyright issues. But frequently the inspiration for the post is something I've recently read. In those cases, I link to the original article if I can.

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