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Critique Two: Portraits

I always want­ed to be the art­sy pho­tog­ra­ph­er that shoots sole­ly in black and white, but I love col­or a bit too much. After all, every­thing around us is col­ored, in one way or another.

For today, I want to look at three col­or por­traits I made of some of the kind­est and strongest women I know. Anna, and Car­ol, are shot using Kodak Por­tra 160 col­or neg­a­tive Film, where­as Mag­gie is tak­en with a Fuji Velvia 50 pos­i­tive film.

I always heard that Kodak Por­tra film is won­der­ful for shoot­ing peo­ple because of the way it ren­ders skin. After see­ing the result­ing pic­tures, I com­plete­ly agree. No won­der Dan Win­ters uses it so fre­quent­ly in his work. The film seems to bal­ance the warmth of the skin with the cold light of the envi­ron­ment very well.

Velvia, on the hand, seems to be drip­ping with col­ors. In the past, it was famous­ly used by land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers; the way the greens and the reds come out in the pic­ture are sim­ply brilliant.

I used to think that dig­i­tal cam­eras have a lot greater dynam­ic range than a scanned neg­a­tive. I was pleas­ant­ly sur­prised to dis­cov­er how much lat­i­tude in dynam­ic range these scanned neg­a­tives offered; for exam­ple, the orig­i­nal slide for Mag­gie’s por­trait was very dark an con­trasty, yet I was able to recov­er an insane amount of detail from the shadows.


On a more tech­ni­cal lev­el, I like that the image is a lit­tle desat­u­rat­ed, high­light­ing only the greens and the skin col­ors. Com­po­si­tion­al­ly, the hat on the bot­tom right of the frame is both­er­ing me a lot. It needs to be removed. I also wish that Anna was just a bit more cen­tered in the pho­to­graph. I also real­ly like the gran­u­lar­i­ty that one can see in the image when zoomed in, and also the dust that was cap­tured dur­ing the scan. It adds the right kind of atmosphere.

Car­ol: It’s the com­ple­men­tary col­ors that make this pho­to­graph inter­est­ing. I also like how Car­ol is stand­ing, hands on her hip, look­ing out at the Great Lake. Her hair, as always, looks great, and the shirt tied arrowed her waist com­pletes the pic­ture. Every­thing about the pic­ture reminds me of summer.

The boat next to Car­ol’s right arm is dri­ving me nuts. The high­lights are also blown out in some of the clouds, and I dis­like how the image is a lit­tle brigher on the right half. I also wish that the water was a more con­stant blue, espe­cial­ly near the bot­tom half of the frame. I also just real­ized that the image is flipped! The shirt reads back­wards. I pre­fer it this way.

Mag­gie: I real­ly love this pic­ture, but then again, I must be biased because I love Mag­gie so much. I think her expres­sion in the pho­to­graph is very hon­est; the pen­sive­ness and intel­li­gence is true to her per­son­al­i­ty. I think that the col­ors ren­dered beau­ti­ful­ly; the blue of the sky bring out the warmth in the rest of the scene. I can almost feel the sun­shine warm­ing up Mag­gie’s cheeks. I also love how the light is cap­tured inside the tor­toise-rim of the eye-glasses.

That said, I don’t real­ly like the con­trast. The major prob­lems I can see in the pic­ture are the blown high­lights on her sweater, and the obvi­ous lack of sharp­ness. This image also seems to have been exposed for the high­lights; the orig­i­nal pos­i­tive shows bare­ly any detail in the shad­ow region.  I also feel like her skin (before it was edit­ed) had a bit too much red to it.

Mag­gie’s image was shot with a Fuji Velvia 50, which is known to be a lot less for­giv­ing when it comes to expos­ing the film. Although I real­ly like how the Velvia ren­dered col­ors, they look a lit­tle too good to be true. I per­son­al­ly don’t care about accu­ra­cy in images (unless I am shoot­ing for prod­uct pho­tog­ra­phy etc…), so I like the sat­u­ra­tion that Velvia brings. That said, it might ren­der col­ors a lit­tle *too* sat­u­rat­ed for most photographs.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image media=“73319” media_width_percent=“100”][vc_column_text]In com­par­i­son, Por­tra seems a lot more sub­dued in how it ren­ders col­or, and it also seems a bit sharp­er. Appar­ent­ly, Kodak relaunched the Por­tra films with scan­ning in mind, so the­o­ret­i­cal­ly, It should scan bet­ter. Com­pared to the Velvia, it is a lot sharp­er when you zoom in. That said, the Velvia does look very sharp in the orig­i­nal slide.

I have been try­ing to nar­row in on why there is a cer­tain soft­ness to the images. At first, I thought it was the film; but  I inspect­ed the slide with Mag­gie’s por­trait with a mag­ni­fy­ing glass and and dis­cov­ered that it was rather sharp. Unless the scan­ner is enlarg­ing a lev­el of detail that my two weak eyes peer­ing through a mag­ni­fy­ing glass can’t see, I would say that the sharp­ness is being lost dur­ing the scan. I would love to try a drum scan of one of these images and com­pare them to my scans to see how much a dif­fer­ence scan­ning could make.

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