Sunday, 19 July 2009

Casual Modelling and Human HDR

Before I say anything artsy at all, I feel as though I should apologize for not making the weekly posts I'd promised. I'd also like to apologize for the absence of every single other contributor, but I won't. They'll be back soon, I hope.


Glamour modelling isn't as hard as it's made out to be. For a lot of my teenage years, I was told I ought to be a model. And no, it wasn't just my mother, it was anyone: people in clothing stores, people in coffee shops (the most awkward conversation starter EVER)...I never followed up on that suggestion; as someone so perpetually self-conscious and not always confident in my appearance, I found it hard to accept that I could model clothing. I know I wear clothes well - modesty aside, I tend to be a well-dressed person (generally). As an artist, I know about color co-ordination and complementation, what clashes and what doesn't; not walking in a straight line tends to contribute to my fashion choices and consciousness anyway. It stands to reason I'd be willing, if not eager, to intern at a portrait studio of some sort.

I've always hated the typical female model figure. The pencil-thin body, artificial tan, professionally done hair, fake boobs, all that crap - hated it. That sort of image has become a false idol for young girls everywhere - they see some perceived reason to aspire to that kind of skin-deep view of themselves and their peers, and aspire to emulate every aspect of the typical mainstream female fashion model.

I'm of the opinion that anyone can look good if they put their mind to it. With the value our society places on appearance, it's important to at least try. And come on, you know we all do a bit of camera-whoring when we get bored.


"Human HDR" is in the title because I was always fascinated with the possibilities of HDR imaging, but never was able to make a human look good with higher-dynamic highlight processing. I decided to link the possibilities of human HDR imaging with the possibilities of casual modelling.

There's definitely some kind of message in the fact that two self-conscious people wind up with each other. There's a moral there. maybe it's the kind of problem that needs worked out together.

The raw camera file is below. I used full manual on my D60, 18-55 DX VR G ED basic lens.

There are several problems with this shot that become apparent. One of them was the wall of the house to the left, now cropped out. The other is the radio antenna going through her right arm. The sky's also pretty flat but that's alright when our subject is wearing such a busy outfit. I'm not a fan of flat, boring skies, but I can learn to deal. The last problem is those tan lines...kidding...

Photomatix Pro 3 allows the user to, instead of generating a full HDR with detail enhancing and tonal range compression, simply combine exposures of two or more images with S/H processing ranging from basic to intensive. I did a simple gamma pull on the raw file (after I removed the antenna with a brush tool - flat sky comes in handy for once!) and then combined them.

Technically, this is not "Human HDR" but it's close. Skin highlights are always interesting to deal with because the computer registers the skin as mainly reds and oranges - the same colors most often highlighted in direct-natural-light images. Notice the roof behind her - it got really vivid, which was a necessary sacrifice because those same settings brought out her natural skin glow so well.

Such circumstances make people look so pale. Can't have that. (In the raw file, she appears much paler than she is. The processed image is almost true-to-life!)

The final image is not only a great study in spontaneous modelling, but also great practice at achieving more realistic, higher-dynamic images.


Feel free to contact me through any link on the right side of this page. My images are my property and are licensed under Creative Commons licenses. I welcome your feedback/criticism/comments!


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