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Bokeh and portraits with foliage in the background
Old 09-22-2018   #1
aizan
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Bokeh and portraits with foliage in the background

Have you noticed how bokeh tests often have some portraits shot outdoors with foliage in the background?

Because I've been making a list of my favorite portrait photographers and portraits, and there is almost never any foliage in the background.

Do you know any great photographers who like to put their subjects in front of backlit foliage?
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Old 09-22-2018   #2
tunalegs
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How many of your favorite photographers shoot portraits outside?
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Old 09-22-2018   #3
airfrogusmc
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A lot of my favorite photographers take or have taken portraits outside.
Dorothea Lange
Walker Evans
Danny Lyon
Bruce Davidson
Richard Avedon
Sally Mann

Just to name a few. Not so sure about the bokeh thing though.
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Old 09-22-2018   #4
Steve M.
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I have to agree, lots of very, very good photos have been made of people outside.

I will not shoot portraits in anything BUT natural light, but an interior that is lit by a northern facing window (which is probably the only time this Southerner likes anything that comes from the North) is fine too.

What I find really annoying are portraits that are tack sharp and show every pimple and crease on a person's face. This is usually seen with digital shooters, and/or people who always use flash for portraits, something I never do because it creates an artificial look. Who walks around with a reflector held by their head and a flash going off? Unless it's photojournalism, this almost always shows that you have a rank amateur behind the camera. I like to make portraits w/o a tripod, talk to people, work rapidly, and shoot them in a natural environment that they feel comfortable in. Getting outdoors and away from four walls puts people at ease, and it shows in their shots.
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Old 09-22-2018   #5
helenhill
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could not resist...lol





A Portrait in Leaves
by Helen Hill, on Flickr
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Old 09-22-2018   #6
Huss
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve M. View Post
....Who walks around with a reflector held by their head and a flash going off? Unless it's photojournalism, this almost always shows that you have a rank amateur behind the camera...
I guess all those pro photogs who do it are rank amateurs?

Annie Liebovitz:
https://www.slrlounge.com/behind-the...g-and-process/

Pretty much any commercial portrait shoot done outdoors is done w controlled lighting.
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Old 09-22-2018   #7
retinax
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It's simply a stress test for oof highlights.
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Old 09-22-2018   #8
Skiff
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huss View Post
I guess all those pro photogs who do it are rank amateurs?

Annie Liebovitz:
https://www.slrlounge.com/behind-the...g-and-process/

Pretty much any commercial portrait shoot done outdoors is done w controlled lighting.
Correct. Professional photographers almost always control / form the light by using diffusers, reflectors and / or fill-in flash.
Modern fill-in flash technology is so excellent that you cannot distinguish the results anymore from a perfect, diffuse natural lighting situation (like the "northern diffuse light through a window in a portrait studio" example). With these light creating tools you can make a perfect light even in situations when you don't have the perfect natural light situations.
Photography means "writing with light". And that is what professionals are concentrating on, using and forming the light in the way they need to realise their vision and idea of the final image.

This "it must always be only natural light without any light forming" attitude is a fundamentalistic approach you almost exclusively find with amateurs.
Those with no knowledge about light-forming and advanced fill-in flash technology.
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Old 09-23-2018   #9
rscheffler
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aizan View Post
Have you noticed how bokeh tests often have some portraits shot outdoors with foliage in the background?

Because I've been making a list of my favorite portrait photographers and portraits, and there is almost never any foliage in the background.

Do you know any great photographers who like to put their subjects in front of backlit foliage?
By 'great photographers' I interpret you mean famous and/or highly regarded in the history of photography.

Off hand, I can't think of any.

Shooting (often wide open) backlit against foliage is something done quite a lot in contemporary wedding photography. While perhaps few, if any, of these photographers, including myself, would be deemed 'great' in respect to contribution to the history of and continuation of the art of photography, IMO it doesn't matter.

What matters is clients' reception of the photographs, usually of themselves. If they look good and appear in interpretations different from what they are used to seeing (from smartphone selfies), they'll be happy. Given the influence of social media on current perceptions, many have probably seen 'foliage bokeh' photography throughout various media streams, and have probably liked it.

Tying in the debate here about what is and isn't professional, IMO, fulfilling clients' wishes (while injecting one's own 'creativity') is ultimately the point of being a professional photographer. Whether strobe-lit or available light.

On this last point, it certainly is possible to do pleasing work with available light, but often photographers, especially professionals, are under multiple constraints, whether time, location, season, weather, etc., etc. Artificial light is a solution that returns a considerable degree of control to photographers working towards clients' wishes (of making them look good).
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Old 09-23-2018   #10
Ko.Fe.
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Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans are portrait photographers?
They took portraits, but it was photojournalism and documentary.
Jane Bown is the portraits photographer, she used not studio, but what was available.
Where is one portrait she took of Sting with leafs in the background.
But it is far from this Helios, new Perzval - face in the middle, swirly bokeh of leafs cliche.
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Old 09-23-2018   #11
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As far as bokeh tests with leaves in background yes I have noticed as well and I have also observed that the better photographers imo tend to use such backgrounds to demonstrate swirly character specifically. Makes a nice frame for a head and shoulder or what not.
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Old 09-23-2018   #12
Chriscrawfordphoto
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That's kind of a 'worst case scenario' for bokeh, so it makes a good test to stress the lens's limits. I have shot portraits in such circumstances many times.












All of these, except the very last, were shot with an ancient prewar Rolleiflex Automat with the uncoated 75mm f3.5 Tessar lens. The last portrait was made with a Mamiya 645 and the Mamiya 80mm f1.9N lens.
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Old 09-23-2018   #13
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As so often, Chris sums it up.

Cheers,

R.
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