Thursday, August 15, 2013

Perimeter Scanning Your Frame

We all know that old adage about the devil being in the details. It's something that applies (in big ways) in photography. I'm sometimes asked to critique other photographers' images, usually less experienced photographers, and when I do I often finding myself having something to say about an unsightly detail or two in the images. Those details almost always subtract points from the photo's overall score. (Not that I provide a numerical score, but you get what I'm saying.)

If you're a red-blooded straight guy shooting pretty female models, it can be easy to miss details because, since you're one of those guys, you're eye is automatically and continually drawn to certain areas of your frames where the model resides.

I'm as guilty of that as anyone. You know, me being a red-blooded straight guy and all. But let's say you're a red-blooded guy of another sort and you're shooting pretty male models. Same problem I'm guessing. In fact, the same problem probably occurs if you're a red-blooded female photographer with an alternate life-style and you're shooting  pretty female models. It's all about the laws of attraction and how those laws govern or attract where our eyes tend to be drawn.

But none of that means you can't overcome the effects of drawn-eye. Drawn-eye, in my opinion, can be a big problem when it comes to overlooking details in your photo while shooting pretty models.

So here's a tip to help you reduce the possible negative effects of drawn-eye. It's something I forced taught myself to do quite a few years ago and it took a while, requiring conscious effort, until it became nearly automatic for me to do this. (Please note what I'm about tell you doesn't guarantee you'll miss unwanted details you should have spotted, but I believe it will definitely reduce their occurrence.)

Instead of continuing to allow my natural tendency to miss some details as a result of drawn-eye, I began consciously making myself first look to the upper-left corner of the frame and then move my eye around, counter-clockwise, the perimeter of the frame. It probably doesn't matter if you move your eye counter-clockwise or clock-wise although since we read left-to-right, it seems to me that moving your eye right-to-left helps you to better notice things that shouldn't be in the frame or that need some adjustment. (Proofreaders often read copy right-to-left in order to better spot errors and typos.)

After I've done my counter-clockwise perimeter scan, I move my eye to the top of my model's head and then scan around the perimeter of her body, face, form, whatever parts of my model that are revealed in my frame. I also perform this eye-scan in a counter-clockwise way. While this might seem like a lot of eyeball scanning, I should note that I do it very quickly, like in a second or two. I should also note that, when I'm shooting a set of images where the model remains in the same spot, I only have to perform the perimeter-of-the-frame scan a few times in order to be fairly confident there isn't something there that shouldn't be there or that needs my attention. Leastwise, assuming nothing changes in those outer areas of the frame while I'm shooting.

It took a while for this scanning stuff to become automatic for me but it finally did. After a while, I barely noticed I was performing the frame scans. Give it a try. You'll be surprised how quickly and easily you get used to scanning the frame this way in your viewfinder. I can't say this has meant I never miss things in my viewfinder I should have spotted, but I'll bet the times I miss those details has been reduced by quite a bit.

The pretty girl at the top is Jennifer. Snapped it with a Canon 85mm f/1.8 prime on my 5D. ISO 100, f/7 at 125th sec. Here's the lighting setup which I just happen to have a photo of.  I was shooting in an auto impound garage. As you can see, it's a pretty basic and simple 3-light setup with a reflector added for a bit of fill.  Photoflex Medium Octo for my main plus two shoot-thru umbrellas for kickers. You can click either photo for larger views.


Mike Roberts said...

I am curious about the positioning of the reflector. It seems to be bouncing Light back from the hair light rather than the Key. What led to that decision?

jimmyd said...

@Mike: You're exactly right. Whatever light is bouncing from the main is heading off in the wrong direction in terms of providing a bit of fill on Jennifer, whereas light from the source in the rear is bouncing straight back towards that source and, more importantly, onto the model. You can see the kicker in the rear is set higher than the other and it's angled down to allow some of its light to pass over the model, hit the reflector, and bounce back onto Jennifer. I wasn't looking for a lot of fill. I still wanted that shadow on her torso (created by the other kicker) to provide a bit of chiaroscuro, but I didn't want the shadow to be too pronounced and deep. The reflector provided some very subtle fill, mitigating the dark shadow just a bit so it's still there, but not overly there if that makes sense.

Fred Gallup said...

Awesome post and thanks for the behind the scene shot, always cool to see the set ups. I try and seem to be getting better, the more I practice at eliminating all those funnies that 'appear' when you look at the photos afterwards, and see all kinds of junk that just wasn't seen, when clicking the shutter.