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Old 02-05-2003, 10:27 PM   #1
Elizabeth Schott Elizabeth Schott is offline
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question Combining photo and life reference material




I understand all of those who will want to remain anonymous here, but I do need help.

I am in a situation where I am working on a portrait from life, but need to use reference for the background, because it was not in my studio. So I shot the model in front of the background then have to move him into my studio.

Well I have the hardest time with distortion while trying to size up objects. There must be a trick I am missing. I keep going back to Peggy
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Old 02-05-2003, 11:24 PM   #2
Chris Saper Chris Saper is offline
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Elizabeth,

You already have all the information you need with the source photo in his home. Decide on how large the head will be and how large your surface needs to be to accomodate the composition. Use a thumbnail sketch for this, same proportions as the finished piece. Enlarge the source photo to some reasonable size so you can see what's going on.

Then when you have the photo at hand, just measure the relative sizes of the items in the background, compared to whatever unit of measurement you choose in the source photo. It's the same thing you would do in open studio, just compare a new measurement to one that you know is correct. (For example, the height of the print on the wall is about the same as the distance between his chin to the edge of the hat's brim.) Match the angles in the interior; you'll need to use a straightedge, and you must follow perspective. Decide compositionally what you are going to do about the candle at the right hand side. Personally, I like it, but you may want to give yourself a couple of inches of wall to the right of it.

Most importantly, you have to replicate the light source in the resource photo, which shouldn't be too difficult. Set up your primary light to mimic the shadow and light pattern on his face, and you will also need a fill light for the cool secondary light which very strongly illuminates the fireplace. If I were you, I'd sketch the entire composition out before he comes to pose for you, and paint at least enough of the background to show value and color, so you can make good judgments about how to select colors for the skin tones.

Good luck! This looks like a fun painting.
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Old 02-06-2003, 10:39 AM   #3
Elizabeth Schott Elizabeth Schott is offline
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Thanks tons, Chris.

Since this is in the technique section I thought I would take it a step further since I am not asking for a critique of my reference.

But first the sizing issue.

When you Xerox up an image can it distort the image just enough to get it off to start a ball rolling? I find when I do my sketches from these enlargements this is what is happening. I purchased one of the clear rulers you have in your book which I think is a great tool, and the calipers mentioned to me by Sharon (bought at a hardware store, I doubt to be used by artist, more as a weapon). Both of these help me see where I am going wrong, maybe I should use them first. I just feel like I should keep practice my drawing skills instead. Agghhhh.

As for the lighting in this composition:

This was actually shot in my den. I have attached a jpeg to show how I set up the lighting. Bryan brought down a few of his golf trophies, but he is a pretty big kid, so they were small in comparison. Being the Nancy Lopez that I am, we put some of my crystal trophies in and I set up the barn doors to throw so highlights, but they just got lost, so we pulled those and went with my normal stuff. But I do have concerns about the highlights on his shadow side now.

The quick shot of him in the studio was by the north window on a dreary day; I just took that really quick, we hadn't set artificial to replace the lack of natural for this. But how do you handle those "reflective" highlights when you
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Old 02-06-2003, 08:48 PM   #4
Chris Saper Chris Saper is offline
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Beth,

Just set up the lights in your studio the same way you did in the photo. You have good light and shadow patterns. Use a daylight corrected bulb.

I don't know whether you will get distortion by using a Xerox machine; you would probably do better just to enlarge the source with Adobe Photoshop (or similar); you will probably just need to enlargte the face and possibly the glove, as you could work on the glove and the rest of the background when your model isn't there.

Two more things: be sure you are viewing your live model from the same height you took the photo. Additionally, I think you should place a fabric behind him in your studio that is similar in hue and value to the den wall. You will then be getting the same warm color against which to judge your paint choices.

Hope this helps. Good luck!
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Old 02-06-2003, 09:33 PM   #5
Marvin Mattelson Marvin Mattelson is offline
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Light's not right

Beth,

The way you have your lights set up gives you the effect of two, not one, light source. You have eliminated the shadow plane on the viewer's right side of his head. I don't like using a reflector to fill in the shadows because it creates a second light source since it's off to one side and not close enough to the camera position. A fill light should impart no evidence of its own existence. It's sole purpose is to adjust the contrast between light and shadow, plain and simple.
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Old 02-06-2003, 09:34 PM   #6
Mari DeRuntz Mari DeRuntz is offline
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Beth, look at the shadow cast by the vase on the mantle and the one cast by the picture on the paneling and you'll see what Marvin is talking about.
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Old 02-06-2003, 11:23 PM   #7
Elizabeth Schott Elizabeth Schott is offline
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Thank you all.

Chris I didn
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Old 02-07-2003, 01:56 PM   #8
Virgil Elliott Virgil Elliott is offline
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My usual procedure is to work on location, using a mannequin to stand in for the subject while I paint the background and clothing. I find it is worth the trouble. The camera will distort shapes, perspective, value contrasts and colors, and will miss things my eye will readily pick up. I'm able to work very quickly, which helps, but I usually need to return to the scene several times to make sure everything is right.

It's important that the light on the subject and the setting be consistent with one another.

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Old 02-07-2003, 05:40 PM   #9
Michele Rushworth Michele Rushworth is offline
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Virgil, where do you get your mannequins?
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Old 02-07-2003, 05:50 PM   #10
Michele Rushworth Michele Rushworth is offline
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Beth, here's a suggested lighting diagram.

Use the reflector directly behind the camera, and only if you need to reduce the contrast ratio between the light and shadow areas.
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