Post-processing a colour portrait

This is a quick walkthrough of my method to post-process a portrait taken with my fuji x-pro2 and 90mm lens. The method works essentially with any camera/lens combination. I use lightroom only.

The portrait I am using is from my collection of portraits from Thaialnd (see here). Here is the original imported raw file:


As you can see, I have not cropped or straightened the photo, the exposure is pretty good too. I used aperture mode with a minimum shutter speed of 1/125s (that I need to change to 1/250s with the 90mm lens to avoid blur). I also use auto-iso set from 200 to 12800 which is the whole range.

The first thing I do in the Develop module is to scroll right down to camera calibration and choose a profile. I hear a lot about classic chrome but personally, I use Camera Pro Neg Hi a lot more. I like the contrast and the muted colours.



The thing I like about the recent fuji cameras is the ability to change film simulation in Lightroom. You can do this with all cameras in lightroom but the choice will depend on the make of the camera. The list with fuji is impressive and interesting in the different outputs you get. With a Leica M10, you just get one choice : “Leica M10” and with the M240, just the “embedded” option. A bit poor in my view.

The next step in too do a few global ajustments :
Shadows +3
Highlights +12
Clarity +5 (I prefer this to ajusting the sharpness because fuji files don’t sharpen well in lightroom)

As the Pro Neg Hi gives a desaturated colour to the skintones, I go to the HSL tab, click on the button circled in red below and then click and drag upwards on a part of the face where the colours are too muted. This saturates the colours a little while keeping a natural look to the photo.

Here is what I get :

Each step is subtle but it all adds up…
Time for some local ajustment on the face. I always brighten up the face a tad and I rarely touch anything else. After all, in a portrait that is what I want you to see. With the local Ajustemnt Brush, I paint over the face and increase the exposure, clarity and saturation. This is to taste and I can change my ajustments quite a lot from one photo to another. Lately I have taken to drawing a T shape across the eyes and down through the nose and mouth instead of covering the whole face.


I then add a bit of a post-crop vignette (-17 here) et voilà!!







The 35mm in street photography Part 2

The 35mm point of view is very good at capturing people in their environment. In this case I was quite close to the newspaper kiosk but still managed to get some of the magasines. This photo was taken in Madrid.

Fuji X100T @ 1/125s + f/2.5 + ISO 1000

Light and shadow always make an interesting feature. The lady was holding her smiley bag and waiting for someone/something. I took a first photo and as she noticed me and looked at me, I went up to her and explained what I was doing. I told her I wanted to capture the light and showed her the photo on the back of my camera. She said it was nice so I asked her if I could take another shot with her looking at the camera. She accepted and this is the second shot. The photo was taken in London.

Fuji X100T @ 1/4000s + f/4 + ISO 200

This is a picture of a metro station in Paris. I am the other side of the tracks from the bench. The station was empty and I took the time to kneel down and frame through the viewfinder. Sometimes when I’m in a hurry or when some people are looking at me, I have a tendancy to shoot from the hip looking down at the screen. Good framing is paramount and I remind myself to use the viewfinder as much as possible!

Fuji X100T @ 1/30s + f/2.8 + ISO 1250

This is a scene from my home town, taken quite close up. In some situations I use the Fujifilm iphone app to connect to the camera. In this case I was holding my camera in my hand, loosely down at my waist while framing and shooting through the app… ninja style!

Taking the sun
Fuji X100T @ 1/210s + f/4 + iso 200

This is another photo taken in London. The man was oblivious to my presence so I took the time to kneel down and frame carefully. I think that shots taken at the right height are often so much better.

Fuji X100T @ 1/240s + f/2.8 + ISO 200

This was a quick spontaneous shot taken while walking along a street in Canary Wharf (London). The alignment of office workers at lunchtime caught my attention. I was noticed but not questioned by the man in the foreground.

Luch break
Fuji X100T @ 1/1600s + f/4 + ISO 200

This is Canary Wharf again. The archways make a good place for light and shadows. As no-one was around, I knelt down and framed the arches waiting for someone to appear. This is the hunting style of street photography : find a place and wait for something to happen. I took several photos as people came through the scene. This one shows best the play between the light and the shadows.

Fuji X100T @ 1/420s + f/5.5 + ISO 200

This lady is in the Picasso museum in Paris. The place was full of tourists and visitors. I chanced upon the scene with this lady checking her make-up. I took a photo straight away with other people in the shot and then stayed in the same place waiting. Luckily I caught a fraction of a second where no-one was visible and took this shot. It has happened so many times that the subject moves away while I am waiting. On this occasion, I was lucky.

Fuji X100T @ 1/60s + f/2 + ISO 800

The 50mm in street photography.

Let’s start at the beginning. It is commonly accepted that a prime lens in preferable over a zoom in street photography. But why? There are several good reason:

  • First of all, a prime lens is smaller than a zoom and being inconspicuous is important. The camera is also smaller and fits into a smaller bag.
  • Prime lenses are lighter. You shoulder/neck/back will thank you.
  • Framing and shooting needs to be done quickly because in street photography a scene can be very fleeting. Sometimes you can find yourself moving your camera to your eye and before you can press on the shutter, the scene has changed, the moment is gone.
  • Prime lenses are reputed to have a better image quality than zooms, although IQ (image quality) is good to have, there a few bad lenses. More importantly, prime lenses are faster : ie. they let in more light. A good (expensive) professional zoom will open to f/2.8 but  a “nifty fifty” (cheap 50mm prime) opens to f/1.8. A better quality prime will open to f/1.4 and it will let in 4 times more light than more expensive f/2.8 lens at a lots more that the kit lenses usually sold with cameras.
  • Some prime lenses are very special in the way they “draw” the photo. Leica lenses have this reputation. I own the fuji x35f/1.4 and in my opinion, it has an extra something…

    Fuji x-e1 + XF35mmF1.4R @ f/4 + 1/2700s + iso 200

As you see the 50mm lens is a great candidate to be the street photographers friend. It is also the cheapest prime lens.

The first difficulty when starting street photography is getting close enough. When you are close, people will see you. That makes it all the more difficult to raise your camera and take a photo. The 50mm is a “normal” lens, it is wide enough to let you capture a scene and at the same time it is “telephoto” enough to let you stay far enough so you are not noticed.

Marché des Jacobins
Fuji x-e1 + xf35mmF1.4R @ f/1.4 + 1/2000s + iso 200

The longer the focal length, the better bokeh you get when you are close to your subject. Bokeh is a Japanese word that means he visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photographic image. It is noticeable especially in the highlights (the bright areas) of a photo. With a lens that has good bokeh, the subject is well separated from the background and stands out well. With a 50mm prime lens open at f/1.8 or f/1.4 it is relatively easy to get a good background separation. This is not the case with the standard kit zoom lens that is bundled with a lot of consumer grade cameras.

Fuji X-T1 + XF35mmF1.4R @ f/1.4 + 1/280s + iso 200

The 50mm focal length is great for portraits as well. Be it a head shot or a head & shoulders shot, this focal length gives great rendition of faces. Beware though, it is not the focal length studio photographers use for portraits usually : a small telephoto (90mm to 135mm) is often preferred because you can stay further away from your subject while keeping a good bokeh and getting much less distortion on the face.

Fuji X-T1 + XF35mmF1.4R @ f/2 + 1/1500s + iso 200

In conclusion, the 50mm prime lens is cheap and lightweight, versatile in the sense that you can capture a scene and grab a portrait, and you get fabulous image quality! If you are starting out in street, travel or documentary photography , you should seriously consider getting one.

Fuji X-T1 + XF35mmF1.4R @ f/1.4 + 1/40s + iso 200

A few words on equivalence…

Photographers speak in focal lengths when talking about lenses. When I talk about the 50mm lens, I am talking about a focal length on a 24×36 film camera or on a “full frame” digital camera. Most of us own a camera with a small sensor called apps-c, micro four thirds, 1 inch or even smaller. There is a “crop factor” to consider in these cases so that the apparent focal length stays the same. (That also goes for the aperture of the lens in the way it blurs the background). A smaller sensor give less blur.

  • On an aps-c sensor (Fuji x series, Nikon D3000, Nikon D5000, Nikon D7000 series, Sony 6000 series etc) the crop factor is 1.5 and 50/1.5 is roughly 35 so a 35mm lens on this sensor will give you the same field of view as a 50mm on a full frame. I own the Fuji 35mm f/1.4 and I say it is my 50mm lens.
  • Canon apps-c sensors have a crop factor of 1.6. Their crop sensors are smaller.
  • On a micro-four thirds sensor, the crop factor is 2 so you need a 25mm lens.
  • On smaller sensors there are no interchangeable lenses to my knowledge now that the Nikon 1 series is discontinued…(just a rumour so far…)
Fuji X-T1 + XF35mmF1.4R @ f/1.8 + 1/1500s + iso 500


Why should I start street photography?

Why should I start Street Photography?
    This should be a fairly straightforward question for each reader to answer. If you have clicked on this link and are reading this then you already know. Either you feel the appeal or you don’t… and I do. I started photography in 2008 and my first street photo dates from 2013. It is a picture of a street musician in Paris in front of Montmartre. I had a D800 and a Zeiss makro planar 2/100, nice equipment indeed! Over the top even. Up to that point, my main focus was on portraits : my family, friends, their dogs… in colour and in black&whire. It felt natural one day to turn to the streets for photographic material…

Please ask for permission before publishing
Nikon D800 + Zeiss Makro Planar T*2/100ZF.2 @ 1/200s + f/4 + ISO 100

So if you like observing people and life around you, if you have a natural empathy for strangers or if you are curious about how other people live their lives, then I think that street photography can be fulfilling to you as a photographer.

Marché des Jacobins
Fuji x-e1 + 35mmf/1.4 @ 1/2000s+f/1.4 + ISO 200

Otherwise there is nothing wrong with enjoying other peoples work and carrying on doing your own think. Don’t think you have to “do” street just because a lot of other people are.

Sony A7R + 35mmf/2.8 @ 1/800s + f/2.8 + ISO 100

What equipment do I need?

If I say that the equipment doesn’t matter, I would be telling the straight hard truth… but then why does this question always crop up? The thing is, we photographers, and me included, put a lot of time and effort in learning and researching about equipment instead of taking and editing photos. My conclusion is that the equipment we choose is really important to us personally. If we don’t like what we have then we cannot be creative as photographers. It is natural to evolve, we all suffer from G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome) and we all know new equipment won’t make us better photographers. Ah, but I’m certain that is does… not because the equipment is better (even if it is) but because it gives us the extra push to go out and enjoy our photography. So let’s give in to G.A.S !

Olympus OMD-EM5 + 45mm f/1.8 @ 1/250s + F/2 + ISO 200

For those who are curious about what I use, I’m afraid I have to own up to a number of cameras and lenses… Having tried a lot of combinations, I am certain that mirrorless is the way to go. Just look at the different cameras I have used and I dare anyone to say that one camera is better than the others!

However, in street photography, discretion is good. Having a small bag, with just one camera and one lens is ideal. Your back and shoulders will thank you after a day out. I’ll make a post soon to compare the cameras I’ve owned and used and what I recommend.

Fuji X-T1 with 23mmf/1.4 @ 1/1400s + f/2 + ISO 200

That over with, and a brand new camera in hand, just open your front door and get out!