Portraits in the Garden – dealing with the green

A vexing issue when photographing in the garden is dealing with ‘greens’. Often in photographs they present as bright, gaudy and distracting. With portrait photography the issue becomes worse because of yellow cast to skin tone.

This shoot was special – it combines my favourites – portrait photography with gardens! My focus is on expressions though and not the plants. Of the 200+ shots, I strictly edited down to just a few to tell a story with my final selections.

Below are three images, to explain my adjustments for the foliage: In the ‘straight out of camera’ image the greens are so bright they detract from my subject. Next is my final image and then a screenshot of Lightroom colour adjustments. This is not a formula, each photoshoot requires its own tweaks but they are invariably in the yellow/green area (I dealt with white balance before this stage). Because I shoot in manual mode, I can then apply my adjustments across the entire photo range so that they are all comparable in a collage.

Added to the need for colour adjustments, is an even more complex issue of not knowing how the viewer sees the image because different screens vary markedly in their brightness and colour presentation … and as for printing, well that is a whole other story. I am fussy about my final prints and understand (mostly) my own screen plus I have a good working relationship with an excellent printer. If a colour does not come out as I expect it to, I analyse why and seek to learn from it. I always shoot in RAW for maximum post-production control.

Choice of Aperture for this shoot

24 – 70mm lens, 52mm, ISO320, 1/1000th sec, f 3.5

Using an aperture of f3.5 enabled me to blur the surrounding leaves and importantly the trellis I was shooting through almost disappears. A smaller aperture would have given a totally different ‘feel’ to the image – something akin to a cage – a barrier between me and the subject. Photographing into the sun was always going to give a hazy, diffused look but when following a child in action they choose the positioning! It’s up to me to adjust my camera settings to the conditions. (Technical details: I use ‘spot metering’ and ‘single point auto focus’)

Black and White Version

It’s interesting to see these images in Black and White. Converting thus can draw the viewers attention more clearly to facial expressions. In this series I’m not sure which version I prefer. To me both work because the colour palette was fairly limited in the first place. My subject is wearing a white top; most of the background is green and there are no other distracting colours in the vicinity.

2 thoughts on “Portraits in the Garden – dealing with the green

Add yours

  1. That is both beautiful and fascinating. It reinforces my view that you indeed know well what you do. Lovely – thank you.


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