Re: Seated in the Grass: Results

Dan Margulis

When I chose the ten exercises in this series it was no accident that this one came after Toast to Greece. That one started out with a lot of problems and contained a lot of traps for careless retouchers. You shouldn’t get into the mindset that all pictures are that difficult. This one certainly is not. The color is OK right out of the box, so all that is needed is attention to the basics, good artistic judgment, and a few of the tweaks that characterize good portrait work.

What are the possible traps? We want to add definition and depth to the face. In doing that we may make her freckling too pronounced. We may make the eyes too dark. And we may lose the redness of the hair. Most of us avoided these problems.

Additionally, we avoided two traps that I expected a few people to fall into. I was sure that somebody was going to try to turn this into a glamour shot, complete with plastic skin. And I thought that somebody would create unrealistic color in the blue jeans (no need to worry about the sweatshirt, as nobody knows what color it’s supposed to be). But, nobody was obliging enough to make these errors.

This shouldn’t take long, and many of you commented on the simplicity of your procedures. Some of you described very time-consuming workflows, which I don’t think are needed, but the results were good.

We also seemed to learn from errors in past studies. Not everyone can aspire to reach the par version. A more practical target would be #1003 or #1007, which are the best work from the MIT retouchers, who didn’t spend as much time on these exercises as we do. Were you able to do better?

It seems that almost everyone did. The main reason: after the discussion of the importance of range in the main objects in Cinque Terre and Colosseum, almost all of us planted a white point in the collar of the undershirt. The MIT retouchers did not, so their versions are flat and colorless compared to ours.

After our experience with the pattern in Panama and the noise in Toast to Greece, it’s good that we had a clear consensus on the freckles. They are a natural part of the skin and we should not try to eliminate them. OTOH we shouldn’t do anything to emphasize them. We generally accomplished this well.

We had many options for the background and here there was indeed a disagreement, as indicated in the private comments posted to me. Several people stated outright that they were deliberately making the grass far more saturated than it is in nature (as if that wasn’t obvious). They said they were doing this because it flattered the skintone more than a natural green would. But then a couple of others specifically said that we should be toning the background down (presumably because they thought it would distract from the foreground).

You can make your own judgment, but I favor the unnaturally saturated versions. Maybe this is the reason: I think the woman needs to be portrayed as healthy. I don’t like the ones where I consider her too pale. The danger of going the other way is that it’s easy to make skin that some consider too red or too colorful. Bright colors elsewhere, whether in the grass or the sweatshirt, help to fight that impression.

We did not do as well as expected in producing attractive eyes. I would have thought that after Veiled Bride this would have been more automatic. We also did not do a good job of attaching profiles to submissions—five of the entrants had tagged their versions as something other than sRGB, and three of these came in during the 24 hours before the deadline.

I’ll post comments on all versions soon. Meanwhile, we move on to our final two studies, which I don’t think are monstrously difficult.


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