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anthony le grand

Cinematography techniques for photography

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Hi everyone,

For some personal photo projects I want to create a soft look and find ways to "deteriorate" sharpness and make things a little bit less raw., sligthly more painterly The things is, while diffusion in front or behind the lens is commun in cinematography, it's not so commun in photography. It is very rare to hear about black pro-mist, low con filters etc... except some old tricks like vaseline. And the use of old uncoated lenses.

Did you ever used these kind of tools (like black pro-mist or nets behind the lens) for still pictures? Or maybe you know photographers who made things that way? I'm thinking for instance of some Bill Henson's early work and i'm not sure how he achieved that (low con and slow shutter speeds?): https://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/8060/bill-hensons-bewitching-anti-portraits-of-ballerinas

Of course I'll make tests and everything, but I'm shooting medium format positive, and making tons of tests canfastly be expensive so other people's experience can be interesting :)

Thanks!

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It is common with still work. They sell filters and you can do it in post. They also have some old adjustable soft focus films lenses. 

I've used a single element diffusion lens. It is very soft. 

T mount- 100m f2, wide open, single element lens.

1962069948_tuliplr.thumb.jpg.006939f0da99f33a04b85a6b4e773fab.jpg

Photo:D.D.Teoli Jr.

...don't tell anyone I took flower pix.

Order a bunch of soft filters from BH. Make sure they are returnable and test them out digitally. Then do final tests with film. And if you use Vaseline, put it on the filter, then cap with another filter. Then keep cool so it stays put. We also used nylon stocking over the enlarger lens back in the day.

I don't do much diffusion nowadays. But do like motion blur with flash sometimes.

Good luck!

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You mentioned shutter speed. This is a motion blur shot. I'm thinking I would have used one click higher shutter speed for motion blur if I could do it over. But who knows how that would turn out? Just a guess. With candid work motion blur is a crapshoot. You can't retake it and get the same results.

Bikers Mardi Gras D.D. Teoli Jr. xlr.jpg

Selection from  Bikers' Mardi Gras artist's book by D.D.Teoli Jr. - Candid

With infrared flash in the dark, motion blur is very hard. 95% - 98% of the light comes from the IR flash. You need available light combined with white light flash for motion blur.

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

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35 minutes ago, Bob Speziale said:

I believe that effect can be applied digitally in stills or video with Gaussian blur. It smooths out noise, grain and details.

twinkle-r-small.jpg

What is that Photoshop or P.S. Elements? I've heard of Gaussian blur. But I only use Lightroom. 

Pentax as a well as some of the old view camera lens makers made soft focus lenses. I think some of the view camera soft focus lenses used various metal sieve like screens inside the lens that could adjust the amount of softness. (But don't hold me to their build, I'm no expert.) If using for cine' maybe you can adapt the Pentax SF lens or the T mount single element lens. The Pentax 120 SF lens is adjustable only by F stop as to softness.

https://www.google.com/search?q=pentax+soft+focus+lens&sxsrf=ACYBGNThT26o1SpagCk8iPtaTLbfwgGuwg:1570386579871&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwij_YLyoYjlAhUNWK0KHeBUAwEQ_AUIEigC&biw=1371&bih=691

I have a  used Pentax 120 SF lens I traded for eons ago when I had an old film Pentax MF cam. Never got around to using it. Bought it for glam shots. But whenever the girls would look at my portfolio they would never come through for modeling. 

 

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

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Gaussian blur is one of the digital filters in Photoshop. I use the Adobe CS6 suite that has Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Audition for audio editing, and After Effects. In Elements you may be able to get  a smoothing effect by setting sharpness to a negative number like -100.  

In the days of film there were fairly expensive portrait lenses that gave a slightly blurred image but still in focus. I imagine those were in deference to the subject's vanity. Today there are digital filters on smartphones that smooth out the subjects complexion to eliminate blemishes and wrinkles.

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In Lightroom, if you go in the negative direction with Clarity, you get a diffusion effect.

Here is a photo I took on an infrared-converted Sony A6500, one with Clarity in the positive direction, the other with Clarity in the negative direction on the slider:

 

S6500349.jpg

S6500349-2.jpg

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The early Pictorialism movement in photography diffused the image in various ways -- soft-focus lenses, nets and gauzes over the lens, glass diffusion, etc.  It had an impact on cinematography of the mid-1920's through early 1930's, after still photography had become sharper in style.

And you had in the 1970's that David Hamilton style of foggy photography for commercials and art.

I've used filters sometimes in front of the lens, or just breathed on the lens just before taking the photo, like here:

met2.jpg

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To return to the original post, there's no reason that any filter used for cinematography couldn't reasonably be used for stills. I think often people will be hesitant to shoot with filters and bake in any effect that couldn't be closely approximated in Photoshop, which is a good few of the most popular filter styles.

One of the good tricks for simulating things like fog and mist filters is to composite an image with a blurred version of itself, and try various radii of blur and transfer modes, including those that make things both brighter and darker, and adjust the transparency to taste. Use levels or curves on the duplicate layer first so as to affect only brighter or darker areas. Tint the duplicate layer to suggest colour in the filter. With these techniques you can approximate a wide variety of fog, mist and frost filters.

The things you'd probably most profitably filter for are things which are particularly reactive to small details in lights which will be hidden in large clipped areas. This is much of the reason anamorphic lenses (and filters that simulate their flares) are popular. Shoot a car headlight, and the entire area of the headlight might be clipped, but the optically-generated flare still reacts only to the central area where the bright bulb is directly visible. On a still image that's easier to replicate in post as you can manually place the flare, but that's a reason to shoot filters.

If you feel like a bit of grain, try taking an image of double or triple the dimensions of your final image, fill it with grey, add lots of coloured noise, gaussian blur to a few pixels, then sharpen (possibly with the "sharpen more" menu option.) Repeating the sharpen should create cellular blobs of noise which are reasonably similar to film grain. Composite this with your image and experiment with levels on the grain layer, transparency, transfer modes, and scaling to make the grain more or less visible. To do this properly requires some luminance masking to make the grain most visible in midtones, which I can go through if it's of interest.

Perhaps experiment with the distortion and blur tools to create lens effects in the corners. For chromatic aberration, open or select the "channels" tab and scale one or more of the RGB channels minutely to create misalignment in the corners.

Pile all this on, tint the shadows blue and the highlights yellow, and you'll be most of the way to a Kodachrome masterpiece before you can say "chromatic aberration."

P

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Thanks everyone! But i often find soft filters sold for photography not as subtle as some Tiffen filters for instance. I still prefer a black promist to a softar or duto and I don't know why it's not used more often.

If that interests anyone, I found that from Art Adams from Arri: https://www.provideocoalition.com/the-secret-life-of-behind-the-lens-nets/

David, I really like some photographers of this era, especially Steichen. I'm trying to read many things about them right and find informations 🙂

Phil, thanks very much for all these details, there's a lot in your message and I'll try some things out 🙂

Also, do you have an idea how Henson got that soft painterly effect? (like on the first picture:https://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/8060/bill-hensons-bewitching-anti-portraits-of-ballerinas) There's the grain of the film and some underexposure, but there's also this softness on the whole picture and it feels very even, unlike a diffusion existing mostly in the highlights. Or maybe it's done when printing ?

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That Henson stuff looks very much like that blur-and-composite technique I discussed, which in turn looks very much like a very soft but not very dense fog filter. That sort of thing can also be done in printing.

P

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The wide shot with the windows looks more like optical filtration to me -- blue-ish halation around windows is harder to recreate digitally though possible.  The blue cast to the glow tends to be an artifact of whatever mist particles are being used in the glass.  You'll note that breathing on the lens also creates a halation with a blue bias, so clearly water droplets have a tendency to shift the color in that direction.

I suspect older optics were employed in those photos too.

The images almost look like they were rephotographed off of a groundglass on the back of a large format camera., there is so much fall-off.

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1 hour ago, anthony le grand said:

Thanks everyone! But i often find soft filters sold for photography not as subtle as some Tiffen filters for instance. I still prefer a black promist to a softar or duto and I don't know why it's not used more often.

If that interests anyone, I found that from Art Adams from Arri: https://www.provideocoalition.com/the-secret-life-of-behind-the-lens-nets/

David, I really like some photographers of this era, especially Steichen. I'm trying to read many things about them right and find informations 🙂

Phil, thanks very much for all these details, there's a lot in your message and I'll try some things out 🙂

Also, do you have an idea how Henson got that soft painterly effect? (like on the first picture:https://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/8060/bill-hensons-bewitching-anti-portraits-of-ballerinas) There's the grain of the film and some underexposure, but there's also this softness on the whole picture and it feels very even, unlike a diffusion existing mostly in the highlights. Or maybe it's done when printing ?

 

Try shooting high ASA / ISO and slight diffusion filter. You can underexpose and fool around in post. NIK software and some other brands have many presets for special effects.

 

3 hours ago, David Mullen ASC said:

In Lightroom, if you go in the negative direction with Clarity, you get a diffusion effect.

Here is a photo I took on an infrared-converted Sony A6500, one with Clarity in the positive direction, the other with Clarity in the negative direction on the slider:

 

S6500349.jpg

S6500349-2.jpg

 

Lightroom has sharpness and clarity sliders you can work on. 

 

349804.thumb.jpg.6b6c742b13b0b43b6c765a4176a0a23f.jpg

 

OP, really, the ballerina photos in question don't appeal to me. They just look like grainy, poorly exposed, flat, un-sharp photos. Sure I like art. But they are not good examples of art to me.

You can increase / decrease the white light around the windows and door with post processing as well. It looks like some of the light may be from dodging. 

OP, you should join a photo forum. They are more experts at post processing still photos. Try to draw from a full purview of diffusion options to see what is the range of effects you can explore.

I am highly skilled at post processing street / doc work to look good. But I don't spend much time on how to degrade photos. I like my doc work to look sharper not fuzzier. 

Buy one of those Lomo film cams and give it a try. I don't use them, but the devotes that like degraded images love them. Add a diffusion to that and see what haps.

https://www.google.com/search?q=Lomo+photos&sxsrf=ACYBGNQs-ii2rbJWgyBRZ1sUBwVP7v8ROw:1570408258452&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiSvZbT8ojlAhUB1qwKHYNUD3cQ_AUIESgB&biw=857&bih=614

OP, when you get all your experiments done, open a free WordPress blog and post all your diffusion experiments there. Then we can point to you for options the next time the diffusion question pops up.

 

 

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

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8 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

That Henson stuff looks very much like that blur-and-composite technique I discussed, which in turn looks very much like a very soft but not very dense fog filter. That sort of thing can also be done in printing.

P

I'll definitely work on that and spend time tying composite techniques. But ideally, I'd like to find things during the shooting and have as much as I can already on film 🙂

 

David, very interesting what you said about the water droplets. There's a lot of fall-off but Henson is known for dodging parts of his prints, sometimes heavily, so I don't know how much of this comes from the lens. He made those pictures around 1975 when he was 20. He got a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne for this work

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Silent Cinematographers often stretched various types of French Stockings made of silk across their lenses for diffusion in close-ups.

Of course, they had to be French and, like any fad, the brand, weave and color were of intense debate...

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4 hours ago, Frank Wylie said:

Silent Cinematographers often stretched various types of French Stockings made of silk across their lenses for diffusion in close-ups.

Of course, they had to be French and, like any fad, the brand, weave and color were of intense debate...

Ahah, they said Dior silk stockings were the best ! I wanted to experiment with that but the issue i have is the consistency of the results/filter. If I like it, I should find a way to create a filter from the stockings that i could clip at the back of the lens (so it's fast and always streched the same way)

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Well, they tended to stretch them over frames and put them in the mattebox rather than behind the lens.

Of course, the "secret" of how this was done was closely guarded and only referenced obliquely in interviews. 

Trade secrets!

 

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The method I use is to lay down half the amount of diffusion using a filter on the lens and add the rest in post (I think I read about that trick on this forum). I use Tiffen Warm Soft FX 1/2 and Digital Diffusion 1/4 filters for my base layer and then add more diffusion in Photoshop. 

If you want to use silk stockings, I believe Noblesse No. 110 from Fogal of Switzerland was the other preferred hosiery, but I've looked for them in the States and haven't found the exact model that people have mentioned.  I've also read that cinematographers stretched the stocking over the rear element of the lens and held it on with AGT (snot) tape. 

You've probably seen this video of diffusion tests, yes?

In America some camera stores have cardboard boxes full of old filters laying around that they sell for $5 or $10 each and you can usually find a few vintage diffusion filters among them (but it might take half an hour of digging to find them).

When I've read interviews with earlier photographers many times they say that their unique look came from improvising on set. They will say something like  "I didn't have anything with me so I crinkled up the cellophane from my cigarette pack and held it over the lens."  Other diffusers I've read about include: a section of window screen,  loosely woven rattan, a piece of broken glass, the lens from their sunglasses, and chandelier crystals. 

Finally, legend has it that to get a soft effect Edward Steichen would open the shutter and then give the tripod a little kick. But I've read the story told about other photographers as well. 

Edited by Marcos Cooper

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11 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

That's sort of strange, I think. I've never found this to be an industry where people like to keep secrets that much.

Sshhh... it's supposed to be a secret that we don't keep secrets...

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On 10/6/2019 at 10:50 PM, Phil Rhodes said:

... composite an image with a blurred version of itself, and try various radii of blur and transfer modes, including those that make things both brighter and darker, and adjust the transparency to taste. ...

P

 

This is possible to do in-camera under some circumstances.

If you have your camera on a tripod try shooting a long exposure, say 1second, and manually unfocus the lens during only part of the exposure. Will probably take a few attempts and good timing.

If your camera has a multi-exposure mode (I think my Canon 5d3 does) take two of the same shot but with one of them out of focus.

In studio flash photography, with a dark room and the only continuous lights the modelling lights on the flash, if you set the shutter speed fairly slow for flash, say 1/8th of a second, and hand hold the camera you will get a sharp image from the flash and a very slightly blurred overlaid image from the modelling lights. The slight blur will typically be sligjtlty warmer (modelling lights are usually tungsten balanced) and that is flattering to skin. This looks a lot like a diffusion filter on skin.

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On 10/6/2019 at 5:39 PM, David Mullen ASC said:

The early Pictorialism movement in photography diffused the image in various ways -- soft-focus lenses, nets and gauzes over the lens, glass diffusion, etc.  It had an impact on cinematography of the mid-1920's through early 1930's, after still photography had become sharper in style.

And you had in the 1970's that David Hamilton style of foggy photography for commercials and art.

I've used filters sometimes in front of the lens, or just breathed on the lens just before taking the photo, like here:

met2.jpg

Looks like smoque 1 almost.

 

Edited by M Joel W

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