It really went against the grain with me to set up a still life with studio lighting, and then shoot it at the widest aperture.
Normally in a flash-lit scene like this it would be possible to get everything pin sharp, but I wanted to sufficiently separate the model in the background from the core depth of field, while compressing the perspective just the right amount to frame it this way; that meant sacrificing some sharpness on the candles at the back and the grapes and apples at the very front.
I was undecided about the best setup for this shot, so I tried two approaches, of which this is the second. The first approach involved shooting wide, with a 24mm lens quite close to the fruit on a tripod with mirror lockup and a remote release, at f/1.8, producing this alternative version:
I did quite like that one, especially the way the model looks in it, but I felt there wasn't that much separation of her as the "distracting background" from the foreground - while shooting at f/1.8 had most of the foreground unacceptably unsharp.
This version was shot at 100mm, hand-held, from a considerably longer distance away - outside the room, in fact. That allowed me to put the model further back in the scene, and have less light spill on her from the main lights, while keeping her sufficiently blurred yet providing overall more sharpness to the fruit. Helps that the 100-400 is an excellent lens for critical sharpness, too.
Light setup was three wireless flashes, the one on the right firing into a matte umbrella close to the fruit just out of the scene on the right. The flash on the left was at table height, considerably further away, zoomed in to 85mm and configured for 1:8 power ratio with the primary on the right. The third flash was acting as a master, mounted on the camera and contributing no light to the scene. Exposure time was dictated primarily by the candles - to get the right balance of candle brightness while controlling light spill from them, I settled on 1/160th of a second.
Editing: cloning out dust and scratches on the table, imperfections on the fruit and a few small unwanted glints of reflection and skin blemishes on the model. Dodging and burning to clean up some imperfectly dark parts of background, and add a bit more tonal depth to the lighter parts of the green fruit. Subtle curves to raise the midtones a little and bring some more blue into the deep shadows while reducing it ever so slightly in the midtones. Resize and selective sharpen.
[Oct. 24th, 2016 11:15:09 AM]
Update during voting: I hadn't even realised this contest was extended editing. This photo would have been fine even in basic editing, in retrospect - so light was the postprocessing that it wouldn't have suffered significantly without it at all. Wonder how that will affect the votes. I hope people don't think she's photoshopped in; that would have been so much easier...
Place: 2 out of 49 Avg (all users): 6.5862 Avg (commenters): 8.0000 Avg (participants): 6.3571 Avg (non-participants): 6.8000 Views since voting: 5225 Views during voting: 152 Votes: 58 Comments: 8 Favorites: 2 (view)
Perfect idea for this challenge, congratulations on the ribbon! And also thanks a lot for your detailed notes: I suspected it was a single shot, as it is always tricky to create believable DoF in post. Here realism was very important, the viewer had to feel that the "distraction" was in the room, or it wouldn't have been that efficient. So I believe a single shot was the best option regardless of the challenge rules. Oh, and "boo" to the puritans!
Yet another well deserved ribbon! First of all, a great concept, very well thought through and excellent execution, the lighting, perspective and DOF are all perfect and all enhanced with a great title. Thanks for the detailed write-up and the outtake I concur with your choice this is the better of the two. Everything about this image is wonderful and I would be really struggling to find fault with it. The lighting is spot on throughout both for the fruit and the model, the composition is perfect, but what really makes it is the subtle seductiveness of the lady, what is and is not revealed places it on another higher level. I really struggle to understand the logic behind the sub 4 scores but the rest of your voters appreciated a great piece of work and second only to gyaban is most commendable. Thanks for once more delighting us with your entry Eugene.