Monday, September 16, 2013

Xi Sinsong: Fashionably Young

By William Sawalich. Photography By Xi Sinsong Published in Photographer Profiles
"Xi Sinsong is an image maker," states the photographer's About page, yet it's this minimal approach to design that has given the young photographer a powerful and bold portfolio of fashion images. She has no problem oscillating back and forth between brightly lit, poppier color work and a much more restricted color palette of refined monochromatic tones, but her compositions are absolutely minimal, focusing largely on tightly orchestrated geometric patterns that play against a backdrop of muted negative space. The imagery produced by this culmination is both thought-provoking and visually enticing, the hallmark of a successful fashion photographer.
"Xi Sinsong is an image maker," states the photographer's About page, yet it's this minimal approach to design that has given the young photographer a powerful and bold portfolio of fashion images. She has no problem oscillating back and forth between brightly lit, poppier color work and a much more restricted color palette of refined monochromatic tones, but her compositions are absolutely minimal, focusing largely on tightly orchestrated geometric patterns that play against a backdrop of muted negative space. The imagery produced by this culmination is both thought-provoking and visually enticing, the hallmark of a successful fashion photographer.

Xi Sinsong On Postproduction And Beauty Retouching

Xi Sinsong acknowledges that digital retouching plays a significant part in her photographic process, but she doesn't want her photographs to look like it.

"If it looks overly retouched, then it's just bad retouching," she says. "I try to do as much in-camera as I can because without a basic good foundation, you can't really lift people up that much."

When the shooting is complete, she begins with a round of color and exposure corrections to the raw image files. Then she chooses images that form a cohesive story—a process that could take a few hours or several days.

"If it's an assignment," she says, "I'll usually pick a few selects per look and send them over to the editor, together with a PDF of my top picks, plus one retouched image, to show how the final image could look. Once the final images have been selected, then it's the slow and time-consuming retouching."

Sinsong treats skin simply as a textural surface in need of refinement.

"If the model has fairly good skin," she says, "and the makeup and lighting are right, it usually won't need as much retouching as one might imagine.

For beauty images, I like to use soft, natural lights to create a luminous look. Contrasty light sources and dark shadows can emphasize any flaws on skin, especially compared to what you see in person.

"That said," she continues, "retouching really varies depending on the image. There are many steps involved, but if one is familiar with the structure of human anatomy, especially the face, and familiar with directions of lights and shadows they will cast on good skin and symmetrical features, what's left to be done is basically aim the raw image toward the ideal—for example, removing shadows on the sides of the nose and mouth, as they tend to make people appear older. I also remove excessive shine on highlighted spots, especially if the model has a darker complexion. Adding or emphasizing shadows in strategic areas, such as below the cheekbones, helps a great deal, too. Another aspect that I find really important is to even out the skin tone, as some complexions have different hues in different areas, which I find rather distracting."

You can see more of Xi Sinsong's work at www.sinsong.com.
William Sawalich is a professional photographer, and he teaches studio photography at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. A frequent DPP contributor, you can see more of his work at www.sawalich.com.

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