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Thread: First Portrait with OCF

  1. #1

    First Portrait with OCF

    I have a little more time on my hands of lately and have had some of the grandchildren over, a perfect time to grab a few shots, and brush up on some of things I think that I have learned.
    This is my first time shooting with OCF. I used one each in two shoot through umbrellas and one with gel on the background. I think that my umbrellas need to be positioned a little different as they both can be seen in the eyes of my grandson, or is that normal? I did notice the level of light on the back ground was not even and will use a higher stool so that I can position my flash behind the person.
    I have read through the lessons that Colin has been so gracious to teach here but not sure how much has stuck between my ears. So with that I would appreciate any and all CnC that would help me to improve and prepare me for my next two shootings for two of my friends children one of which is a week from this Monday and the other will be on Good Friday for several children.
    I have picked up some new toys in the last month and really loving them. I know it will not sit well with some but I did buy two Yongnuo 565EX,s and four 622c's along with two umbrellas, a softbox 24"x24" and 3 stands all of which fit into my limited budget. I have not had any problems with the above listed equipment and really love the way they perform.
    Please feel free to make and post any edits to this image that will help explain what your are saying. Thanks in advance.

    Lens: 17-55mm
    ISO 100
    f/6.3
    51mm
    1/250

    First Portrait with OCF
    Last edited by Carl in Louisiana; 18th March 2013 at 03:51 AM.

  2. #2
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    Whilst it looks well lit to me, I am NOT the person to advice on portraiture. There are many on here much more capable of providing a better critique than me.

    However, I'd ask one question about the composition. I wonder if the fact that we have a fairly bold bit of the background visible all the way down the left side (as we look at it) versus the fact that his left hand side (on the right as we view) falls out of the edge of the frame, makes it a bit unbalanced? I wondered about his right shoulder needing to be closer to the edge of the frame?

  3. #3

    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    Whilst it looks well lit to me, I am NOT the person to advice on portraiture. There are many on here much more capable of providing a better critique than me.

    However, I'd ask one question about the composition. I wonder if the fact that we have a fairly bold bit of the background visible all the way down the left side (as we look at it) versus the fact that his left hand side (on the right as we view) falls out of the edge of the frame, makes it a bit unbalanced? I wondered about his right shoulder needing to be closer to the edge of the frame?
    Thanks Donald for taking the time to comment.
    I cropped it the way I did as I did not take the time to read what was on the shirt until I had it in PP. A lesson learned read first then shoot. I personally do not approve of what was on the shirt and would not post it with it showing.
    In my haste I did not see it that way. Perhaps a tighter crop would help the balance out. I'll look into that.

  4. #4
    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    Try to make a note of your flash settings, positions and distances for future reference.

    As for seeing the modifiers in your subject's eyes - that's not a problem really. Catchlights give the eyes some life, and without them you will notice a big difference. The light looks very flat and even. This may be what you were looking for, but having one light as your main light and one as your fill light on the subject may give you more depth to the image. The key really is to add light as you need it rather than because you have it!

    It may be a case of having too much equipment to play with to start off with. Try just one main light without a second fill light, then introducing a fill light (1 - 3 stops less bright than your main light). Just practice and move the lights around, try getting the umbrellas really close, try taking one strobe off the umbrella and using a snoot (or making one with a dark piece of card) to aim as a hairlight. Try feathering the light, rather than aiming it straight at the subject, to light areas that you want and direct attention from areas you don't want (the creases in the shirt that you haven't taken a liking to, for example!), if you have one, consider trying a using a bounce card/reflector as fill light form your main light instead of using a second flash on the subject, and so on, and so on. Just have a play...!

  5. #5

    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    Quote Originally Posted by dubaiphil View Post
    Try to make a note of your flash settings, positions and distances for future reference.

    As for seeing the modifiers in your subject's eyes - that's not a problem really. Catchlights give the eyes some life, and without them you will notice a big difference. The light looks very flat and even. This may be what you were looking for, but having one light as your main light and one as your fill light on the subject may give you more depth to the image. The key really is to add light as you need it rather than because you have it!

    It may be a case of having too much equipment to play with to start off with. Try just one main light without a second fill light, then introducing a fill light (1 - 3 stops less bright than your main light). Just practice and move the lights around, try getting the umbrellas really close, try taking one strobe off the umbrella and using a snoot (or making one with a dark piece of card) to aim as a hairlight. Try feathering the light, rather than aiming it straight at the subject, to light areas that you want and direct attention from areas you don't want (the creases in the shirt that you haven't taken a liking to, for example!), if you have one, consider trying a using a bounce card/reflector as fill light form your main light instead of using a second flash on the subject, and so on, and so on. Just have a play...!
    Thanks Phil for commenting.

    If you would could you explain what you mean by "very flat"? I get the even part. I will try starting with one light and add another as needed the next time out. My friends are very helpful and forgiving in the area of me learning plus they get free photos along the way and will get better ones as I learn lol.
    It was not the creases in the shirt but what was written on the sleeve of the shirt that I was unhappy with.

  6. #6
    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    I mean that the lighting ratio is very even. The flashes appear to be at a similar distance and set at a similar power.

  7. #7

    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    Quote Originally Posted by dubaiphil View Post
    I mean that the lighting ratio is very even. The flashes appear to be at a similar distance and set at a similar power.
    That helps me to understand much better what you meant. You are right I did have them about the same distance with very little difference in power per light. I was in a small room with limited space so I will have to try and stick with one light in situations where space is limited maybe two. One for key and another for rim/hair light.


    I have made note of all that you said and will print it all out to study as I go. Again thank you for the help.

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    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    Carl,

    If I remember correctly, you have a copy of Light: Science & Magic. The book contains a substantial discussion of portrait lighting that may be helpful.

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    Mark von Kanel's Avatar
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    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    Just a quick example of one without catchlights in the eyes for you this is actually a singly light set up camera front right about 6 ft high with a reflector to put some light on the dark side of his face. I quite like it but people have said (well other photogs actually) "where are the catch lights?" to which i reply that i didnt want any because it wouldnt suit the mood of the picture. its all a matter of opinion though.

    First Portrait with OCF

    and another with catchlights this time, so make your own mind up what you want to achive.

    First Portrait with OCF
    Last edited by Mark von Kanel; 18th March 2013 at 05:01 PM.

  10. #10

    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post
    Carl,

    If I remember correctly, you have a copy of Light: Science & Magic. The book contains a substantial discussion of portrait lighting that may be helpful.
    Thanks for the reminder Mike! I started reading the book for the second time after getting my flashes in and I am a little over half way thru but thumbed ahead and found the chapter on portrait lighting. I will jump ahead and start reading and playing around with the lights from there. I just forgot it was there.

  11. #11

    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark von Kanel View Post
    Just a quick example of one without catchlights in the eyes for you this is actually a singly light set up camera front right about 6 ft high with a reflector to put some light on the dark side of his face. I quite like it but people have said (well other photogs actually) "where are the catch lights?" to which I reply that I didn't want any because it wouldn't suit the mood of the picture. It's all a matter of opinion though.
    Thanks Mark I have been looking into low key photography, it has caught my fancy, and have seen ones with the catch light and ones without. I like them both like you say depending on the image and what you want.
    I do like yours without the catch lights, very strong image I think.
    I have a lot of experimenting to do but had to start somewhere and as I see it, it's the beginning of a fun learning experience and it just has to get better from here on in lol.
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 19th March 2013 at 10:52 PM. Reason: fix quote

  12. #12
    Mark von Kanel's Avatar
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    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    Yes i like low key as well, all of these images were from my second attempt at a portrait shoot, i held it in my village hall free to everybody because i wanted models to help me play with my new lights. My first attempts with portraiture were implied nude of my brother and his wife and the were a total disaster! i intend to re visit the same shoot with my brother with what ive learned and re shoot.

    low key works well for lighter hearted images as well!

    One of the disasters from the implied nude shoot

    First Portrait with OCF

    The beautiful young lady was a pain to pose and getting her to relax was a nightmare, its one of the things i need to concentrate on!

    First Portrait with OCF

    Where as this family were very easy to work with!

    First Portrait with OCF

    Any way ive hijacked enough of your thread, good luck with it all!

  13. #13

    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    Thanks again Mark and I don't see that you've hijacked my thread. I find it all educational. You have me wanting to find a subject and shoot low key now lol.

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    Mark von Kanel's Avatar
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    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    Thats great carl! just a couple of bits i learned about low key, dont use vinyl its too reflective, im using brushed cotton now. you need lots of separation between the subject and the background, i had a hell of a time stopping light bleeding on to the background even using grids. Im going to try a beauty dish with a grid next time and see what happens. ive also bought a rectangular soft box and grid which might be better than the octas i used.

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    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    Hi Carl!

    New toys, eh? It must be Christmas again! Awesome!

    Aside what you and the other contributors have mentioned, Carl, it looks to me that you have a bit of a hotspot band below the eyes on Grandson. It runs across the nose as well.

    I really donít think you so much need a kicker or hairlight with this background. The separation seems good to me. But if you used that kind of configuration with a bright BG, Iíd keep the hair light to a bare minimum so it doesnít over blow your key.

    If you are dealing with a small space be wary of going too much below the 51mm focal length so you donít start introducing distortion to your subjects. Assuming you are using a crop sensor.

    One of the things I had to learn the hard way (and is still not totally automatic) is watching my set/subject for things like wrinkles, hair, etc. I think everyone goes through this when you are trying to play with new toys. One time my durned grandkids ate lasagna before a shoot and I wore out the ďdigital napkinĒ tool in Photoshop cleaning up their mouths! But after having to sit in the editing bay time and time again, thoroughly disgusted with myself for missing these things, and having to deal with it in post, it gets better! And cuts down on the post production time.

    I know not everyone agrees with this theory, Carl, but for me, a large part of portraiture is how you retouch in post. And that is with doing everything you can (you hope!) to get it happening on-set. So to compliment your new toys, and if you arenít already, Iíd mention maybe getting in the habit of shooting a gray card reference.

    I think you have done a nice job right out of the toy box, Carl! Enjoy the ride!

  16. #16

    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    Thank You Terry for your comments, suggestions and lessons learned. I will tuck them under my hat and hopefully remember they are there. I do have a Whibal and did use it. Thanks for the words of encouragement also. Did I get something wrong in PP?

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    Nice first effort Carl. I think I am going to repeat the advice Phil has already given you. Start with a single light. It's a case of having to know how to walk before you run. I still do a lot of my portraits with a single light and a reflector. While it is not as sexy as a multiple light setup, it is far easier to control as you are developing your technique.

    In any good image there should be one main or key light. It should do the bulk of your work and any additional lighting needs to complement what you are doing with your key light. Specifically this could include filling out shadows (fill light), making the subject stand out from the background (rim light or hair light) or sometimes to do something with the background when you are shooting a high key image.

    You should also consider the differences in shooting male and female subjects. With women we tend to want to enhance their looks by lighting in a way that softens their skin and hides any imperfections. With a male, we can play with the lighting a bit more aggressively to highlight masculinity. You certainly see that in some of the examples that Mark has posted where one side of the face is darker (more in shadow) than the other. This works well for men or women, but we tend to be more dramatic in the way we approach a male.

    When I look at your image, a number of things strike me; some have been mentioned by others, but let me go over them from my viewpoint.

    - You are using fairly flat lighting, which does not cast any particularly interesting lighting patterns across your subject’s face. This seems to come about from where you positioned your lights and the light output you used.

    - I find that the shadow under the nose is a bit harsh. I suspect you may have set your lights too far back. The closer you are with the light source, the more diffuse it will be and the farther back, the harsher the light will be. I generally try to position my main light so that it is just outside of the shot. If it intrudes into the shot a bit, it is easy to fix in post.

    - The way you have lit your subject creates shadows in the eye sockets. I would suggest you look at some appropriate fill light, either a reflector or a second light to clean this up.

    - One downside of using umbrellas is that they tend to scatter the light a bit more than other light modifiers (whether shoot through or as reflectors).

    - I like the catchlights in the eyes. They give the eyes some spark and life. I prefer them in the 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock position; which is where yours are positioned. Two lights from the front means you will get two catchlights in the eyes. If you don’t like the second set, remove one of them in post.

    - You might want to try a different lighting setup. Place the light stand at 45į angle to your subject at a 45į angle down and behind your subject. Use a white reflector (I generally have a piece of corplast or foamcore that is a bit smaller than your main light source, opposite from your main light and try shooting. Move the reflector back and forth to see how you like the various lighting ratios this gives you.

    - I would crop the image more closely; get rid of the background on the left side of the image. I wouldn’t worry about even lighting; uneven lighting left to right adds a bit more dimension into your shot.

    - look at shooting with a longer lens. I find that your focal length accentuates the nose a bit more than I like for my taste. I tend to shoot portraits like this one with a full-frame equivlent of between 105 and 200mm.

  18. #18

    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    @ Manfred Thank You for the pointers! I will start with one light at a time the next go round. I have a spiral notebook that I have started setting up to put my shooting info for each shoot in to have a record to refer to. Also listing tips of what to do and not to do. You have provided a great deal to that growing list. I think the first thing will be to take a few shots with the one light in different positions to see what I can get from it. Then use my reflector or another light to see what happens that way.
    This is really going to be a fun learning experience. I really appreciate all the help from everyone!

  19. #19
    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    Quote Originally Posted by Carl in Louisiana View Post
    Thank You Terry for your comments, suggestions and lessons learned. I will tuck them under my hat and hopefully remember they are there. I do have a Whibal and did use it. Thanks for the words of encouragement also. Did I get something wrong in PP?
    Youíre welcome, Carl.

    I wouldnít say you got anything wrong in PP Carl. Not at all. The hot band under the eyes notwithstanding. But thatís easily fixed and it didnít look totally blown when I opened your shot in ACR. Just a little hot is all.

    I just have a tendency to take the processing a bit further. But hey? Thatís just me. I like to do it and the folks who see their portraits have never complained.

    If, as Manfred mentioned, the darker eye sockets and the shadow in Grandsonís upper lip cleft bother you, a little dodging will fix that right up. Maybe on a separate layer set to a blending mode of ďluminosityĒ if you have that type of capability with your software. I donít find them that bad. Especially for a male subject.

    I donít have a light meter, Carl. Maybe you have heard of this (or even use it), but I use a white towel and a gray card for my reference shots. Typically, Iíll do a test shot with no lights (to make sure I am killing all the ambient) each light one at a time, and then with all lights fired together. This before my victim takes the stage. Watch for blinkies on the towel and set to just below where the towel starts to clip with all lights fired. Also looking to keep a little detail in the towel fibers. Using either an aperture adjustment or light output adjustment. Some additional adjustment may be required but usually not. Primitive I know, but it works pretty well.

    Quick but:
    Reduced highlights to mitigate hotspot band under eyes.
    Curves adjustment.
    Quick (very quick and a little sloppy!) shirt ironing. Removed logo on shirt pocket.
    Crop.
    Work on the eyes.
    Some blemish removal (very little).
    Removed hotspots on nose.
    Removed some fly-away hair.
    Vignette.
    Maybe should have removed or mitigated white lettering on sleeve.
    A little dodging around the eyes and upper lip cleft since it was mentioned.

    First Portrait with OCF

  20. #20
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: First Portrait with OCF

    Quote Originally Posted by Carl in Louisiana View Post
    @ Manfred Thank You for the pointers! I will start with one light at a time the next go round. I have a spiral notebook that I have started setting up to put my shooting info for each shoot in to have a record to refer to. Also listing tips of what to do and not to do. You have provided a great deal to that growing list. I think the first thing will be to take a few shots with the one light in different positions to see what I can get from it. Then use my reflector or another light to see what happens that way.
    This is really going to be a fun learning experience. I really appreciate all the help from everyone!
    Carl - what you will probably find is that as you do more portraits is that you will see images of other photographer's work that you like and you will start decomposing how they lit their image and will try out some of their lighting ideas.

    - catchlights in the eyes give you an idea as to the quantity, type and to some extent the position of the lights / modifiers.

    - hot spots and the way that shadows lie will tell you something about where the lights were as well.

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