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Thread: Trying portraits: looking for C&C

  1. #1

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    Trying portraits: looking for C&C

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    Trying portraits: looking for C&C

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    Trying portraits: looking for C&C

    I'm trying to learn how to do portraits, and started with some family members when we got together over the weekend. I'm trying traditional portrait kinds of setup to start.

    This is all with gear that fits in a single bag: I want to be able to take the studio setup with me.

    I had 4 flashes going: a fill light a little to my left, a key light at about 45 degrees to my right. Then I had two flashes behind the subject, with blue gels, lighting the wall. The wall is lit okay, but the blue doesn't really come through. I was bouncing the two "background" flashes off some white cardboard: I tried pointing them right at the wall, but the fall-off was too visible. Any suggestions?

    My own feeling is that the basic lighting setup isn't bad, but I'm sure there's lots of room for improvement. A lot of these were slightly underexposed, even though I thought I had it all set up. I was setting up the lighting with a stuffed animal on a table, and maybe there was more background adding exposure. I definitely need to watch the histogram when I'm shooting.

    I'd appreciate any comments and recommendations.

    Cheers,
    Rick

  2. #2
    Jim B.'s Avatar
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    Re: Trying portraits: looking for C&C

    Hi Rick,

    I'm sure Colin will have some tips for you.I did my 1st portrait a month ago(with Colin's guidance).

    Trying portraits: looking for C&C

    Here's the setup I used.Camera right I had a brolley softbox with a 580ex.Camera left I had a reflector just out of frame below his shoulder aimed at the softbox at the same angle as the box(parallel).

    BG light was one bare 580ex directly behind subject at around 2' off the floor.
    All shot in manual.

    The big lesson Colin taught me was to not try and get all your lights set at once.
    Get the exposure you want on the BG lighting 1st.Then get your subject lighting dialed in.
    Get the subjects as far away from BG as possible.

    I was very pleased with the outcome.The picture ended up on 3 billboards in town

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    Re: Trying portraits: looking for C&C

    You have good reason to be pleased: a great shot, Jim.

    Is all the blue in the background a backdrop, or did you help it in PP? I had a bare, off-white wall behind, and tried to use gels to get color, with limited success. I did set up the lighting in pieces, but did the background last: I set up fill, key, background. Maybe setting the background first would help me set enough punch to get the color.

    Cheers,
    Rick

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    Re: Trying portraits: looking for C&C

    You will get better advice from others as I am only hovering on the edge of portrait photography at this time. My opinion is that they are very good. The lighting and posing looks good. I like the first one best. The eyes have nice catchlights. I recently saw a video where the photographer said they eyes are the key to a portrait and it is the photographer's job to get the emotion and personality into the eyes. This is done by talking to the model. He said don't tell them to smile, you will get a wooden smile, say something funny and take two shots, one when they initially smile and one about 5 seconds later when the face relaxes while they are still smiling. The first shot will give you teeth and wrinkles and the second shot will likely be the keeper. He also said the recommended camera level would be just above the model's eye level. It's not a law, just a rule of thumb.

    Chuck

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    Re: Trying portraits: looking for C&C

    Thanks, Chuck;

    Sister #1 is a natural smiler - tell her to smile, and it looks good. #2 is doesn't do it as naturally, which I find surprising, since she's actually appeared in a few commercials. I appreciate the tip about making them smile.

    On the camera level, I had it above eye level (I thought), but I see now that some distracting pieces of nostrils are visible in #2. I probably should have raised it a bit more. Another thing to remember to check in the initial shots.

    Cheers,
    Rick

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    Jim B.'s Avatar
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    Re: Trying portraits: looking for C&C

    Hi Rick,

    BG was a king sized bedsheet.

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    Re: Trying portraits: looking for C&C

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
    Hi Rick,

    BG was a king sized bedsheet.
    Thanks, Jim. I used a sheet on some other shots. I plan to post them, see if anyone can suggest how to fix it, because you can see folds and wrinkles.

    Cheers,
    Rick

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    Re: Trying portraits: looking for C&C

    Hi Rick,

    I'm in a bit of a rush right now, so I'll just mention a couple of things quickly.

    1. Good start

    2. Get your key light higher - the loop lighting pattern in the first shop shows that the key light was directly to camera right.

    3. Your fill shadows are a bit harsh - I'd suggest ditching the fill light and just getting a reflector in there.

    Oops - that's 3, me bad!

    With regards to backgrounds, the saturation depends on the amount of light you throw at it - I can use black seamless paper and have it white if I nuke it with enough power (and yes, I've done it ). Blue has a fairly low sweet spot, so try knocking a couple of stops of power out of your background lights as a starting point.

    I'd suggest shooting manual, and get your lights right one light at a time (or as a pair for the background). Do your background first.

    Hope this helps

  9. #9

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    Re: Trying portraits: looking for C&C

    Thanks, Colin!

    I was limited in the height of the key light (shooting through a 43 in. umbrella) by a fairly low ceiling. I had it up against the ceiling, but I probably should have had people sit down. I could have moved it somewhat closer, although as you caught in the loop pattern in #1, she's about as tall as the light, so it wouldn't have helped for her. Maybe tilt the umbrella holder/flash forward, so it can be up higher, even if it wouldn't be pointing at the subject.

    I had been thinking I should have a collapsible reflector, from reading here, especially you and Rob. Time to bite the bullet. And on the background, I kept trying to boost those lights, never thinking that I was whiting them out. I'll remember that.

    I did set up manual, and built up the lights fill, key, background. I should try getting the background right first, probably, then bring in fill and key. Or with a reflector, key and fill.

    Cheers,
    Rick

  10. #10

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    Re: Trying portraits: looking for C&C

    Quote Originally Posted by rick55 View Post
    I was limited in the height of the key light (shooting through a 43 in. umbrella) by a fairly low ceiling. I had it up against the ceiling, but I probably should have had people sit down. I could have moved it somewhat closer, although as you caught in the loop pattern in #1, she's about as tall as the light, so it wouldn't have helped for her. Maybe tilt the umbrella holder/flash forward, so it can be up higher, even if it wouldn't be pointing at the subject.
    As a rule, the closer (and larger) the light source the more wrapping and diffuse it'll be - but in practice you can get it so close that you lose all directional characteristics - so you just need to experiment a bit. I've got up to 3m in the studio and I still have height issues with lights (depending on what's attached to the light).

    I had been thinking I should have a collapsible reflector, from reading here, especially you and Rob. Time to bite the bullet.
    There's generally 2 areas you need to address - one is the "fill light" - of recent I've just been using a 1.2 x 2.4m polystyrene sheet that I attached to a portable coat hanger rail - so whatever comes out of the softbox on one side (key) hits this and bounces right back at them (fill), but in reality you can use anything white - so long as you use SOMETHING! But - you'll still need something to get the light back up under the chin area. An assistant holding a reflector works well, but if you'r on your own then the best way I've found is to get a 1m white / silver reflector - attach it to a holder - and attach that to a boom arm. It'll take some photos of it if you'd like?

    And on the background, I kept trying to boost those lights, never thinking that I was whiting them out. I'll remember that.
    Bring up a coloured shot in Photoshop - add a Hue-saturation-brightness layer and then vary the brightness from one extreme to the other. No matter what you do, you always end up with black at one extreme - white at the other - and changing saturation inbetween. When your shooting you just have to get it right by changing the power of the light hitting it

    I did set up manual, and built up the lights fill, key, background. I should try getting the background right first, probably, then bring in fill and key. Or with a reflector, key and fill.
    I just use a light meter
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 12th May 2010 at 09:33 AM. Reason: fixed missing quote tag

  11. #11

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    Re: Trying portraits: looking for C&C

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    There's generally 2 areas you need to address - one is the "fill light" - of recent I've just been using a 1.2 x 2.4m polystyrene sheet that I attached to a portable coat hanger rail - so whatever comes out of the softbox on one side (key) hits this and bounces right back at them (fill), but in reality you can use anything white - so long as you use SOMETHING! But - you'll still need something to get the light back up under the chin area. An assistant holding a reflector works well, but if you'r on your own then the best way I've found is to get a 1m white / silver reflector - attach it to a holder - and attach that to a boom arm.
    Under the chin is something to remember: now that you point that out, that would have helped a lot.

    It'll take some photos of it if you'd like?
    That would be super: there are so many variables that I really want to start with a reasonable setup. Otherwise, I'm afraid that when I try varying things, I'll be so far off the right place, it won't make any sense. That's also why I started with the simple "look at the camera and smile" pose.

    I just use a light meter
    Okay, now I have to buy a reflector and a light meter? Maybe once I get the basics right.

    Cheers,
    Rick

  12. #12
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Trying portraits: looking for C&C

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    I just use a light meter
    I have a feeling this is one of those comments that in itself, hides a whole new skill set.

    I understand the principles involved and I even have a light meter now, but little idea how to use it in the real world (I do have the manual, but haven't got far into it yet).

    I'm guessing, for the above scenario, Rick's not going to want to use the dome (which gives the omni-directional light level) if you want to check key vs fill vs background ratios.

    EDIT Para added later: Actually that's daft, you can use dome as long as only one light is on at a time - sorta proves my point I know little about this

    Perhaps we need a tutorial on using a light meter, in three parts; basic omni, incident/spot and flash. This to cover scenarios of one light source (lamp or sun), two or more continuous light sources and use of flash (with all the triggering necessary, etc.).

    I think my head is going to explode
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 12th May 2010 at 09:47 AM.

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    Re: Trying portraits: looking for C&C

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post

    I think my head is going to explode
    BANG!

    Oops

    Actually, it's not that bad

    Bottom line is that in a studio setting (unless your using hot lights) then it's all strobe ... and I have up to 4 of them to worry about - but it's not that hard really. I just start at the back - hit the test button and see what I've got - and adjust the background strobes from there (usually around F11). Then repeat for the front key/fill.

    Once they're dialed in I'll take a test shot and see how it's looking on the big screen (it's usually perfect).

    It's actually pretty simply to do contrast ratios, even with the lumisphere up ... just pop it on either side of the subjects face - although having just said that, I don't worry about it too much because I know that if I'm using the white reflector (1.2 x 2.4m one) then it'll be spot on, and if I'm using another strobe for fill then the output is calibrated in stops anyway.

    So at the end of the day it just makes life a lot easier.

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