Friday, August 22, 2008

Overhead light


In 3D (my original artistic passion) lots of lighting is done in this style. Overhead light of perfectly neutral color, and strongly colored underlight to define volume and show areas in shadow without overcoming the contrast of the main light. I wanted to try it with a real person.

Setup shot:

2 Vivitar 285hv
Overhead light at 1/4 power,
at normal telephoto setting,
into tiny softbox,
light stand was at 2 meters height,
light was .5 meters in front of subject and just barely out of frame left,
aimed directly down at face,
underlight at 1/64 power (hacked vivitar),
through sunset red and 1/4 CTOrange gel,
at telephoto zoom setting,
light stand was at minimum height of .5 meters,
dead center of frame, aimed up at face.

I took one with just the overhead light to make sure I was getting it the way I wanted. I could have put the light on my boom arm to get it perfectly overhead, but I liked the way the slight asymmetry fell on the face, mainly because it illuminated one ear while leaving the other in shadow, and it revealed a bit of cheekbone. I also used a shutter speed of 1/200 and aperture of f/11 to kill the ambient, giving me black shadows. The softbox widened the light a bit, so that it wasn't as harsh as a barebulb.

I asked Agust to lean forward and to "glower" at me, in order to have his head pose and facial features match the theme of this lighting. It's a dark, contrasty, and fairly unflattering lighting setup, so it's only useful for graphical applications, not really as a portrait.


Then I turned off the overhead light, and started messing with the underlight. I wanted it to be dark, but visible. I left my camera settings alone. This gave me a chance to see if the light was the color I wanted (I guessed right with my gels), and to ensure it was the right ratio (by leaving my camera settings alone, I know how bright the main light will be. I just need to adjust this light to fit). I started at my lowest setting (below 1/1024, unsure of the exact amount) and saw it was way too dim. I upped the flash power 2 stops, still too dark, 2 more stops, good to go. I kept this light perfectly centered. First because it was easy, since it was below. No stand to get in the way. And second because I wanted the nose shadow to be aligned, so as not to block the eyes at all.


Once I had the underlight and main light ratio set, I turned the main light back on, and started trying to get my final shots. it was just a matter of evoking the right expression from the subject, and making sure I liked the image on the LCD after. The setup and ratio figuring took about 5-10 minutes, getting the final shots took less than 2. One thing that helped, is that after I got one or two good ones, I showed it to Agust. This gives him an idea of the look I'm going for, and he can adjust mentally to emote appropriately.


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