Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fiona Evening part 2


Settings: Ambient was between 1-2 stops below neutral grey. The far background was 2 stops below, and the foreground was 1 stop below. Flash one is even with the photographer and aimed at the large white wall just outside camera right, turning it into a giant softbox. Flash one is about 2 stops above neutral grey. Flash two is off frame left, about 4 meters behind and to the left of subject, about 2.5 stops above neutral grey.

Next stop was a large church building on a hill overlooking the city lights. Here is the research shot I did.


I liked the rock, and originally I wanted to include the white wall and bench as well, but after I cropped tighter, I liked it much more with just the rock. First I got a good exposure with just the ambient, then I added the first flash and aimed it at the wall. This provided a beautifully big soft light for her front. Then I added a second flash to the left and behind. This one I zoomed to 105mm and aimed upwards so that just the feathered edge touched her. This prevented it from hitting the rock, for when I was taking wider crops earlier. This also made that flash weaker than it's lowest setting of 1/128.

Fiona was a natural, I barely had to direct her at all, she's just a glam-rocker and knew how to make love to the camera. The outfit was her choice too, but the red on black work so well in this dark city scape setting.

One more from this setup.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Fiona Evening part 1


Settings: Ambient is 1 stops below neutral grey. Flash one is just to the right of the photographer aimed at the ground, at 1 stops above neutral grey. Flash 2 is off frame left, and even with model, zoomed to 105mm and 1.5 stops above neutral grey.

I had a really nice 3 hour shoot this past weekend. Fiona is a friend of mine, and very beautiful, with a great sense of fashion, so it made sense to ask her out on a shoot. I've had the feeling I've been over-lighting a lot of my portraits when I go out to do location stuff, so I wanted to try to be a bit more subtle. This was a project to work on that. It was also my first shoot out with my new (used) 5D body. I love working with full frame.

I had some vague ideas in mind, and locations, but I needed to figure out more on what I wanted before dragging her and my lights out for the real thing. I did a research trip, which greatly helped. I visited the locations with just my camera and lenses the night before, and figured out angles and composition. After getting home, I was able to also think about final lighting.

Here is the research trip image:


For this setting, I knew I wanted to have her sit on the chain in the right side. It would work well compositionally, plus it would put her against a dark portion of the image. By then lighting her, it would really help her pop out from the background. I wanted to use the lamp post as a mental "light source" Meaning my brightest light would come from it's general direction, so as to imply it being the light source. My second light source would act as a fill from the right side, and be much softer and a stop less in intensity.


The flash from the left worked perfectly as a bright light source, but it left some harsh shadows on her face. I needed a soft, dimmer light source from the right to fill it in. I would have liked to use an umbrellas, but it was quite windy and I had no assistant to hold the stand. I ended up setting the flash to about 1.5 meters height, zoomed it to 50mm, powered it up a bit and aimed it at the ice in front of her. It worked great as a large soft fill. I ended up having to darken the ice below her feet in post, to hide the light source and keep attention on her face, but it was a really nice result.

One quick note on the main flash. It was zoomed to 105mm, but I aimed it upwards so that the feathered edge of the beam hit her around the waist height. If it had been aimed directly at her, there would have been harsh shadows leading away from her legs. I used that extensively on this shoot, using just the feathered edge to touch her head, but fade out before the lower body.

Two more after an outfit change. Same lighting setup.



Sunday, January 25, 2009

My lighting kit

ATA sized rolling case, the Hardigg stormcase im2500. Waterproof, durable, and it's nice to be able to wheel it when I have my clothes on a bag on my back.

Open, it's filled with foam. The top is egg carton foam, the bottom is "pick and pluck" so you can customize it to your own shape. I keep my 1x1.2 meter silver/gold reflector in the lid, behind the top foam insert.

Closeup of all of it packed. I like briefcase style, rather than bags, because it's much easier to access everything, and also easy to place everything back where it goes. Everything can be accessed at any time in any order, or placed back in any order.

The contents laid out.

Canon 5D with 50mm 1.8 lens attached.
35mm 1.4 lens
85mm 1.8 lens
Spare canon battery for 5D
2x 580ex II
2x Skyport receivers
2x flashzebra screwlock skyport to pc-sync cables
Skyport transmitter
spare skyport transmitter battery
Honl honeycomb grid.
2x Manfrotto nano light stands
2x custom aluminum umbrella swivels from Germany. (these are tinier than any commercial umbrella stand, and the only way my kit fits in this case)
110cm silver umbrella
1x1.2 meter silver/gold reflector panel
16x AA 2900mh batteries. 8 inside the flashes, 4 loose, and 4 in the charger
Impact rapid charger
canon battery charger
stock flash tabletop stand (for placing the flash on the ground or a table.
3x CF cards (8 gb, 4 gb, 2, gb)
80 gb harddrive with built in CF slot (this lets me back up my memory cards without a computer, in the field, so that I have 2 copies of all image files)
lenspen (for cleaning the lenses of debris or fingerprint smudges)

I shoot all my photo shoots with this kit. I sometimes switch out the silver umbrella for a smaller one, or a white one. I can also cram both umbrellas in if I think I will need them. It's very convenient to have one case, and for it to be a hard roller. It frees you up while moving around, and gives you another arm to carry other things. Not having to worry what kind of ground you place it on is quite convenient too. It's carryon sized, so I don't have to check my camera equipment and risk it being stolen. I normally fly with a small sling bag of clothes, and this camera case. The sling I keep on my back and the case I roll. It was very inconvenient when I was using a camera bag still, carrying one bag on each shoulder was really tiring. The main thing that made me switch to a case, was the pain of pulling things out of a bag. I would need to make sure I brought them out in the right order, or search for things in a different area of the bag. With one compartment, and everything with it's own place, it's much more convenient.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

More silver reflector


Settings: Ambient is 4 stops below neutral grey. Flash into 110cm silver umbrella, 2 stops above neutral grey, to the right and above. Silver 1x1.2 m reflector to the left and below, angled up. Tiny slave flash in the background lighting it up.

I decided to try an experiment with the silver reflector. Normally I like edgy lights, with deep shadows and strong direction. Soft light is easy light, I always thought. But I wanted to try some soft, easy light. I put my favorite soft light, a 110cm silver umbrella, high and to the right, and used the reflector to fill in the shadows. Then I put my tiny morris slave flash in the background, through a blue gel, at it's lowest setting. That lit up the background for a nice light, airy feel. A warm gel would have made it feel a bit warmer, and I should have tried that.


Settings: Ambient is 4 stops below neutral grey. Flash into 110cm silver umbrella, 2 stops above neutral grey, to the right and above. Silver 1x1.2 m reflector to the left and below, angled up.

Then I turned off the slave flash in the background, to get a dark backdrop. This completely changes the look of the portrait. Having a dark background implies there is the proper amount of lighting, so even though the skin is super softly lit, it looks "correct", and implies youthful skin, since wrinkles and pores are minimized in their shading. Women or self conscious men will love this lighting setup. The light backdrop of the first works well too, especially with a little texture so that it looks legitimate.

Here's the setup shot:


If I wanted the shadows a tiny bit darker, I could have switched to the white reflector instead of the silver. I am guessing the silver reflects -1 stop, and the white -2 stops. That would give you either a 1:2 ratio of main to fill
with silver, or a 1:4 ratio with the white. Assuming they are placed as close as possible of course. Distance also reduces light intensity. Moving white backwards a bit would give you 1:8 ratio.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Slight flash


Settings: Ambient is about a stop below neutral grey. Flash through honeycomb grid aimed at face, from high up and to the right, at one stop above neutral grey.

I realized all my favorite photos, both that I've taken, and that I like of others, use a lot of ambient light, and the artificial light is very subtle and only adds a little pop to the main area. I really want to pursue this line of lighting this year.

For this photo, almost all the light is window light from the left. I got on a chair to shoot from this height, and took at f/1.8 to get a little depth of field on the feet, so that the attention was kept on the face. Once I had everything exposed right, I decreased the iso by one stop to make everything a bit darker. Then I added my flash to a stand at about 2 meters height, to the right, aimed it at his face, and added a honeycomb grid to constrain it to just his face. Without the grid, even zoomed to 105mm, it spread to the rest of the bed and body. It had just enough softness to fade out nicely, and because there was only about a stop difference between ambient and flash, even though the edges of the shadows from the flash are harsh, they aren't very noticeable. If I had dropped ambient another stop or two, the flash shadows would have been extremely noticeable.

I'm still working on a portable option that lets me through softer light a longer distance. I'll let you know what I come up with. I would have loved to have this light constrained only to the face like this, but softer.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Window light with reflector and subtractor


Settings: giant window to the right, large black subtractor panel on the left to absorb the light and darken the shadows.

While I was in England, I went to this great specialty shop, Viewfinder Photography. They have all sorts of equipment custom made just for them. My favorite is this great collapsible reflector panel, it has 2 pieces of fabric. One is black on one side, the other side white. The second is silver on one side, and gold on the other. Each corner has a grommet, and it uses steel poles to hold it tight, and mounts onto a light stand. Nothing else like this mounts so easily and collapses so small. It comes in 3 sizes too, but I have the smallest, 1x1.2 meters.

It's extremely versatile. You can use the black or white as backdrops, like I did here:

Settings: Ambient is underexposed by 4 or more stops. Flashes are 3-4 stops above neutral grey, into large 110cm umbrellas on either side of the subject, slightly behind and above, but aiming forward. Large gold 1x1.2 meter reflector in the front, bouncing the light back onto the front of the face.

or you can use them as a reflector or subtractor. For the first photo in this post, I used the black side to subtract light from the shadows. Without the black subtractor, the light from the window could bounce around the mostly white kitchen and fill in the shadows. With a big black sheet right on the other side, no light can bounce, so it darkens the shadows a lot.

Conversely, you can use the white side to fill the shadows a lot, like this:


Settings: giant window to the right, large white reflector panel on the left to reflect the light and lighten the shadows.

One trick I want to try, is to place the gold sheet on the ground, and aim one of my flashes at it. That way I'll have a nice warm, golden fill light coming from below, and I can use my main flash and light mod as the main light, and still have the white/black panel to use as a background or a reflector/subtractor.

The best part about this light modifier, is the price. Only 30 pounds for the small size I got. That's about 45 USD.