Simple Portrait

Discussion in 'Lighting Tutorials' started by MichaelSewell, Dec 9, 2015.

  1. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    26Sept15-024.

    This lighting example is in response to a request from @rav@rav for portraiture examples. The technique demonstrated is “short lighting”, where an accent light is used on the far side of the subject's face, which then has a slimming effect to their features. This wasn't a portrait session, but a quick demonstration example, shot during a mentoring session.

    Although shot in the studio with studio heads, this is easily reproduced with the most rudimentary of speedlights. In fact the studio heads were the most basic available, deliberately chosen to demonstrate good results are not dependant on expensive equipment.

    The accent light is a 200Ws head, firing at ¼ output through a cheap 60x60 softbox frame left, and just beyond the distance of the subject. It needed to be at a ¼ output due to the distance between the light head and the subject being greater than the usual "just outside the frame", to reduce any chance of flare from the softbox.

    It was placed slightly higher than our subject's head, which you can tell from the light skimming across his waistcoat on his right shoulder (frame left). The light on his right shoulder is providing shape and texture to the garment, and shirt sleeve.

    The main light is camera right, again just above head height. This is another 200Ws studio head, firing through a 70x100 softbox which was rotated to an upright position. The intention was to imitate a window like catchlight in our subject's eye. Again, the position of the light is almost in line with his shoulder, allowing the light to skim across his left shoulder, once again providing texture and shape to his shirt and waistcoat.

    The main light was much closer, at a distance of around three feet, which meant the power was at 1/16, and also ensured the light was very soft on this side, compared with the harsher falloff on the far side of his face.

    It's basically a two light setup, in a cross lit configuration. Both heads are facing each other.

    Nikon D4 1/125th sec ISO100 24-70mm f2.8 @2.8 & 70mm

    Budget version:

    The output of the two heads is so low, they can be replaced with speedlights easily.
    The accent light would be swapped for a speedlight at ½ power, firing into a silver reflective umbrella, and marginally nearer the subject. The silver lined umbrella would provide a more contrasting light, although slightly softer due to the umbrella size, if around 33cm.

    The main light would be swapped for a speedlight at ¼ output, firing through a shoot through umbrella. This would produce a similarly soft light as the 70x100cm softbox, but you would get a circular highlight in the subjects eye. One method of counteracting this cheaply, would be to mask the umbrella to produce a rectangular highlight.

    Things to bear in mind:

    If you try the budget version, and mask the umbrella; your highlight may appear distorted in your subjects eye due to the curvature of the umbrella, and the curvature of your subjects cornea.

    All the lighting equipment required for the budget version can be bought for less than half the cost of one cheap 200Ws studio head. (Unless you're married, and lied to your wife about how much you paid for your studio heads. I hope she doesn't read this!).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 23, 2016
    • Like Like x 7
    • Informative Informative x 6
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  2. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 Top Veteran

    767
    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    Nice write up. But curious why your write up seems to be implying that a square catch-light is correct or desirable while a round one is something that should be avoided? I tend to see both used fairly equally (or certainly I don't notice one tending to dominate the other). Ring-lights seem to be a shape you see more and more these days as well, which I tend to not like as much.
     
  3. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    My explanation is a walk though of my thought process and actions. It was my intention to emulate a window light, as that is what I was demonstrating to my student.
    I then pointed out above that an umbrella could easily be substituted, but wouldn't hold to my original intention.

    I apologise if I led you to believe one was better than any other, it certainly is not. However, one modifier may allow you to realise your goal easier than another.
     
  4. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 Top Veteran

    767
    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    Ah yes, you did mention trying to simulate sitting by a window and I didn't make that connection to the catch light. Thanks.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. siftu

    siftu Mu-43 Top Veteran

    646
    Mar 26, 2015
    Bay Area, CA
    siftu
    This is great, keep them coming!
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    Today I tried something like this. I used the pop-up flash as main light :) and a remote flash bounced off a white wall for side lighting, ambient light completely removed with shutter speed/aperture (I was indoor). Camera and flash in Manual mode. I found the power level for the lights by trial and error until I was satisfied.

    When I moved the pictures to the PC I found out that all were badly underexposed. I think the LCD in a darkish room tricked me. I wanted a darkish look, but not that dark, so the clipping warnings and the histogram did not help much.

    So my question is: is there any more reliable method to get a good exposure with flash lights? The camera metering is probably useless. Like using TTL for the main light or some simple calculations based on the camera meter readings?
     
  7. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    Because flash light hits the subject when the shutter is wide open, the camera cannot meter the effect.
    The cheap way is to trial and error, as you have done, but use the histogram during playback to gauge the light level of your image.
    The better way would be to purchase a light meter, and it certainly doesn't need to be an expensive one. There are a lot kicking about on ebay, with seiko being a good middle of the road price range with good build quality and reliability
     
  8. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    @Klorenzo@Klorenzo , you may find this one to be worth a look:
    Minolta Flash Meter III

    It's cheap enough, and guaranteed working

    Bear in mind, with sufficient practice/experience, you will have less of a need for a lightmeter.
     
  9. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    @MichaelSewell@MichaelSewell Thanks for you answer. I'll add this to the wish list.

    In the meantime I realized that is probably better to aim for a good standard exposure and leave the darkening in post, getting much less noise too.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  10. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    @Klorenzo@Klorenzo
    You can do it at the point of image taking, but it requires tight control of the light sources.
    Using the on camera flash allows the light to fill the room, by bouncing off ceilings and walls, giving the impression of a lot more light than there is. To combat this, you are tempted to up the aperture to reduce the perceived light in the image. This underexposes the subject.
    By using a modifier to control where the light illuminates the subject, you will find the rest of the frame will darken off dramatically.

    As a test, try taping a toilet roll inner to both light sources, so you fire through them, and do a test shoot. You've basically made a DIY snoot.
    You will find that where the light lands will be well illuminated, and the rest of the room should be damn near black.