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The Sunset Portrait

Discussion in 'Lighting Tutorials' started by MichaelSewell, Dec 30, 2015.

  1. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    10Apr10_173a copy.

    This is OCF (off camera flash) at it's cheapest, along with the use of basic rules and techniques.

    Seeing as sunsets tend to be in short supply in the UK, I try and make the most of any sunset that coincides with an event I’m photographing, and this particular wedding at Murrayshall House in Perth, Scotland, was one such event.

    I wanted to enrich the basic colours in the sunset, and also bring out that lovely mauve colour that can be seen between the orange and the blue. As you are aware, ultimate under exposure will reduce all colours to black. However, on the journey towards that point, the colours get more saturated, so underexposing by a moderate amount will enrich the colours. I checked the ambient light levels, and it gave me 1/60th f4.5 ISO100, which is a pretty good starting point, bearing in mind all the light is coming at me directly from the sunset, and the landscape itself would be underexposed a fair amount even at those settings. I upped the shutter speed to 1/250th sec, thereby underexposing the scene as a whole by two stops (-2EV), including our bride and groom. There's a tiny amount of shutter shadow creeping in along the bottom of the frame, but not enough to worry me. If it did, I would have turned the camera upside down, so as the ambient light at the top of the frame would have negated the curtain shadow. (The light from the speedlights would have been utilised at the "top" of the inverted frame).

    To light my bride and groom, I placed an SB-900 camera right at head height and just out of frame, fitted with a stofen type dome and set to ½ power. I placed a Metz 54 MZ-3 camera left just out of frame, again with a stofen and set to ½ power. The power output would compensate for the underexposure I had dialled in for the scene as a whole, and would bring the bride and groom up to optimal exposure.

    I set the camera's white balance to fluorescent, which really brings out that magenta hue along the cloud line etc, and also helps enrich the blues and orange of the sunset. Of course, you end up with a very ill looking bride and groom! I gel'd the two speedlights with full window green, which meant my speedlight output would match the camera's white balance for where the light falls.

    One thing I found when post processing, most fluorescent settings are for a cool white fluo, and do not match the window green gel exactly. It’s not out by much, but enough to give a very slight green tint to the dress in shadows. This was rectified by setting the white point to the grooms collar which I knew was white, whereas the dress was an ivory colour. The added bonus was the deepening of the sunset colours when the white balance was set correctly. The landscape behind the bride and groom was brought up in post.

    Now, about those stofens. I can hear the cries of “They don't soften the light” blah blah blah. Very true, but that's not why they were used. First of all, they act like a bare bulb, so they throw the light everywhere, and illuminate the ground in front of our subject far better. They make adding a gel a piece of cake! Simply take the stofen off, lay the gel across the front of the speedlight, and put the stofen back on. Lastly, and possibly more important for me, they provide a much better visual indicator that the speedlight has actually gone off. I'm usually behind the speedlights, and if I have a lot of speedlights in use, you can't see if they've fired, unless you have a stofen fitted.

    Wondering why the light doesn't appear that harsh on our bride and groom? The two speedlights were at such an angle to fill in the shadow area of their counterpart, therefore reducing the harshness accordingly. You can derive the positions of the speedlights from the grooms shadow(s).

    Incidentally, the speedlights were triggered using Yongnuo RF602 radio system.

    Budget version:

    Well, the only way to make this any more affordable would be to swap out the SB900 and Metz for two ultra cheap, manual only speedlights. I happened to use what came out the bag first.

    Things to bear in mind:

    Focusing can be an issue in low light, so a cheap led torch is worth it's weight in gold. It costs next to nothing, weighs nowt and takes up no room in your kit bag. But, if your camera doesn't have a focus aid (D4 etc), you can look a right chump as you struggle to focus!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 23, 2016
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  2. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Rob
    Made me laugh. Good info. Thanks.
     
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  3. BosseBe

    BosseBe Mu-43 Regular

    109
    Aug 7, 2015
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Beautiful photo!

    I've learned something new. Thank you!
    But I hope I never have to do wedding photos, to much stress.

    /Bosse
     
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  4. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    Nothing beats stress quite as well as preparation. ;)
     
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  5. BosseBe

    BosseBe Mu-43 Regular

    109
    Aug 7, 2015
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Yeah, that's why you are a pro and I'm an hobbyist, because you know how to prepare.

    Happy new year!
    /Bosse
     
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  6. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    And preparation is only lots of practice. At least till it becomes habit, anyway :)

    And happy new year to you too Bosse :drinks:
     
  7. saladin

    saladin Mu-43 Veteran

    387
    May 29, 2015
    jason
    Beaut thread. Thanks.
     
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  8. siftu

    siftu Mu-43 Top Veteran

    638
    Mar 26, 2015
    Bay Area, CA
    siftu
    Love the series and the photos. Learning a great deal from this so I'm going to keep encouraging you
     
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  9. c0ldc0ne

    c0ldc0ne Mu-43 Regular

    71
    Oct 9, 2012
    I like the image as a whole, but am I the only one noticing the areas to the left and right of the groom's head where the hue is distinctively different from the background? It's like a purple glow is emanating from the poor man's ears. o_O
     
  10. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    No, it is definitely there.
    It isn't noticable on the full resolution image, but the reduction in image size seems to have emphasised it. Probably a by-product of the post processing, at a guess.

    Good spot :2thumbs:
     
  11. c0ldc0ne

    c0ldc0ne Mu-43 Regular

    71
    Oct 9, 2012
    Thanks for confirming, I was beginning to doubt my eyesight. :)
     
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  12. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    This is the problem when reducing images to less than a quarter of their original size.
    Checked original again, and no discernable halo effect.
    Interesting.
    Even though the image is in the client's album, it didn't show there, but the print resolution was 300dpi, as opposed to 72dpi screen resolution.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2015
  13. m4/3boy

    m4/3boy Mu-43 Veteran

    306
    Jul 21, 2013
    Beautiful work! Though I think I would have eliminated the flag pole and small white blob in the background during post.
     
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  14. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    lol
    I worked extremely hard to bring that up in post.
    The original raw was pretty much a blackhole, and the b+g chose Murrayshall House because they holiday there a couple of times a year for the golf. Hence the reason it was to be included, and why I sweated over making sure it came up.

    If it hadn't been for the previously mentioned reasons, I have to agree, it'd be gone within an instant!
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2016
  15. nuclearboy

    nuclearboy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    850
    Jan 28, 2011
    USA
    Thanks for all the insights. I don't have the experience and this helps.
     
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  16. SpecFoto

    SpecFoto Mu-43 Veteran

    314
    Aug 28, 2012
    So Cal
    Jim
    Michael, thank you for livening up the Lighting Forum, it has been unfortunately a pretty dull place. :rolleyes: Your examples and photos are great and really like that you are starting to include BTS shots. See you are using the Godox lights, I have 6 of them and love them, they have replaced my 5 Nikon strobes.

    That being said though, this is a M4/3 camera forum. I shoot portraits too, probably 70% with my D800, Nikon 85 f/1.4 and 135 DC f/2. I do not post those shots here, as this is not a Nikon forum. The other 30% are with my EM1, EM5 MK II, Nocticron and the outstanding Oly 75mm f/1.8 and those are occasionally posted here. Just my opinion, because I do no want to lessen the great info you are providing, but might it be best if you only posted M4/3 examples here? After all a D3/D4 cost 5 times what the most expensive OMD costs and as good your threads are, I believe they would have more impact (on this forum) if the reader could relate to the camera being used. I can just imagine the readers thoughts saying "no wonder his shots are so good, he is using a $5,500 camera body".
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2016
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  17. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    As this is the lighting forum, I had assumed tutorials on lighting, irrespective of camera would be fine. The tutorials are regarding the lighting technique, as opposed to the photographic equipment.
    The cost of the camera equipment has no bearing on the ability to light a subject, which is the point of these lighting examples. I'm pretty sure @Amin Sabet@Amin Sabet was aware of this, as no request was made to restrict images to an M43 camera.

    However, I take your point, and will only post images taken with M43 cameras and lenses from this point on, although it will impact heavily on the weekly post rate.
    The ones scheduled for tomorrow and next week are not viable, and won't go ahead.
    I'll restart once I have something suitable.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2016
  18. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    Personally I'd prefer a post with a different system then no post at all. Many members here use different formats and are well aware of the differences.

    One question: I really do not want to turn this post in the usual "format war" debate, but I'm curious about what criteria you use to decide what gear to use for different assignments. It's about available light, final output, gear size, other gear compatibility or something else completely? Like the top 3 reasons.
     
  19. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    @Klorenzo@Klorenzo

    As far as the camera goes, it makes no difference at all with good light. The main reason being you are usually shooting at base ISO, so no noise issues, no matter what format.
    I've shot full frame, APS-C, M43 and compacts. The final images tend to be indistinguishable, and originating system cannot be identified unless stated.

    This is why I'm surprised photographers are more interested in the camera, rather than the lighting technique used to create the image.

    As for my choice of weapon, there can be many reasons, or none at all.

    I'm finding I increasingly choose the E-M1 over everything else due to a number of reasons. IBIS being a big factor when shooting at silly handheld shutter speeds, such as the bridal rain portrait here.
    The synch speed of 1/320th sec is another reason, as is the depth of field for a given aperture, bearing in mind the relationship between flash output and aperture.

    Then again, it's often nothing more than whichever bag or case I lay my hands on first, so it could be an E-M1, D4, D3, D810, D700, GF2 etc etc etc

    My only requirement is for the camera body to have manual control over white balance, shutter speed, ISO and aperture. Finally, it must be able to trigger the lighting rig.
    I have previously duck taped an optical trigger in front of a compact camera's onboard flash, which in turn triggered a radio transmitter, which then triggered the lighting rig.

    As I've said, with good lighting, the choice of camera and lens is a secondary consideration, although some photographers would argue against that point.

    My evidence is the fact my clients really don't care what I've captured the image on, so long as it creates the interest and increased sales they desire.

    However, @SpecFoto@SpecFoto and @star bright star light@star bright star light feel strongly enough about the use of other system equipment to voice it here, and I need to take their view into consideration.

    It's a shame, because I have a rich source of images that I had collected together for future lighting example posts, for clients such as BMW and Marriott Hotels. I will instead set aside images that are created using the Olympus, although the need for images for these tutorials will not dictate which system I use on a shoot. I'm afraid that will often still be down to pot luck, as old habits die hard! :)
     
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  20. greenjp

    greenjp Mu-43 Regular

    69
    May 15, 2014
    Maryland
    I can't disagree with this enough. These are great posts, very informative and system neutral. Amin is the only one whose opinion matters when it comes to whether the system used for a particular shoot is a limiting factor; if SpecFoto and star bright star light don't want to read about a picture taken with a Nikon, they don't have to. The rest of us appreciate the effort and would like to learn from you, regardless of what camera you used at the time.

    jeff
     
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