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What's the light arrangement for portrait shots like this?

Discussion in 'Lighting Forum' started by crashwins, Sep 25, 2012.

  1. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    I suppose you could ask the photographer for the exact setup but just guesswork:

    - one small softbox right of subject, about 1m above head. Possibly grid too.
    - one moderate rim light directly behind subject
    - backdrop a fair distance from subject
    - some vignette added in post (see top corners)

    Also please keep in mind this was shot probably with a MF camera. It's also difficult to estimate the amount of sharpening and microcontrast applied in post.

    If you are interested though, I think these kind of BW portraits are fairly easy to replicate using rather modest equipment (apart from the final image resolution)
    • Like Like x 2
  2. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Indeed, comments mention a PhaseOne camera so I would assume MF is a safe bet.
  3. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    My assumption was based on "original" resolution although perhaps it would be a high Mp FF camera too?

    edit: to say that I love these kinds of shots and especially with black people (and generally dark skin) they are not as easy to come by as with fair/normal skin. Not to mention you can't "hack" your way around by high-keying the photo (and presenting it as "artistic view" :cool: )

    edit No2: sorry for being hasty, wanted to add that perhaps there is also a small reflector in front/below subject in the setup. And that this type of shot could also be done with continuous light source. There are a myriad of ways to work this out, IMHO.
  4. crashwins

    crashwins Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 13, 2010
    Northampton, MA
    Great, thanks for the responses..Yes, I was thinking MF was in the works here too, but wasn't sure bc the photographer was using what looked like a 5D in a lot of other shots..

    I've been on this forum a long time and mostly do street photography, but recently got a bulkier DSLR in my quiver and a 580 EX ii so thought I'd give portrait shooting a whirl. Softboxes, etc, are just pricey so I've been looking for cheaper ways of producing this light (for shots like the one I linked). Seems like Home Depot with all it's shop lights, natural light bulbs, and tungsten light options, could be a possibility, but would love to hear from the experts -- why I posted here. Basically, I don't want to go out and spend $500 in lighting to discover it's not really my speed. Thanks!
  5. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    First of, not an expert by the wildest stretch of the imagination but here is my humble opinion (I'm sure some of the experienced strobists/lighting members will chime in):

    1. You don't need a DSLR (not even FF) for these kind of shots, IMHO. It's quite feasible to replicate with :43: and the "usual suspect" lenses
    2. Messing with continuous light is cool, but since you have a speedlight at your disposal, start from there. If you stay in manual mode (non-TTL) you can add a couple more used flashlights for less than $100-$150.
    3. Softboxes and other modifiers are not that expensive. A good convertible umbrella is less than $30. There is a variety of softboxes for $40-$50.
    4. Invest in a couple of DVDs for lighting. My personal recommentations would be Zach Arias and Frank Doorhof, because of their "back to basics", clean approach, but there are several great tutorials out there.
    5. In any case just start simple and build up.

    All the above are based on personal experience and views on the matter and need not be taken as anything else than that. I guess the only thing I can be adamant about is building gradually as your needs change.
  6. Chrisnmn

    Chrisnmn Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 26, 2012
    Auckland, New Zealand
    My guess is,

    1 light setup. Beaty Dish with Grid in front of the subject pointed 45 degrees to the floor. And yes this could be done with the 5DMKII or an OMD easily!.

    no reflectors or anything (I can tell this because theres no flash reflection in his eyes so theres no light straight or from the side of the subject). all vignette and background halo is made in post.

    my 2cents!
  7. veereshai

    veereshai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 12, 2011
    Arlington, VA
    I remember seeing this photograph on Strobist's blog. Did a little search and here you go:

    Strobist: B2B: One Big Top Light

    It's one big light source and the background was done up in post.
    • Like Like x 2
  8. wildwildwes

    wildwildwes Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 9, 2012
    Brooklyn, NY

    Yup. Exactly... My guess was one big softbox above the subject -- fairly close to him (no light reflection in his eyes) . Background at least 10' behind the subject (so it goes soft -- while still being able to stop down on the aperture) and with a single backlight aimed at the background, which gives the halo effect behind the subject...
  9. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    Well, if you check the photo in 100% crop (original size at flickr), there is tiny catch light in the eyes, and actually looks like coming from long distance somewhere slightly to the right (of subject). I guess this is the actual lightsource/strobe "center".
  10. crashwins

    crashwins Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 13, 2010
    Northampton, MA
    Wow, glad I asked! This has been immensely helpful. Thanks folks

    I read over the linked Strobist article. Not that I'd produce his results, but it's nice to read buying some lighting gear won't break the bank.

    One question: for the cellist shot he's using the large Photek soft light right about the head. He prices it out at $100. But essentially I'd need the soft light and a strobe to go inside it too, correct (and the boom)?
  11. crashwins

    crashwins Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 13, 2010
    Northampton, MA
    Ah, it does seem I could use my 580 EX with several of those mentioned, like the Photek softlight. I guess the Alien bee is a pretty common accessory to go with softlight too.
  12. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    Yes, the modifier, flashlight/strobe and a stand, correct. And some kind of background.

    Thank you for provoking such interesting conversation. :smile:
  13. crashwins

    crashwins Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 13, 2010
    Northampton, MA
    Thanks! So, with the Softlighter is he using a strobe (seems really heavy for where he has it aligned above the subject) or a flash (or pair of flashes)? In his diagram it looks like a powerful flash was used - could a 580 EX ii do the trick?
  14. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    In a studio setting? You don't need a strobe for this. Any adequate speedlight will do. Studio strobes offer faster recycle time, more power (obviously) and modeling lights. But in this instance you need nothing of those.
  15. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    I use both strobes and speedlights, and get the same quality from either. I would not stick with just one light source, whether strobe or speedlights. I like speedlights because I can carry a backpack full of them and spread out my light sources as I please. I can't do that with studio strobes, although the plug-in power and extra broad modifiers are a breeze to use. Use whatever system is comfortable for you and don't ever think you "need" something else just because somebody else is using it. I'm sure you would never be able to tell which photos on my website (see signature) are shot with strobes and which with speedlights... Or both.

    A single 580EX though? Not enough... Unless you want to stick with harsh pin-point lighting. If you're on a low budget, look around for some old manual flash units like Vivitar, Chinon, Sunpak, etc. Cheapest and most hassle-free (both factors in one) triggering system is to add a slave sensor to each or use the built-in slave sensors of some. The ones with no built-in slave sensor can use an optical eye (any brand) or peanut slave (Vivitars mostly use these). I stock up on optical eyes because I use so many types of flash. The expensive but hassle-free system is radio triggers. They can get costly with large multiple-flash systems. They're okay if you keep your light system small (like up to 3 units), but the bigger you get the more prohibitively expensive radio triggers will become. Or you could use the cheap eBay triggers but then you will lose reliability and durability - especially durability. I break those things like candy. The cheapest and most reliable, but full of hassle, is using PC Sync cables. The wires are a hassle though, and you can only reliably trigger a few of them off the voltage in your camera. A single triple-sync (for up to 3 units) is all I would use for that, so you would eventually have to add wireless slaves to the mix anyways. The cables don't get longer than 30' with 16' being more common, but running long cables like that through your studio is just nasty in every way. I would never suggest it in this day and age for remote units, and haven't run long cables for longer than I can remember.. PC Sync is how I always trigger my bracket-mounted flash, and if using an optical slave system that's the one that starts the chain to trigger them all (from behind a Lumiquest softbox). The good 'ol cable can't be beat for stuff close to the camera. On a camera body with hotshoe and PC jack you can dedicate the PC Sync to your flash bracket while leaving the hotshoe open for a radio transmitter. If using an optical system, it doesn't matter. All you need is a hotshoe.

    Most studio strobes have an optical slave sensor on top. Most also come with radio triggers, but many of them are junk. I'm more likely to rely on the optical sensor, especially in a controlled studio environment.

    Low key portraits like you're looking at don't require much light. For that you could stick with just a few units. However, if you want to do anything high key you'll need a lot more than that. Either way, I would never stick with just one light for anything in the studio. Only thing I use one light for is running around an event playing papparazzi.
  16. jmw

    jmw Mu-43 Regular

    May 20, 2012
    San Francisco, CA
    Dude, rent.

    I could get never get myself over the cost barrier of buying studio lighting (not to mention, where am I going to put all of that stuff for the 99% of the time it sits unused?), and then I found that I could rent two 500+ Ws strobes with stands, softboxes, and a tripod for $150 for a weekend. I was a complete noob to using lights but got things working easily and learned a ton.

    You're within reasonable distance of two big cities and there's got to be some place that can rent you equipment.
  17. Panut

    Panut Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 25, 2011
    Just a sidenote: a big thanks to everyone contributing to this thread.

    I can read, and have read, a pile of books on the topic, and try things out for myself, but it's only this kind of discussion is that really gets me thinking because you get contrasts of different ideas and allows you to rate if something you have in mind would be overkill or way too little for your purposes.

    Like, if you only read books on hammers, you start to see everything as nails. This discussion helps with the disease.

    Thanks folks, and please do not stop!


    PS. And oh, I have only one powerful flash and I've pretty much never used it for anything else but as fill light in sunlight. The only studio it has been to is the one-room apartment of a friend... That's my contribution. ;) 
  18. jambaj0e

    jambaj0e Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 31, 2010
    You really can't get this soft of a lighting with a speedlight. It is very hard to replicate the big, soft light look of a studio strobe with a speedlight, because a studio strobe has a bare bulb while the speedlight is small and pushes the light out forward.

    Even in a softbox, a speedlight is more likely to create a hotspot than a studio strobe because the harsh directness of a speedlight. Sure you can bounce it off some wall, but you don't have the degree of control of your lighting, direction, and spill.

    As someone who have use the lighting setup from the OP many times with an Einstein strobe and a 64" parabolic light modifier (PLM) with a front sock, I am very familiar with this light approach. It's a great lighting and I mix in soft-soft-hard light combo with it quite a bit.

    With this light, it's all about feathering the light so you're not aiming the center at the subject, but the diminishing light outwards. I do it a lot with socked 22" beauty dish, PLM, and softboxes. Feathering gets you that painterly look that Annie Leibovitz is famous for (Look at the movie posters of the Les Miserables movie as shot by Annie to see what I mean).

    When I started learning how to light with an off-camera flash, I used a speedlight for about 2 months. Then I bought an Einstein. Since then, I would choose the Einstein and studio strobes 95% of the time, even when shooting outside or on location. I only use a speedlight if I'm forced to by like not enough time or having to move quickly. Otherwise, my bare minimum on-location lighting will be an Einstein with a Vagabond battery and a 22" beauty dish with grid and sock handy.

    Big difference using studio lighting and speedlights. Big difference.

    I'm not trying to sound like an a$$, but really, knowing how to harness studio lighting is a beautiful accomplishment for any photographer.
  19. jambaj0e

    jambaj0e Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 31, 2010
    Honestly, invest in your craft.

    Start off with Alien Bees if a $500 Einstein is too much. For me, the $500 I put into the Einstein was the best investment I've ever made in my photographic journey. Better than the lenses and cameras I've learn because it made me want to shoot with studio strobes all the time, even in outdoor on-location. It doesn't matter what camera or lens I shoot with now or what I'll end up with later. The experience in lighting stays with me.

    It made me want to learn how to use Profotos and to assist bigger and bigger photoshoots where they use Profotos and Broncolors, and how to meter light with a light meter, and how to use lighting modifiers like a softbox, octabox, beauty dish, strip boxes, etc work, as well as how to feather, use flags, silks, and so on.

    For me, the world of lighting is far more exciting than the world of camera gear. There is just so much more potential.

    If your camera and lens is a paintbrush, the lighting is the color palette =D

    - Joe.
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