Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Amateur Hour

Well, I was asked to do a load of portraits for our church PCC recently. This involves creating mug shots for all committee members quickly and efficiently before one of the meetings. This sounds like a job for Strobist Man, so I took along my three old Sunpak flashes, a home made lighting stand, two home made lighting modifiers and a light tripod to act as a second lighting stand.

The home made modifiers are folded matt mylar with velcro, as shown below. They spread the light a bit more, they fold flat and they make it look like you know what you are doing...

OK, so I do use flash occasionally for set piece images like these two: I have a set of cheap radio triggers already, and I have read portrait lighting theory carefully :-)

However I don't generally photograph people, and portraits shots are even more challenging. Astute readers will know I have done a fashion shoot a few months ago. The outdoor shots with key and fill flash were OK, but the indoor shots suffered from poor planning, poor lighting and a bad background.

So I applied all this experience gained from failure to the recent  mug shots, and the results were, I think, rather better. I managed to find a fairly presentable white wall as a background. However the grey to white transition is inserted with Photoshop as the flashed white background looked too stark.

There is clearly room for improvement, but there were some happy accidents at work in this shot:

Here I have the key flash at 1/8th power top left of camera with its small diffuser on the lighting stand. There is a second flash using 1/16th power positioned at shoulder height pointing at the white wall background, but with a business card acting as a mini barn door to stop light falling directly on the subject. Finally I had a hand held fill flash at 1/16th power to lift the shadows. There was no convenient ceiling to use with bounce so we are stuck with the basic flash and diffuser setup. 

The happy accident is that the reflected light from the white wall acted as a kicker or seperator light on the cheek. This comes from placing the subject only half a meter from the wall and is a useful trick to remember for the future. I shall claim I planned it that way all along.

I have assembled a home made white background but time and space dictated I couldn't use it for this shoot. It looks like I need to buy a white umbrella if I am going to do this again, as the key lighting is too hard. A big white umprella: Now that would look professional..

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