To one and all, whether you are celebrating Christmas or just enjoying the season.
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I’m having a hard time dealing with this winter, despite the recent Hawaii trip. Perhaps an example of why:
It has just been grey. I mean, we only get five & a half hours of light as it is, and then we go through a week & a half of fog & overcast skies. Last Friday was the first time I saw the sun in the middle of the day in almost two weeks (the above pic was taken at noon).
Hindsight, 20/20 – as always. A few notes for myself (for next time), and to answer a few questions of readers:
For fill/kicker light, don’t use the softbox
When you look back at the photo, you’ll see that the shadows to the left are nice and soft. This is good, but I don’t think it fits this particular subject. We’re not looking for a soft look – not for some hippie with a beard. A little roughness is just fine. Should have gone with, or at least tried, a bare bulb.
Use a fill reflector
Anyone want to get me a California bounce reflector? I use cheap, and often rigged-on-the-spot reflectors. I should use something better & would love a good-quality reflector. Why? In this case, the eyes kept coming out dark. Too dark, in many. Fixable, but should be better out of the camera.
Bonus: with a good reflector, I probably wouldn’t have needed the flash to camera left at all.
Turn down the brightness on the display
Yes, everyone that you’ll ever talk to will say “don’t use the display to gauge picture quality.” It’s bad – it’s chimping. Well guess what: I didn’t call this blog “photo-chimp” for nothing. People do it, and I do it. If you’re going to do it, check the histograms. I did, so these came out fine. However, by looking on the display, I thought they were much brighter. Some images, including the posted one here, needed as much as a +1.5ev adjustment in ACR, just to get skin tones right.
It’s minor, but could have been mitigated in camera. A pre-emptive responst to the question: why didn’t the histogram tell you it was off? Because of the dark background. This is a very low-key photo, and the histogram only tells me that there is detail in the photo itself.
After reviewing my post on the three-light setup, I have come to the conclusion that I probably should be using a better/heavier duty softbox with my strobing. I even found the one I want. But ouch, the price. Anyone want to get it for me? Eh, the end of my wishlist.
OK, so the reasoning: even choking up the umbrella still left some splashing of the light. It’s fine – the pictures work well and any splash is easily controlled in Photoshop, but to do it right I need flags. Again, hindsight: I could have peeled only half of the umbrella’s black cover back, but that just isn’t how I think. A flag inside, on the flash – that would have also worked. But again, just doesn’t work with my thought process (right now – ask again in a few months!).
So a softbox. Something that nicely stops light in its tracks. I’d love me one of them!
The picture to the right was taken with three lights. Technically four flashes, but only three produced the light in this particular portrait. The fourth worked as the master controller for the other three.
Our goal was to show the beard – a near-year’s worth of growth, which is about to be chopped off. We wanted to show the full size and fuzziness (this is a lot for this guy), so that later photos can accurately show the contrast. There were several poses that we ran through, all of which did pretty well. This was my favorite, I think – it shows that the hair in the back grew (pony tail, yeah!), as well as the beard effect.
So, how it was done: we started by running through the house. We needed a background that would be visually interesting if we chose to light it. It also had to be in a room large enough so that we could use light to isolate details if need be.
In the end, we chose the main living room. It’s large, has dark walls, and a natural-stone fireplace (barely visible in this background). Unfortunately, a few shots in & we realized that the mantle cuts right through an adult’s head from virtually any angle. So, darken it we shall! Take the rear light, turn it around & give the subject rimlight. This was at 1/32nd power. Click to continue »