Monday, 13 September 2010

Portrait Photography Lighting Workshop

See below for the lighting diagram for this shot

Sorry that the blog and Twitter have been quiet for some time. I did try and take a break during August for some well deserved R & R and to decorate my eldest daughters bedroom, but work got in the way! Meetings that could not be moved and location shoots where the models were shipped in from throughout the UK - enough said. Last week was spent reestablishing a client's business systems after the rapid departure of a key staff member. This last instance is proof that you need skills beyond photography to succeed today.

I digress. A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of leading a portrait photography workshop for Park Cameras with a great bunch of photographers willing and eager to learn how to light portraits better. This workshop was a real eye-opener for me as the workshop was supposed to be orientated toward studio lights, in this Bowens Gemini - less than an hour into the workshop the consensus was that everyone wanted to know how to light their portraits, but using Speedlites instead of studio flash. Not an unreasonable request since most people own at least one hot shoe flash for their camera. Just as well that I had my OCF case (off-camera flash) with me - expect the unexpected.

To my mind the Speedite or hot shoe flash has got to be the most underestimated tool in a photographers bag. When photographers start out they wonder why their people pictures look so horrid and the answer is simple - on-camera flash - move the flash away from the camera and a whole new photographic journey begins.

You do need some extra gear to get started with off-camera flash and this need not break the bank. I am working on a series of kit lists for off-camera flash beginners to more advanced users so watch this space. Some of the most useful accessories cost less than a tenner ((£10/10GBP).


Here's how I created the shot at the top of the page:

1. BACKGROUND LIGHT
Canon 550 EX Speedlite triggered with a radio remote. Power in the region of 1/8th, manual. No E-TTL for this one. Gel Clip with Rosco Strobist Collection Light Red gel and a tight snoot formed from Rosco matte black Photofoil. You don't need a lot of power as the flash was only about 6 feet from the white background paper.

2. HAIR LIGHT
Canon 580 EX II triggered with a Flash Zebra optical trigger. Rosco Strobist Collection 1/4 & 1/2 CTO gels (3/4 CTO - gels can be stacked or layered for a cumulative effect). CTO or colour temperature orange are really intended for correcting daylight light sources to incandescent/tungsten, depending on whether you speak Nikon or Canon! I guess power on manual was around 1/16th.

3. Alexandra, our patient and lovely model. Thanks for tolerating us. Much appreciated.

4. KEY LIGHT
Canon 550 EX with 60 cm/24 inch Lastolite Ezybox about 2 feet from Alexandra. Power was around 1/8th or 1/16th. Not too sure as wasn't taking notes and when working manual via a radio trigger the setting do not show up in the files metadata. Gel Clip with a 1/4 CTO to warm up the skin tones.

5. BACKGROUND
9 foot white background roll. There's nothing to stop you using a white painted wall. The background has gone grey as a result of the light falling off rapidly as I had the key light close to the model.

If anyone is interested I'll write a complete kit list for this image, as there is a lot more kit in use than you could imagine.

With regard to lighting kit - probably the best investment you'll make in your photography career as it will last and not date as quickly as camera gear, if at all (with exception of some camera manufacturer units). I've been collecting my lighting gear for over 30 years and the quest continues. Clamps, grips, stands, spigots, flash heads, hot lights, cool lights, diffusers, reflectors the list goes on. I can guarantee that there will always something you need to make life easier the next time you shoot with flash or any artificial lighting! I've just ordered a Speedlite to Bowens S type adaptor and also need an Avenger/Manfrotto scissor clamp C1000 that goes onto the rails of a suspended ceiling - you see the list in never ending.

Rosco Photofoil - just the stuff for creating snoots and gobo's for your off-camera flash or Speedlites

I have a roll of Rosco Cinefoil, the wide equivalent of Photofoil that must be over 15 years old. This stuff is tough, I have a piece in my bag that must be over 5 years old and still going strong despite pin holes and creases. I suppose Cinefoil and Photofoil develop character with age. These bits could tell a tale or two based on one of the shoots a couple weeks back; it's just as well they cannot;-)

TTFN

Ian

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