Rosco CTS & Tough Spun Portrait

Today is a typical English Spring day, heavy grey overcast cloud, flat dull light and none too warm! I turned up at my clients location knowing I need a portrait of Rod the stone mason as part of the content I'm creating for their new website.

I went prepared with an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra kit in the car along with sheets of Rosco #3006 Tough Spun diffusion material and #3442 1/2 CTS (Colour Temperature Straw) which has less red content than CTO.

I had planned to create a portrait of Rod on two levels, 1. The safe shot with just #3006 Tough Spun on the highly polished deep bowl reflector. The #3006 Tough Spun produces diffusion gives a feathering effect to the light beam with minimal beam spread. See a comparison here.

To achieve the defocussed background I shot on a Canon 100 - 400 mm f/4.5/5.6 L Series zoom lens at the long end aperture f/8, supported on a tripod. The light was about 10-20 feet from Rod at roughly 8 o'clock and 9 feet off the ground.

As you can see in the above frame, the ambient light was a little top heavy putting Rod's eyes into shadow.

To make the image pop I decided to under expose the background by by 1.5 stops under the TTL Aperture Value reading and shooting in manual mode. Remember, aperture regulates flash exposure, shutter speed ambient light exposure. So knowing I wanted to maintain an aperture of f/8 I adjusted the shutter speed accordingly.

As you can see, the location is a crowded stone yard full of background distractions, hence the desire for controlled DoF (Depth of Field). I needed to keep the light away from Rod otherwise I would have optically fried him; polished silver deep bowl reflectors are great for simulating sunlight effects, even when difused with #3006 Tough Spun. You will also notice the spill from this reflector, especially on the green gloss painted building in the distance. The spill could be controlled with Black WrapPhoto or CineFoil or even barn doors.

Once I had the safe shot in the can, I opted to create images with a cooler background. To achieve this I needed to warm up the flash with orange colour correction gel. I then made sure the camera was set to record RAW images in order that I could correct the warm cast in post-production. Normally when cross balancing I would shoot a white card as a reference for post-production. In this case it was not necessary as CTS has a know Kelvin correction value of 5500 °K to 2900°K.

This is my first frame with two cuts of #3442 Half CTS in place giving me the equivalent of #3441 Full Straw, as I do not appear to have any full CTS. Exposure compensation was simple, about a one stop loss for the CTS, so I increased the Quadra power output accordingly.

Without any further correction, you could use this set-up to simulate warm late afternoon/early evening direct sunlight to good effect.

You don not need fancy accessories to hold gels and diffusers in place; here I used small fold-back clips attached to the reflector lip. You can also use wooden clothes pins/pegs or even crocodile clips. Had there been barn doors in place I would have attached the gel and diffuser to the front of the barn doors, hence the apparent mess here as I used standard 20" x 24" sheets!

This is the first frame from post-production with 2900 °K dialled in. OK, the background is cooler blue but Rod's skin tone is also a bit on the cool side. The shadows to camera right are filled by the local ambient light, hence the blue colour remember that to correct for the orange light, blue has to be added to create a more neutral effect. Blue is opposite orange on the colour wheel.

This version of the image has 3400 °K dialled in giving a more pleasing effect. The #3006 Tough Spun has produced light suited to Rod's rugged good looks.

With the exception of my usual post-processing tweeks, all of the above images are effectively straight out of camera with no vignetting, dodging, burning or other manipulation.

Don't be affraid to deviate from brollies and soft boxes, experiment and see what you can achieve with standard reflectors on your studio or location battery portable flash and Speedlites.

Happy snapping:)


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