Example of soft lighting for portrait

Discussion in 'People Photography' started by Dick Sanders, Dec 28, 2008.

  1. Dick Sanders

    Dick Sanders TPF Noob!

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    A question that comes up fairly often is how to get soft lighting for portraits. And you see a lot of "portrait lighting kits" that consist mainly of bounce umbrellas. But just bouncing light off a reflective umbrella won't give you soft light.To get really nice soft lighting for portraits, you need three layers of diffusion. Even shoot-thru umbrellas give you only 1 layer.

    For the "senior portrait" shown here I used a 4x7 foot light panel with translucent diffusion material stretched over it. Behind that, I positioned a strobe head with a 12 inch reflector that also had a diffusion disc on the front of it. Finally, I draped an additional piece of translucent white fabric over the panel. That's 3 layers of diffusion. I also used a 20 x 30 inch piece of white foamcore on the opposite side to reflect light back onto the subject. Very simple setup.

    Keep in mind, I intentionally made this dark and moody with just the one light and reflector. But I could have easily used more lights to highlight the hair and/or brighten the background.

    [​IMG]

    Another type of soft lighting I use consists of a 36 inch softbox, in which I've reversed the strobe head to aim to the back of the box, not straight thru the front. The light first bounces off the rear of the box, then punches through the diffusion fabric on the front of the box. But I also clip another piece of diffusion material to the front of the box -- for one bounce and two diffusion (3 total). If you do use a shoot-thru umbrella, try draping additional layers of diffusion material over it to further soften the light. Questions and comments welcome.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2009
  2. Dick Sanders

    Dick Sanders TPF Noob!

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    Hey, gang... I intended this to be a "how to" for anybody here who was having trouble achieving a soft lighting effect... but comments are also welcome, and other examples of soft-lighting portraits you've done. Let's see them!
     
  3. Ls3D

    Ls3D TPF Noob!

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    Ok it is soft, but with the light positioned kinda low I don't find it to be flattering. And did you want that purple color cast?

    I wonder if one can create a soft look, but with a bit more dynamic range...

    Thanks for sharing your approach.

    -Shea
     
  4. Dick Sanders

    Dick Sanders TPF Noob!

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    Hey, Ls3D. Love the username. Yeah, this is very specifically stylized. The light could easily be moved higher. The color cast could be easily changed. And the dynamic range could be stretched with highlighting the hair and background a little.

    Hey, how are the waves in Encinitas? I surfed one of the beach breaks there 3 years ago and had a great time. Also had a nice Italian dinner in a little bistro, can't remember the name, but the town is very charming.
     
  5. Ls3D

    Ls3D TPF Noob!

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    The waves are tiny today, actually got out of bed to check it this am... Nothing like last Dec.

    Little bistro,.. i-tuli is pretty small & has great food, but there are a few Italian joints, and now a few Brazilian places as well. Lots of fun places to eat here.

    The town is pretty photogenic too, especially the SRF gardens, so be sure to pack the camera!

    -Shea
     
  6. fridrich

    fridrich TPF Noob!

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    Hey Mr. Sanders,
    I like your portrait but would like to see more detail in the breast area!
    Here is an example of a soft light built with two 7X4 foot pieces of 1 inch Foamcore set at right angles to make "corner". A piece of "two stop" diffuser material over the front (3X7 foot) and a bare Norman head at the back of the triangle puts out 1200 ws.
    [​IMG]
     
  7. Dick Sanders

    Dick Sanders TPF Noob!

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    Nice! Your photo reminds me of Bettie Page type photos. Fun stuff!

    So... the bare head both bounces off all sides of the "corner flat" and also punches directly through the diffuser material. Have you also tried this setup with a large reflector aimed at the corner of the flat, which would bounce the light off the back and sides (no direct punch) before punching through the diffusion material? I remember we used to do something similar at the Sid Avery studio many years ago.
     
  8. Ls3D

    Ls3D TPF Noob!

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    Interesting, and what a first post! I think you should crop out an avatar. Dig the retro theme, and she looks like she could actually peddle that thing.

    -Shea
     
  9. fridrich

    fridrich TPF Noob!

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    Thank you for your kind words on my first post!

    I will have to try the reflector on the head and bounce off the corner and sides. That should be softer but the space in the corner is limited.
    Yes Shea, that girl has legs! She is an EMT with New Hanover County North Carolina.
     
  10. danman281

    danman281 TPF Noob!

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    awesome. do you have any pics of set up? :p
     
  11. fridrich

    fridrich TPF Noob!

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    danman,
    sorry, no pics of this set up, all i thought about was the model... I will make some shots of the light in use next time.
    Thank you!
    Wm.
     
  12. eyeye

    eyeye TPF Noob!

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    I know this is about lighting, but I notice the men arent seeing this, as her face is the last thing any guy is looking at LOL. Her face pose is making her look like a man. She needs to make a softer face
     

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