fill light problems

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by kkamin, Nov 27, 2009.

  1. kkamin

    kkamin TPF Noob!

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    I was shooting my friend's family for fun at Thanksgiving. Here is what I did:

    •We didn't have a lot of space, but I set up a grey paper sweep (looks close to an 18% grey card in tone).

    •I had a 3' octagon softbox lighting the subjects in a Rembrandt position and angle. It was fitted with a grid to minimize spill. For the shot that I sharing, I had one subject sitting and one subject standing. I had the softbox a couple feet from the standing subject. Because of the inverse square law, if the softbox was brought in closer I think the lighting would be less even on their faces -because of their distance. So I think the placement of the light where it was, was practical.

    •I had a light fitted with a 7" reflector and 20 degree honeycomb grid creating a spot on the wall.

    •I wish the position of the subjects could have been farther from the back of the wall, but I had a space issue, and I still needed to have somewhere to stand to take the shots.


    The problem is that I wanted more fill on the subjects while keeping the background's rich dark tone. I think for this shot I used a reflector, but I think the shadows are still too harsh for the mood I wanted for the portrait. I tried filling them with a strobe shooting into an umbrella and tried to angle it to the side fairly far in order to reduce the spill on the back of the sweep, but it still kicked up the background a stop or two.

    I tried shooting into a piece of flat foamcore, thinking it might be a touch more directional that a concaved umbrella surface. But the results were similar.


    1. Is there a solution to getting more light into their shadows without effecting the tone of the background too much?

    2. Say if I don't mind a low key look and if I use a reflector and try to fill in both subjects evenly, it is difficult, since I'll angle is upwards a bit rather than parallel to them, and the nature of the angle creates a longer distance from the man to the reflector than the woman to the reflector. He would receive less fill.

    3. I've been shooting for a while but this problem has started to make me second guess my fundamental fill techniques. I feel like I'm not getting complete shadow control. Are you normally placing your fill angled slightly up towards the subjects to fill in under their necks (shooting up at the subjects). Often my umbrellas are straight on to the subject about 45 degrees from the camera.

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    Thanks for reading.

    -Kkamin
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2009
  2. IgsEMT

    IgsEMT No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    B4 answering your Qs, quick note on lighting, I'd probably want more fill only to eliminate (just a drop) the shadows that you got. The current lighting, I'd use on a body builder to accent his/hers physique.

    Use two lights - have your softbox as the main/key light, while something like an on-camera flash (maybe even built-in NOT SURE THOUGH) set to 1/8, 1/16 power (play around) to fill the shadows just a drop. Since you can't move further back from your background, perhaps shooting at higher shutter speed might balance out extra light that you're getting while maintaining the background as you want it to be.

    I'm a bit tired, not sure what you mean - sorry :(

    Unless I want some Gothic/death look, I don't place fill above or below the subject. Or even back to my bodybuilder example above.
    I found this interesting site and it actually draws out my basic lighting set up. This particular one is what I do. When more lights available, I use them too.[​IMG]
    From this site Portrait Lighting
     
  3. kkamin

    kkamin TPF Noob!

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    Sorry, I don't understand what this means.

    I'm using strobes in a dark room, and it makes almost no difference what shutter speed I use. If I used an on-camera flash, it would blast the background.

    [​IMG]

    I want to get some light up under their chins and in the upper part of their eye sockets. I guess if the reflector was parallel I would run into trouble with an uneven amount of fill on the subjects due to distance--I could use a white reflector on bottom for woman and a silver reflector on top for man possibly. But anyways, when I angle the reflector upwards to try to target the aforementioned shadows, the distance to the man becomes problematic.

    The fill is usually at most 1/2 the strength of the key, so I don't think it is going to do much except fill in shadows, or if it is close to the camera, add some light as well to the key side. I'm just confused because I've been mostly using umbrella fill at camera height off to the side, but I'm not sure if camera height is the best idea.
     
  4. IgsEMT

    IgsEMT No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I've been taught by two so-called-genera-schools of lighting. One is flat and another one is ratios.
    Flat - two umbrellas something like 30" about 1-2 feet above the camera and about 3-4 feet on both sides of the camera. As much as I hate lighting flat, on the run and/or for kids it does the job. Again, I do this setup relatively rare b/c its just boring and flat.
    Ratios, that is where the fun is. I can't tell you power outages (1/2, 1/4) that I'm on, but with monolights, regardless of the settings, my fill (near the camera - if umbrella is 60" then it is at the level of the camera, IF 30" then it's about 1-1.5 feet above the camera) is giving f/5-5.6. When I turn the main one, the combo of two give me 8. This way my lighting is soft, shadows are gently filled and it isn't flat as a board. WHEN I'm doing those athletics or anything that I was contrast in light, I'll set fill to give me f/4 while the combo of two to f/8 - shadows will still be filled BUT not as much but it'll be higher contrast in lighting). These numbers I used back in film on ASA160film, in digital ISO200 and ISO400 <-- #1 I rarely shoot portraits about ISO400, #2 I rarely shoot pretty much anything above ISO400 (don't really have a need to go higher). :)
    What I meant by my general comment was the way you light them up is how I would do those high contrast-shots but with single light.

    #1Lower the softbox, drop the power a drop so you don't overexpose them. #2, the moment you place your object at different distance from light sources, obvious you'll have different amount of light on them - BUT YOU KNOW THAT therefore, either add an extra light to the subject that is further back or bring them both to same distance from the main-light.
    REFLECTORS. "in and up" is how I do - based on your drawing but tilted up. MORE OFTEN I use reflectors of block the sun though but I think it add a nice kick to the image.

    Last point of placement of lights - when clients, wear hats with brims Gentleman in hat with cane and girl on Flickr - Photo Sharing! I have to make sure that i light under the hat that is one of the reasons why my fill light is not up in the air - it fill in the shadows as well as light under the brim.
     
  5. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I think the key light, the octobox with grid, is slightly too small for this two-person set-up. His clothing and head are all lighted fully, but the woman's clothing is not illuminated. With the grid on it,and the angle of the softbox face, the man is getting too much light, the woman not enough light from the main light. I see a large, deep shadow on the camera right side,near her arm, and her slacks are totally black and detail-less. I don't think the need is so much for better fill light as it is for a broader main light. I think a 36x48 softbox would have illuminated the couple more evenly than an octagonal box + grid combo.

    As far as fill light from a flash--I think on-camera or off-camera, right at camera level, is normally the way to go. Neutral, on-axis fill light is generally the right method IMO. It can cause eyeglass reflection problems, however...

    As far as using reflector fill--my go-to fill reflector is a 42 x 78 inches panel, and really reflects a lot of light because it is a large reflector--it is over TWICE as large as a 36x48 inch softbox in terms of surface area.

    If you used an under-chin reflector just out of camera view, she would be closer to the reflector and he would be farther from it; the main light is actually closer to HIM than it is to her, due to the angled key light. I think the main problem is that the key light is too small, and too steeply-angled, with the guy getting the good light, and the woman simply not illuminated adequately by the relatively small key light.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2009
  6. kkamin

    kkamin TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the ideas, I'll going to get some large sheets of foamcore.

    What is the big difference between rectagular and octogon-shaped softboxes? I purchased the octogons for no particular reason other than they came with the grids that I find handy sometimes.

    Do you think if I aimed the light more at her, that might have evened out the distribution, or do you think they are too close for that to matter?
     
  7. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    The biggest difference is that a 36" x 48" rectangular softbox is a "tall" light source, whereas a 36" octagonal softbox is more of a round reflector, and when you pout a grid on a 36 inch octa, it simply does not have enough face area to cover a tall, two-person group, at least at close range. For standing people, I just think he rectangular light source makes the most sense, especially in a cramped shooting situation.

    I'm not sure if at the light-to-subject distance, if you could have illuminated her more, with that octabox + grid combo. Maybe with the grid removed, it would have been a large enough "pool" of light. I'm not familiar with your monolights, your octagonal box, and your grid--but just eyeballing the photo, and looking at the man and the woman, it seems to me that the light source is simply too small to give adequate coverage at that light-to-subject distance and angle. So yes, I think they were too close for the light modifier you happened to be using and I don't think, judging by what I see, that that specific octobox+ grid combo will "cover" both him standing and her sitting at that distance. I'm reasonably confident a much larger box, or panel, with a rectangular shape,would have illuminated both of them.

    Lighting in cramped areas can be a real challenge! One solution might have been to prop the chair up so that her head height is closer to his; I think the spacing is a bit too far apart on the heads for a "classic" portrait. Realistic, yes, but still too close for a posed portrait. Too bad we don't all live in palaces and mansions--then setting up the lights could be done at whim. Again, tight working distances complicate all sorts of things.
     
  8. kkamin

    kkamin TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for your reply again, Derrel. I just want to make sure I am imagining the expanded coverage with a 48" softbox versus the 36" as you are.

    [​IMG]

    The extra foot would primarily illuminate her more and soften/ fill in the shadows a tad more on both?

    What if I used a 48" octagon soft box rather than a 48" rectagular soft box, would there be a big difference? What are the benefits of both? :confused:

    Thanks for the idea and info. I didn't know the classic portrait had head spacing conventions. thanks.
     
  9. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Your drawing seems to be pretty close to scale, but I'd have the softbox positioned at a little bit less-steep of an angle, so the bottom of it would be a slight amount closer to her. IOW, I'd have the box a little bit more straight up and down.

    In terms of surface area, the rectangular or square boxes always have a little more area than an octagon,so you can get more surface area from a rectangular box of the same measurement number. The math is a bit complicated to go into on computing the area of a rectangle, but it's close enough to say that a rectangular or square box is equivalent to an octagonal one of "the next larger size".
     

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