Help with Headshot Lighting

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by NorthernRebel, Feb 5, 2009.

  1. NorthernRebel

    NorthernRebel TPF Noob!

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    Hello everyone! New Forum member here.

    Recently my wife asked me to take some head shots to use in her acting portfolio. I have dabbled in photography for many years.....but my lighting experience is minimal. I have a Nikon D-80 that I picked up last year to toy around with, so I'll be using that (yes I know.....small sensor). Last week I picked up a Nikkor 85 mm F1.8 lens to shoot the headshots with. The problem is, I need to purchase some lighting equipment, but have really no idea what to purchase.

    I should mention I only have about $750 to spend on lighting. I'm assuming I would go with some type of softbox with a reflector......but really I have no clue. The shots will be taken both indoor and out.

    Are there basic kits out there that will do what I need, or should I purchase items seperately?

    Was hoping some of you could point me in the right direction.....keeping my budget in mind of course. ;)

    Thanks for any input you can provide.
     
  2. Dao

    Dao No longer a newbie, moving up!

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  3. EOS_JD

    EOS_JD TPF Noob!

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    Diffused window light is amazing! Use a small reflector and you are good to go :)
     
  4. NorthernRebel

    NorthernRebel TPF Noob!

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    Yes, I heard that is an excellent way to go. I think I might go with one quality umbrella strobe and a reflector or two.

    The problem for me is finding that magic spot that gives me ample window light without a lot of distraction in the background.
     
  5. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    Experiment with window light. Keep in mind that you only need the light from the window (not the window it's self) and a foamcore bounce card. The more you experiment with light the easier your first purchase will be.

    Love & Bass
     
  6. Bigpopa

    Bigpopa TPF Noob!

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  7. If it's only for your wife's headshots, it might be cheaper to find the right light source at a window and the reflector, and then buy some plain fabric to hang on stands behind her.
     
  8. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Looks like the strobist concept would work best here. Visit Strobist and read up on lighting 102. That and a single simple off camera flash shot through a white umbrella on a stand is all you need.

    If this is the case, you could use about 1/3rd to 1/2 of your budget or less and still easily get what you want.
     
  9. NorthernRebel

    NorthernRebel TPF Noob!

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    Wow! Thanks for all of the input. And thanks for the link to the other post Dao.

    At one point I had the strobist website bookmarked, but somehow lost it. Glad to have found that again. My free reading time these days has been devoted getting through the Apple Pro series on Aperture, but I will definitely get through that lightening 102 section this weekend.

    I almost pulled the the trigger on the dual Calumet 200 kit last night, after having read several very positive reviews on it. But after giving it some thought, I decided to go the available light/window route with a nice relector (and stand, since I don't have an assistant). If I don't get the results I want from that, I'll re-consider the Calumet kit. Again, the big challenge will be setting up a backdrop, and/or crossing my fingers that my F1.8 Nikkor will reduce the depth of field enough.

    Thanks again for all of the friendly replies.
     
  10. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Wow, if you cannot get razor thin DOF at F/1.8, you don't know how aperture works... lol

    It is *too* easy to get shallow DOFs and need something like F/4 or smaller to meet your needs. Your biggest issue will be to make sure that you are not burring one eye or an ear! BTW, clarity and sharpness rule over shallow DOF for portfolio headshots. Blur the background, yes, but make sure that your subject is TOTALLY blur free. This is an absolute RULE for portfolio head shots. Another one is to make sure that there is NOTHING distracting in the background. Most are done on a white backdrop or a black backdrop if the person is caucation and fair haired.
     
  11. NorthernRebel

    NorthernRebel TPF Noob!

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    Gotcha, and while I'm well aware of how Aperture/DOF works, I'm just not sure to what extent the DOF will vary. I currently own just 1 lense. It's a 28-300mm lense with an Aperture of 3.5/5.5.........so I'm not sure what to expect with an decent prime lense that opens up to F1.8. The Nikkor F1.8 I ordered last week should be in any day, so I'll be able to experiment soon. ;)

    Getting into the new stuff can be painful, because none of it is cheap and you don't want to make bad decisions buying your first set of gear. My old gear consisted of a Pentax 35mm and some old lenses my dad didn't want anymore. That was over 30 years ago. Things have changed a bit since then.

    Thanks again for the advice.
     
  12. NorthernRebel

    NorthernRebel TPF Noob!

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    OK, a few more questions came to mind, so before I pull the trigger on a lighting kit I'd thought I'd run them past you guys for some input.

    I've boiled my options down to:

    1) Nikon SB800 with stand and umbrella, possibly with an additional sb600 stand and umbrella using the CLS on my Nikon D-80. I would probably try the sb-800 first with my 42" reflector and check results before buying the 600.

    2) Calumet Genesis 200 dual pack.

    I want to make sure I understand the difference between the kits, which is why I am running this past the experts on this forum. Seems like what I am buying with the Nikon CLS system is i-TTL control, portability, and ability to upgrade to PW's in the future if I think I really need them (doubtful). What I am losing is control angle with the current CLS system.

    On the flip side, what I'm getting with the Calumet are the monitoring lights (seems like a godsend for a newb like me), and faster recharge times (but at the cost of portability). I have a reflector kit for outdoor headshots, so I'm not entirely convinced portability is at the top of my needs list.....then again, who knows.

    After reading some articles it also semed like the Nikon SB600/800 could shoot at much faster shutter speeds as well. But after reading the article I was unsure about this. Unfortunately, when you are new at something the abundant use of new terms and acronyms can sometimes be confusing. I AM learning though. :) This seems like a pretty big issue for headshot photography, so it's what I'm looking for input on most.

    I don't plan on shooting around other photographers, so a light controlled remote on either system isn't a problem. I figure I can always upgrade the Nikon flashes to a PW if I decide in the future I can't live with a light sensor system. But this is primarily just to get some headshots of my wife and a few of her friends who are actors at a fairly amateur level (local TV commercials, etc).

    Any input (espcially on the CLS shutter speed issue) would be greatly appreciated, since this is the issue I'm really in the dark on (no pun intended).

    Oh, by the way. JerryPH, I saw some of the outdoor shots you posted in a thread on wide angle lenses. Beautiful!
     

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