Indoor lighting trouble! Please help!

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by AutumnRebellion, Aug 8, 2007.

  1. AutumnRebellion

    AutumnRebellion TPF Noob!

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    I'm not exactly sure this is the place I need to be, but I do know for sure that I need some help. My husband and I have a small photography business that is just beginning to grow and grow. We started out shooting our portraits outside, with natural light and it worked out great, but then we decided that we needed to move things indoors and buy some studio lighting. Well, we found a great deal on brand new studio lighting on e-bay. I am very pleased with what we have purchased, except for the fact that when we do shots on a black backdrop, they are very dark and grainy. The lighting we purchased is continuous, so I don't use flash and I prefer not to, since I think that gives it too much of a snapshot effect, if that makes sense. Although we've been working to build our business for about a year now, there is still much to learn and I'm hoping this forum will help us out along the way. My theory on the lighting is that the bulbs just need to be brighter, but I cannot figure out the maximum wattage allowed for our sockets and the seller is difficult to reach. I am going to be using this equipment this weekend and need a prompt response, that I've realized I am not going to receive from the seller. So, I cam here. If you have any suggestions, please post them. Thank you.
     
  2. Digital Matt

    Digital Matt alter ego: Analog Matt

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    I understand your reluctance to use flash because of the snapshot look, but using studio strobes correctly gives beautiful light, quite the opposite of the snapshot look. They also give you much more light output versus continuous. It sounds like you need to do some more reading and learning about exposure. You can find lots of great books on photography at your local library. You should be able to find books on studio photography as well. I would strongly consider buying studio strobes.

    You can get a good introductory set from Alien Bees.

    www.alienbees.com

    If you must use continuous lights, you need to learn to use your meter. With a black background, you want your subject far enough away from the background so that the light does not spill onto the background. You need to meter the light falling on your subject, and this light alone. It is much easier to do with an incident light meter. With digital you need to expose your highlights properly, and bring in a reflector or another light source for fill. Creating ratios is everything. A good ratio to start with is 3:1, meaning your key light (main light source) is 1.5 stops brighter than your fill. Start with key, and bring in a reflector or second light to fill in shadows.
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Welcome to the forum.

    It would help if you posted an example, along with the shooting information (shutter speed, aperture, ISO etc.).

    It's my guess that your shots with a dark background are underexposed. Do you have a general idea of how a camera's light metering works?

    The camera will meter what it sees, and then give you exposure settings to get an 18% grey exposure. It can't tell what is the subject and what is the background. So when you have a dark background, the camera just thinks it's a dark scene and gives more exposure. So what you have to do, is to use less exposure than what the camera is telling you.

    Also, the opposite is true when you have a bright scene. The camera would think it's too bright and give you less exposure, so you would need to add exposure.

    It should not be an issue with the type or power of your lights. Besides the color temp of the lights, there shouldn't be a difference in the type of lights you are using. The quality of light has to do with how you position it and control it. There are a few things that you should be aware of though. When using continuous lights, you need to have enough power to give you a shutter speed that is fast enough for your subject. When shooting people (who might move), you need a speed that will freeze that motion. The is not a problem with flash (strobe) lights because the burst of light is much faster than the shutter.
     
  4. AutumnRebellion

    AutumnRebellion TPF Noob!

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    Thanks guys. I appreciate your response. What I'm considering doing is buying another light source. Also, and this is bad, I'm still reading the manual to my camera, still learning a lot about it. And, no, I don't know about light metering. That's bad, isn't it?
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Well, it's not bad...it just means that you have a lot to learn and discover.

    I suggest trying to take a course (community college) or at least getting some good books on metering and studio lighting. It would be a business expense for you.
     
  6. AutumnRebellion

    AutumnRebellion TPF Noob!

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    So, now I know at least that brighter bulbs aren't the solution. My husband and I will have to practice some more and get some books. Here are a couple indoor boudoir photos that I took and my husband editted that we didn't really have this problem with. I will post the ones that this problem occurred with soon.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  7. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    For these two poses I don't think a lack of light is the problem exactly but I do think that you need more of them.

    For one thing you need a hair light- a small spot that just grazes the hair. Another is a kicker which goes behind the model to separate her from the background- gives you more pop or a 3-D look if you prefer.

    Here is a great little tutorial by a guy named Benji on the 4 main lighting types and what you are trying to light with them...
    http://www.photocamel.com/forum/tutorials/15149-studio-portrait-lighting-how.html

    You also might get a gray card to start a shoot and meter off that for an exact exposure with your hot lights. If you do get a meter (and I do recommend it) try to get one with a flash meter because it will help with the learning curve with the strobes and if you do this long the heat being put off by 4 or even 8 hot lights will keep your dinner warm and paying for the air conditioning will leave you cold. ;)

    mike
     
  8. AutumnRebellion

    AutumnRebellion TPF Noob!

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    Well, I just spoke with the client and she absolutely loved them and so did her boyfriend. So, I managed to slide through this one. I will post the photos here in a couple of minutes. I'm not particularly fond of them. If the client is happy, then I feel better. But, I still need help, I think.
     
  9. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I like what you have done here, they are great shots. There is some room for improvment but there always is.
     
  10. AutumnRebellion

    AutumnRebellion TPF Noob!

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    These are the photos I am having trouble with. I don't like how grainy they turned out. They were a lot darker too, but my husband of course editted them. So, this is my problem.

    These are maternity photos by the way. And yes, there isn't much belly there, but the baby has to be taken c-section very early, so she wanted to have them done, even though she's only 7 months along and very small. Generally 7 months is a good time, but she's built so small anyhow. So, take a look.
    1)See how grainy it is!
    [​IMG]
    2)This one turned out okay. I'm not completely please with it, though.
    [​IMG]
    3)I'm pretty pleased with this one. Although, it is shot on a white backdrop. It's still a little grainy.
    [​IMG]
    4)What am I doing wrong? Look below at this one in b&w.
    [​IMG]
    5)I'm glad she loved them. But, I still don't think they're as good as they should be.
    [​IMG]

    So, there are the ones that I've been having trouble with. My boudoir photos looked great, I thought, at least compared to these ones. See my problem? If the client is happy, that's great, but I can't let this happen again. The next client might not love it so much.
     
  11. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    What ISO are you shooting at/with? Are you using film or digital? If digital, what camera?

    It's always best to keep the ISO as low as possible, to avoid grain or noise.

    The farther off the exposure is (the more you have to bring it back), the more pronounced the noise will become. So in order to avoid the noise, make sure your exposures are accurate. As we discussed earlier, this comes down to knowing how to meter the light and set the exposure values.

    It could also have something to do with the post processing methods that are used.
     
  12. AutumnRebellion

    AutumnRebellion TPF Noob!

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    Ok. I don't remember what ISO I used. Usually what I do when I'm taking indoor shots is adjust my camera constantly, sometimes two or three times for one shot, and then when I'm done and looking at the photos, I pick the best one. I will pay closer attention next time, and probably take notes on what settings work for particular shots. And, we use a digital camera. It is a Sony Alpha 10.2 MP digital SLR. And what post processing methods could cause this? And I suppose I need a light meter? Where would I find one of those and around how much do they cost?
     

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