portrait help

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Skyeg, Jan 25, 2004.

  1. Skyeg

    Skyeg TPF Noob!

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    im a student doing cast portriats for a low budget school production. they want a white background and im just wondering what is usualy done to eliminte a shadow from the white background? right now i have a Nikon N80, coolpix 5700 and an SB-80 DX what kind of lights should i use for portraits on a budget? thanks for any advice you can give me
     
  2. abonecronedone

    abonecronedone TPF Noob!

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    The typical tip is overexposing the background to get a pure white.
     
  3. Skyeg

    Skyeg TPF Noob!

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    would that get rid of shadows?
     
  4. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Hide a light on the floor behind your subject, or use an overhead spot. It illuminates the the back drop. As said above, lighting should be arranged so that in comparison to proper exposure of your subject, the back ground should be overexposed.
     
  5. Big Mike

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

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    Have the light source above the subject and don't put him/her too close to the back ground. If you can see the shadow, try telling the subject to step away from the background so that the shadow is lower and out of the frame.
     
  6. PortraitMan

    PortraitMan TPF Noob!

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    Forgive me if this answer is way too simple for you, it's just that I'm thinking if these are head shots the problem is really easy. Considering the flash you have is only one on camera source, can you use a sync cord so that you can hold your flash directly above your camera about 18"? You see, that throws the light down in a flattering modeling on your subject while also casting the shadow directly behind and below your subject where you'll never see it. This assumes it's a relative close-up on your subject and that there's a white or light colored wall behind them. The idea with overexposing your background isn't bad, this just may be simpler to calculate as getting too bright of a background will haze your portrait.
     
  7. Josh

    Josh TPF Noob!

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    What PortraitMan is discribing is called butterfly (or galmor) lighting and would be the cheepest (and most failproof) way for you to go. If you want to have a true white background you need to over expose it by one stop (two if it is a reflective meater). This will not beed into the image unless you overexpose more than that.

    You could mount your flash with a light stand (they make adapters for this but packing tape works in a pinch) or use a strobe-o-frame. If you place a reflecor on a posing table in front of them you can fill in some of the shadow under the chin.

    Have fun
     
  8. Skyeg

    Skyeg TPF Noob!

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    what kind of meter is in a Nikon N80? is it the reflective type or incident?
     
  9. photoman

    photoman TPF Noob!

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    Its defenetly reflective because it is reading the light bouncing off the subject.

    An incondesent light meter reads the light that if falling onto a subject (put it where the subject is and point it twards the camera)

    You will probably want a gray card for the camera because everything it sees it wants to make grey so if you point it at a white background and dont overexpose the image then your background will be grey instead of white.
     
  10. PortraitMan

    PortraitMan TPF Noob!

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    In most cases you're right, Photoman. However, if these are close-ups where the subject fills the majority of the frame, (not wearing white like a bride of course), then the in-camera meter on most cameras will register that beautiful 18 percent grey which will be a good reading for most skin tones. No matter what, the white background will not be truly white looking unless it receives one stop more light than the subject, but in most cases it will appear by contrast to the subject as white enough to be acceptable.

    -Tom.
     
  11. Skyeg

    Skyeg TPF Noob!

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    thanks everyone, you have all been very helpful
     
  12. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Light skinned folks are zone 6 (1 stop over middle gray), and most dark skinned folks are zone 5 (middle gray). Very, very dark (I mean living right on the equator dark) skinned folks approach zone 4 (one stop under middle gray). If you are metering off a black guy's face, use the recommended reading; if you are metering off a white guy's face overexpose one stop.

    Compare your background reading to middle gray. Pure white is 4 or 5 stops brighter than middle gray.

    At least that's how it should work. Now I'm going to talk about something the camera industry doesn't want you to know. Many in-camera meters don't measure middle gray, they measure zone 6 (one stop brighter than middle gray) I've heard this called the "K factor". I don't know why it's called that. It occurs more often in entry level SLRs and point-n-shoots than fancier, pro-model cams.

    The reason is that the industry demographics indicate that most cameras are used to shoot face/head portraits of people the camera owner knows, and whites and light skinned asians buy more cameras. So they set the meter to measure one stop over middle gray, because if you meter off a white guy's face for middle grey, you'll be underexposing one stop.

    The only way to know for sure if your camera is set this way, because your camera manufacturer sure isn't going to admit this, is to compare your in-camera readings to the reading made by a hand held meter.

    This is the kind of thing you got to hope has been done away with, but it wouldn't surprise me if it's still going on. I use so many different cameras that I went to a hand held meter many years ago, and don't pay much attention to in-camera meters. So I don't know what's up these days. When I compare most of my 60s, 70s, and 80s in-camera meters to my hand held model, they all overexpose by about a stop.

    Now I suppose I should make the disclaimer that I'm a cynic when it comes to the way folks treat each other. Some people might explain this whole thing as the camera manufacturers just wanting to make sure you get details in your shadows, but I've heard this from three completely different sources, and none of them were internet. I believe it, but like I said, I'm a cynic.
     

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