3 in 1 Headshot - Learning Lighting

Discussion in 'People Photography' started by adamhiram, Mar 10, 2018.

  1. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    As I continue learning more about portrait lighting, I decided to try out this tutorial I bookmarked last year, "3 in 1 Headshot Method". The idea is that with slight variations on a basic lighting setup, you can get 3 completely different looks: high key white background, low key black background, and a solid medium gray background. These were done using a 38" octobox as the key light and a seamless gray background.

    A few quick notes on this and other tutorials I've read/watched:
    • When someone says Rembrandt lighting, they usually mean loop lighting
    • When someone says to place they key light 45 degrees off axis, they usually mean closer to 30-35 degrees
    • When someone says to place the key light above the subject angled down at 45 degrees, they usually mean above eye level and angled down at 15-30 degrees
    • Nobody seems very good at guessing distances
    Those observations aside, here is my attempt at this, first with a styrofoam stand-in, then with myself as the subject.
    • High key: I used a pair of speed lights to illuminate the background. I realized during editing that just because highlights are blown out in the camera's preview doesn't mean they're blown out in the Raw file. Usually this is a good thing, but here I had to do a bit of extra editing to get a pure white background.
    • Low key: Based on the distances mentioned in the video, the subject-to-background seemed to be about 5-6 feet. Wrong - and I knew before taking the first shot there would be some spill on the background, even with the grid. If this was a real shoot, I would have moved the subject further from the backdrop or used black in the first place, but for this exercise a bit of work with the adjustment brush got the background to pure black.
    • Solid gray: This was pretty straightforward, just move the key light more on-axis to create more spill, and move the subject closer to the background to reduce fall-off.
    All shots 85mm, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 400.

    [​IMG]
    20180309-3in1-test1
    by adamhiram, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    20180309-3in1-test2
    by adamhiram, on Flickr


     
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  2. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Love the write up and the presentation. Could be a difference in opinion, but I see high key as the whole image being more light and airy. In the first shot the face seems to dark for high key. I did some experimentation on the the high and low key a while back. Here's my interpretation of a high key shot My white is not as white as i would have liked, but you get the idea.[​IMG]Lily05312017_312.jpg by William Raber, on Flickr

    In the low key, I'm not sure that it fits the true definition. It has shadow, but doesn't feel dark and mysterious. Maybe to much light on the key. Again we all have our interpretations, here is mine of a low key using the same flowers. I tried to keep as much detail in the shadows as possible .[​IMG]Dark Lily05312017_330.jpg by William Raber, on Flickr.
     
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  3. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Beautiful shots, thanks for sharing! I completely agree, and suppose differences in subject lighting were beyond the scope of a 4 minute tutorial. I didn’t pickup on the high key lighting, but it makes sense that the deeper shadows don’t seem to be a great fit. I did notice it in the low-key shot, where I typically would have gone for a darker, moodier lighting style.

    A few additional observations I had:
    • Even in a large space, the amount of light spill that got reflected back is quite noticible. In the low key shot, the shadow side is completely black, while in the high key shot, it almost looks like a reflector or other fill was used.
    • On shots with more reflected light spill, the color contamination from the brown walls in the room is quite noticible. I can see a visible brown color cast on the styrofoam head in the high key shot.
    • I cant help but wonder if the photographer in the tutorial used some additional fill light, perhaps balancing flash with the ambient from the windows that are visible in the video. The final shots he featured seem to have softer lighting with much lighter shadows and fill light in places that I wouldn’t think a single key light would reach.
     
  4. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Your post reflects one of the saddest truths about YouTube and online lighting instruction; the vast majority of people who do this stuff don't know what they are doing when they put up their videos or web posts. Lighting schemes or miss identified, like placements are often vastly wrong, and that so-called lighting diagrams are often incorrect. Because of this and I've read this before from other experience leading people, I don't trust anything I see online unless it's from a highly respected very capable professional instructor. I often look at photos and then I see the accompanying diagram and say that cannot possibly be the way that photo was slighted.

    Anyway, you're doing pretty well with this Adam keep it up. Your comments are very insightful and words to truly heed!
     
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  5. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    @adamhiram Darrel makes some valid comments regarding you tube learning, but they can still be a valuable source for ideas. Nothing will replace the knowledge you are gaining by the practice you are doing.

    One other comment, controlling light is equally as important as adding light. My big octaboxes are great for even light, but the barn doors and grids, can place light with surgical prescision. White foam core, makes a great reflector to move light into an area, but black foam core strategically placed works equally well in preventing spill in areas you don't want.
     
  6. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Good images excellent learning experience! High-key is one of those terms that is commonly mis-identified. The real characteristic of high key lighting in addition to the bright and airy feeling is being shadow free. That said, I've never felt that those terms were terribly important, and don't think I've every set out to light a portrait, saying to myself, "I"m going to use loop lighting here!". Nice, flattering light is a thousand times better than copying a text-book example. Well done.
     
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  7. SquarePeg

    SquarePeg Nevertheless... Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Great idea to keep the camera settings the same and just vary the lighting. Thanks for sharing your results.
     
  8. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Right. I usually advise people to carry a tape measure. If they want to know the measurement, they've got the tape right there. I like the ones that have both U.S. and metric on the same tape.
     
  9. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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  10. vintagesnaps

    vintagesnaps Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Good point Derrel. Often 'someone' who says whatever doesn't always know what he/she is talking about. If the person doesn't provide a bio of actual experience or expertise, or resources that back up what's being said, I wouldn't bother.

    There is way too much junk out there that involves people who are going at it hard with the SEO and want to get people to look at their stuff more than they seem concerned about providing anything of quality.

    I think you look better than the styrofoam guy! lol Seriously, setting up and doing experimenting and practicing can be a good way to learn; you may figure out things that work and what didn't work and can learn from that.
     
  11. mrca

    mrca TPF Noob!

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    One of the characteristics of high key is a low ratio. I think more fill would be useful. You could also kick up the exposure to push the skin towards the right of the histogram. Also, a white or light colored shirt would contribute to the high key effect. The main should be set based on the subject's face. Note in one shot, the area underand above the eye is in shadow and the cheek is not. Might try lowering the light slightly to create the rembrandt triangle that includes the eye and is continuous to the cheek. Also move it a tad to the center to wrap more of the triangle around the cheek. Smoke is absolutely right, I am currently shooting in a small space and keep a 6.5 x 6.5' black scrim on a rolling stand in tight opposite the main to minimize spill. The main has an egg crate as well. I can't tell where you placed the main, but don't aim the center at your subject. To add more control to spill on the bg, use the back edge of the light on the subject and place it ahead and perpendicular to the subject and the back of the modifier about even with the subject. That makes the light softer as well Most lighting diagrams show the fill on the opposite side of the camera from the main. I prefer on the nose axis and also feathered away from the bg, this also gets more spill off the bg. It also creates more modeling with the inverse square fall off down the head. I prefer that fill location over another better than opposite the main, the on camera axis that fills what the camera is seeing that tends to point directly at the bg... unless you know that the camera doesn't have to be aimed 90 degrees to the bg, folks just tend to do that. You can shoot at an angle to the bg, just be sure you aren't shooting past the edge of the bg. If you are using light stands to support your bg, they can be moved or if not, you and subject can re orient.
     
  12. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Interesting in that this is the 3rd time this week I've read this. Up until now I'd never given it a thought (big octabox - good all over LOL). It makes perfect sense when you think about it.
     

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