Avoiding shadows with portraits and monolights

gossamer

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Hi, I have two Flashpoint XPLOR 600s, each with a 36" octobox and a D500 with a 24-70mm and plan on using it to take pictures at an event for a non-profit to be held in a fancy ballroom. I took a few practice shots today with my wife and can't figure out the proper lighting arrangement to avoid shadows behind the subject.

I have the two lights set up on either side of me, set about six feet high, angled down at the subject. The lights are set to TTL.

When I do this at the event, there will be an 8' backdrop ("step and repeat", like part of a press engagement) displayed in this space. I can have the subjects step away from the backdrop, but I don't believe far enough to completely eliminate the shadow.

I also realize in this sample picture that that angle is wrong and I should have had the camera set up lower, but was really just doing this to solve the shadow problem.

I've watched a few videos, but I haven't been able to find one that directly addresses this. Advice greatly appreciated.

melissa-shadow.jpg
 

Derrel

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She's too close to the background, and the flash's lighting is very crisp and hard-edged. The lights are likely too far from the subject, and are functioning as "hard" light...there ought to be a lot softer-edged shadowing.

I'd likely rather light this with an umbrella that throws a much softer light at that distance. This light + modifier is throwing very unflattering light out....how far do you have the lights away from the subject?
 

tirediron

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First, how close are your lights? You want them as close as they can be, while still able to light the scene. This will provide softer light (closer = softer) as well as greatly increase the fall off (inverse square law). Both of these will greatly reduce the shadow.
If that's not enough (and it likely won't be) then adjust the position of your lights so that you're lighting across the subject. especially with your key light. If your modifiers don't have a recessed diffusion panel ( see: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/images...00_0032_snapbag_softbox_for_astra_1204376.jpg - notice the way the white diffusion fabric is inset from the edge?) then add a flag to the edge made of out black card. This will direct the light past the background and hopefully fully eliminate any remaining shadow.

Edited to add: This is something I do a lot of, and my 'go to' as Derrel suggest are umbrellas. I normally use a 43" as key, about 30 degrees off-axis, and a larger (72" if I have room) as fill, 1.5 stops below, and about 15 degrees off the opposite axis.

Oh, and MOST IMPORTANT: Get your lights off of TTL and use manual, or every exposure is going to be different. This is a manual flash only situation.
 
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ronlane

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I wouldn't rely on the TTL in this case. I would get there in time to get set up on manual and leave it. (Meter it if you have one.)

As for the shadows, I would have her walk forward about 2 step and zoom in with the lens. You have way too much dead space at the top of the image.
 

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Hi, I have two Flashpoint XPLOR 600s, each with a 36" octobox and a D500 with a 24-70mm and plan on using it to take pictures at an event for a non-profit to be held in a fancy ballroom. I took a few practice shots today with my wife and can't figure out the proper lighting arrangement to avoid shadows behind the subject.

I have the two lights set up on either side of me, set about six feet high, angled down at the subject. The lights are set to TTL.

When I do this at the event, there will be an 8' backdrop ("step and repeat", like part of a press engagement) displayed in this space. I can have the subjects step away from the backdrop, but I don't believe far enough to completely eliminate the shadow.

I also realize in this sample picture that that angle is wrong and I should have had the camera set up lower, but was really just doing this to solve the shadow problem.
Don't position the lights at equal angles to the lens. Call one (the right probably) your key light. Call the other your fill light. Set the fill light closer to the lens, (small angle here) and dial back the power to about half of your key light (starting point for evaluation). Set the fill light nearly in front of your lens, just so you don't see it in the viewfinder.

Set the key light higher than 6', probably more like 10', and as has been mentioned; closer to your subject(s). A good starting angle for the key light might be about 45 degrees from your lens axis. Estimate the size of the group (say up to about five people, max.) and move the key light just to the perimeter of where you begin to see the edge and then back it off a few inches.

Do some more blocking with the help of your wife and take a tape measure. Ask your subject to step away from the backdrop until the shadows blur out to almost no edge at all. Measure the setup and draw a diagram so you can easily and quickly set it up again. Mark out some spots on the floor with painter's tape for the light stands and a line for your subjects to "toe the mark". The tape should not be visible, so you can put the tape where their heels should be.

Set the height of your tripod so the lens is about the height of the subject's breastbone for full-body shots. (Average them out, and leave the camera at that same height for all groups.)

During your blocking session, turn on one light at a time and consult your histogram for correct exposure for each light in turn. Then turn on both lights to check again. Don't rely on judging the JPEG image on the LCD, use the histogram. If the histogram is good, write down the settings so you won't forget. If the histogram shows low or high exposure, make the appropriate adjustments, then check again.

Whether you are using a prime or a zoom lens, you should strive to optimize the field of view. So instead of relying on the wide end of your lens to get everybody in the shot, get them to squeeze in tightly together. I use the blue painter's tape to mark out a "box" on the floor, both the focal plane and the edges of my field of view. Kind of like a batter's box. If they can stand in the box, then I can get them in the shot. (Also, if they're standing on tape on one side of the box, you can simply point to the tape and ask them to get in tighter.)
 
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ac12

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You can also hit the background with a background light, put behind the subject, to kill the shadow.
 

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