Lighting positions advice for 1st portrait sessions


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Jul 18, 2007
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I will be shooting portraits this weekend (first time ever attempt) and am curious of the best possible lighting positions for singles and couples for the startup. I know I can chimp and will probably move setup for different moods. However, the nerves are a bit frayed thinking about it, so I was hoping some of you can give me a good starting point to increase my chances of not looking an idiot. I expect to be shooting indoors – 8’ ceilings, but if the weather cooperates, may move outdoors for some shots.

My gear will be one each SB-600 & SB-800 with adjustable 6’ light stand for each, 5-in-1 32” reflector set with disc holder and stand and a 43” white satin umbrella, various clamps. Also have a white, neutral and light blue backdrops (okay…cotton sheets). Ambient light is questionable. I will be shooting with a Nikon D80 and a variety of lenses to choose from, but likely to stay with 35mm f/2, 50mm f/1.8 and 85mm f/1.8.

I have a couple of books on portraiture due to arrive today, but doubtful any thorough reading before doing the shoot.

Thanks for your help and advice.
Sorry for the bump folks, but this will happen tomorrow and Friday. Yeah, so it's family and friends, but that only adds to the tension. My intent is to have the best enlarged to ??? 8x10 for sure.

Any (reasonable) suggestions are much appreciated.
Try this:
SB800 with umbrella at 30 to 45 degree to your right and about your shoulder height if your subject is seated, a bit higher if subject is standing. Use a large piece of white cardboard or foam board as a fill light, placed between 40 to 70 degrees to your left and at or just below the face level of your subject. Use your sb-600 above and behind the subject, aimed at the hair and shoulders and light spill controlled with a black sheet of craft paper wrapped around the flash head. You can now practice with various flash intensity and subject to flash distances. Seat a beige teddy bear on a stool as your test subject, he should not complain too much. Too bad you can't get another light to illuminate your background. Keep your subject to background distance a least 5 feet, a bit more is better.
Have fun.
Patrice's setup is exactly what I was going to suggest. Call it "cross lighting". The rim light is opposite the main, and your reflector is fill. Move the reflect in an out to change the amount of fill. Don't be afraid to introduce shadows on the fill side. It creates depth.

Start with your strobes at 1/2 or even 1/4 power, and shoot at sync speed. Adjust your aperture and/or flash power to suit. You don't need or want any ambient light.
Thanks Patrice & Matt.

That's the kind of info I was looking for. I drew up a little diagram with your notes on it.

Anyone else got ideas?

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