Lighting Setup & Specular Highlights

Discussion in 'Lighting and Hardware' started by smoke665, Jul 25, 2019.

  1. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Finally finished up editing on last shoot, and reviewing my notes on the shots. Throughout the edits I struggled with the effects of oil and sweat (location was really warm that day), and the ravages of health and age on the subjects. Based on those experiences I've made some changes:

    • My kit now includes a "mini" makeup kit with a few essentials (translucent powder, brush) and some of these.
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    • I also found this article helpful Strobist: Lighting 102: Controlling Specular Highlights and plan on incorporating much of it in my next shoot. I knew most of this, but failed to execute, won't happen again. Several hours of uneccesary post editing have permanently etched this in my brain.
    Obviously couldn't do it on location, but I'm wondering if firing a strobe with 7" reflector into large white V-flat might be a good alternative for fill?


     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2019
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  2. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Excellent article! A lighted V flat could make a decent fill, but it needs a lot of room since you would have to have the light well back from it to get maximum benefit. I have 72" & 84" umbrellas that make great fill modifiers, and because they're umbrellas they pack down to almost nothing...
     
  3. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Two 4x8 sheets of 5mm ply, hinged on one side and painted white one side/black on the other, would store easily hanging on the wall, and have multiple function. Just haven't got around to it yet. On the umbrellas, I'm really starting to rethink the softbox vs 7' umbrella with diffusion. The ability to knock down and store quickly is really appealing, plus using it as fill as per the article would require less space on the set.
     
  4. Braineack

    Braineack Been spending a lot of time on here!

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  5. JBPhotog

    JBPhotog No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    You might also want to consider the interior surface of your modifiers. The trend these days is silver but I think that is because people "think" they want a punchy fashion look to all the people shots, ignoring the fact most of their subject are not going to be sub 25 year old models with excellent makeup.

    White interior surfaces will produce flatter light, thus fewer specular highlights. A quick under exposed front shot of your modifier will tell you if it produces hot spots which will translate into specular highlights.
     
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  6. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    JB makes a good point about white interior in modifiers. The good case in point or some umbrellas they got years ago in the 1980s which had extremely flat white vinyl interiors. They gave very soft diffused light much more so than semi-shiny fabric interiors, which are much more common. These were old Gold Star brand umbrellas I bought in 1986 and it is now fairly hard to find this type of umbrella interior. However with some looking, you can find these types of umbrellas. Yes, I think a large 7 foot tall V-flat would make a good Fill Light,with a very large Square inch count,and as you pointed out it requires very little storage space.

    You could also make a very large scrim panel with a translucent fabric and fire one or two flash heads through that to create a very large and soft source of light. You could also fire the flash at white reflecting fabric as well. There are a lot of ways to create a large soft light source.

    As was pointed out in the Article you linked us to, A 60 inch diameter umbrella was what he was using. A few years ago I bought a Wescott 72 inch parabolic umbrella with a silver interior. I found it extremely cumbersome to use.

    There are several photography approaches that utilize two V-flats, and these are extremely versatile modifiers, since you can use one or two flashes in each flat or no flash in one. Home improvement centers sell very large sheets of insulation board and the prices are extremely reasonable. As you probably realize a little bit of tape and two boards become a V-flat, and eliminate the need for a light stand to support the light modifier. For firing two lights into the flat I have used one stand and a superclamp and spigot on the shaft to support the second light.

    As far as cutting down on specularity,I think it is about equal as far as diffusing light by using a frosted flashtube cover, bringing the light closer, thus making it effectively larger, or increasing the physical size of the modifier, or by adding a second layer of diffusion to the modifier. Good example: the double diffusion system where a reflecting umbrella first scrambles the light, then that light is bounced and goes through a translucent fabric cover. This is correctly known as an umbrella box; many people incorrectly call this a "brolly box", which to me is merely a shoot through of the flash tube light through a thin nylon front cover. This is single diffusion. With the umbrella box light first hits the reflecting umbrella, and then bounces through the front cover. I greatly prefer this.

    There is more than one approach that will work to cut down on specularity on skin. Removing skin oil is a good step, and dusting your subject's skin with a high-quality translucent powder that has no UV reflection capability is a good idea. A few years ago there was a brand new skin powder That when exposed to electronic flash,photographed as a ghastly shade of white. I remember seeing the red carpet photos from the Academy Awards that year and they were many Hollywood celebrities who had extreme amounts of white all over their faces!
     
  7. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    I have a couple of silver reflective umbrellas, but most are white, and various white, silver and gold reflectors. The brighter silver seems to be to hot for most application. I also have a couple of collapsibles, that could best be described as "dull" silver, that I use frequently. I found them used in a thrift store so I have no idea if its just age or if they came that way. I've found them really helpful in minimizing red skin without the hot spots.

    On the V flats about all you can find anymore is the foam core with film on one side and foil on the other, neither of which accepts paint well, and are fragile. There's another that's a fiber core with a painted foil on both sides that they use in heating and A/C, that would work well but they stopped stocking it at the big box stores.
     
  8. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    As far as umbrellas go white can be sort of a shiny white nylon or it can be a flat white vinyl interior. I have noticed that the flat white vinyl interior produces softer light than the much more typical white fabric, which is often extremely shiny.when you really look at it, a lot of the so-called white interior umbrellas are a very shiny,almost silver color, and yet the manufacture or sell it describes them as white interior umbrellas.

    I have one old 1970s Speedotron metallized silver umbrella, and it gives a lot of sparkle to skin tones. It's my opinion that when you shoot with the idea of converting to black-and-white that the slightly more-specular silvered umbrellas give a better look than Duller-finished modifiers.

    Back when I was learning studio lighting in the 1980s, I learned a lot from Gary Bernstein books and one thing that he wrote really stuck with me and that is that when shooting for black-and-white he preferred smaller light sources rather than larger light sources ( which he liked for color work).
     
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  9. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    One idea about painting over foil is to lay down duct tape as the base, and then primer and paint over the duct tape. Another alternative is to use contact cement to lay down sheets of heavy duty craft paper, and to paint that.
     
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  10. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    You might remember awhile back I posted an experiment using the same light source at various distances from the subject to show the amount of spread and the effect on shadows. The white foam wig head was a uniform non reflective type of surface, so I didn't really get the specular highlights you'd normally see on oily skin when moving the light back. I might need to revisit that experiment using a more appropriate subject and trying it with both color and B&W.
     
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  11. JBPhotog

    JBPhotog No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I use styrofoam insulation boards as my V-flats. They can be had in a couple of thicknesses, mine are 2". They come in 4'x8' sheets, completely white and will not yellow like white foam board and are reasonably inexpensive. Take two of them and either gaffer tape a hinge or as I did, get some webbed vinyl material and make a hinge which was caulked to the styrofoam(special foam caulk is required). They take paint really well so the backs are easily converted to flat black and once opened to a V or L they stand on their own.

    The caveats are obvious, they don't travel well once assembled and getting them from your big box home DIY store is a wee bit challenging, drive slow and strap them down , LOL.
     
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  12. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    @JBPhotog question? Any guidelines on placing your lights? High, low, dead on, and distance from?
     

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