Next in line for portrait critique? :)

zulu42

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With all the great help in this section , I hoped for any critique.
This is my attempt at Rembrandt lighting. Two Speedlights, one camera left in a 42" reflective umbrella softbox about 5 feet from her and two feet above her head set at 1/8. Other speedlight camera right, about chin height, bounced from a Rogue Flashbender. Set at 1/64.

85mm f/6.3 1/60 ISO 1/100

I wanted a higher lighting ratio, that is, darker shadows on her left cheek, but just dropping the power on the fill flash left me more underexposed. Any more power on the main light was making the forehead too hot and the nose was out of control shiny highlights already.

Lighting, pose, editing, any comment or critique is welcome.

thanks for looking

JEL-2.jpg
 

Vtec44

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What were you trying to convey through your pose? Did you feel that you've achieved that?
 
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zulu42

zulu42

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Thanks for the reply @Vtec44 :)

Foremost goal for the setup and pose was to try and create the "triangle" for Rembrandt lighting. Overall I wanted the pose to be informal and inviting, hide the contour of the waistline, and show the hands without showing the age that hands can give away.I think the hands look okay, but I think she ended up leaned to far forward and I also think I shot from a camera position a few inches too low.
 
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zulu42

zulu42

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omg I just took a bunch of portraits of my dog with the same setup and they turned out soooo much better. Different pose tho.
 

Derrel

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Pretty good first effort. Most of the time Rembrandt lighting looks pretty dark on the shadow side. I'm not much of a fan of Rembrandt lighting on women (or on men!), and it seems so heavy and morose and dark.

The way the nose shadow is falling shows me the main light's placement, and with so much fill light use, this actually looks more like a modified loop lighting set-up, rather than a true, old-school Rembrandt lighting setup (the shadow side is pretty bright). I think the fill light's low-on-the-shadow-side-eye catchlight is distracting.

I dunno...I think you DID accomplish several of the things you set out to do. It's good to know that the session with the dogs turned out well!
 
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zulu42

zulu42

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Thanks, Derrel, I appreciate it. I did learn. It will be a long road to get somewhat consistent photographing people.
I was losing my model's interest as I chimped and adjusted the lights. You would seriously laugh if you saw a few shots as she lost her patience :
 

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Rembrandt would be proud, and you should be, too. While not exactly as "moody" as Rembrandt himself would have done it, I see it as a modern version of it.

Too bad your model got tired before you did.

I think the light on her hands is just enough to balance the light on her face. Did you light the background specifically, or was that just the spill from the other lights? It's very good, whichever. Interesting model, interesting pose, good colors, good frame.
 
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zulu42

zulu42

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Rembrandt would be proud, and you should be, too. While not exactly as "moody" as Rembrandt himself would have done it, I see it as a modern version of it.

Too bad your model got tired before you did.

I think the light on her hands is just enough to balance the light on her face. Did you light the background specifically, or was that just the spill from the other lights? It's very good, whichever. Interesting model, interesting pose, good colors, good frame.

Thanks very much @Designer I really appreciate your comments. Background was a light brown blanket and it was all spill light. Pure luck it turned out good. Vignette is post.

What is the solution for hot forehead and shiny nose highlights? Move the light source away from the subject? It seemed when I moved the light further, I just had to increase power with a similar "shiny nose" result, along with sharper shadows.

Next try for this type of lighing, I may use a reflector for fill, and use the second speedlight for a hair light or background light.

Thanks again very much for the comments.
 

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What is the solution for hot forehead and shiny nose highlights?
I would just try some things. Maybe a scrap of white gauzy cloth clipped onto the rim of the umbrella box so it sort of hangs down over the hottest part of the light.
 
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zulu42

zulu42

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Ahh, so it is from the hot spot in the light. Good idea to try and further diffuse the hottest part. Thank you.
 

Derrel

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One thing to note about Rembrandt lighting and hair-lighting or rim-lighting: when the light is being shined back and toward the lens--to-subject axis from roughly the 11-,12-,1-,and 2- o'clock angles, it creates strong, bright, specular highlights. This is also where the flash meter "lies to you", and the light that comes in at those types of glancing angles registers VERY "hot", compared to the meter reading! This is a well-known issue among studio shooters, but is seldom talked about. Since in Rembrandt lighting set-ups, the key light is often moved 'around back', and angled toward the subject from a from-behind angle, hot, specular highlights can be a significant issue unless the light is super-diffused...and even then...it can register as hotter-than-expected.

It's sort of odd: place the same light at anywhere from 6 o'clock to 9 o'clock, and directed forward and toward the person, and the light behaves as-expected; but, once the light is coming in, and is angled toward the camera's lens, at a glancing angle, and it gets hotter, or properly described, the light, "becomes more-specular in nature".

With a back-positioned hairlight, I've taken to using a honeycomb grid + a mylar diffuser (or two, or even three diffusers) placed over the grid, to keep the hairlight from glowing.

In looking at this portrait, I think a lot of the forehead hot-spot is due mostly from a simple incidence-equals-reflection issue, where you've got the flash positioned at just the right angle to cause the forehead to light-up and form a reflection that just happens to hit the nose, and the forehead, right about the center line of both; the highlight's on her chin too, but it's more-rounded and less-taut skin than is found on either the bridge of the nose, or the forehead. Without modeling lamps, the exact, precise angle of the 1) the light source and 2)the subject and the 3) the camera's lens becomes trickier than if there's an always-on light in the modifier. On some setups, lack of a modeling light is not that big of an issue, but on other setups, there's only a narrow range within which the lighting will be optimal.

One solution to skin highlights is a thin coat of high-quality face powder that's non-reflective. This is an area where makeup can help dull or eliminate sheen.

Still...it's a very theatrical, lively lighting result. I bet this would make a super B&W conversion! Having some bright highlights, and a well-defined forehead and nose can look awesome in B&W. Some lighting patterns, like many of those with higher lighting ratios, look just awesome in B&W.
 
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zulu42

zulu42

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VERY informative, thank you.
TBH I'm not even metering these "studio" entirely flash-lit setups. Guess, shoot, look at the histogram, adjust, shoot again.

I do use a flashlight when moving the softbox to provide a hint at where the shadows will fall, but I never even considered the angle of incidence-reflection. That will be important to keep in mind in the future. Another thing that's really hard to do without modeling lights is position a reflector effectively.
I did look at these in B&W, and I have a head and shoulders crop in B&W that I kept. It looks okay, but not really a keeper. The more I look at the face lighting, I keep noticing how it looks to have created a bulge on the left side of her chin. A weird result of the lighting or editing.

All the feedback has been extremely valuable and I really appreciate it!
 

Derrel

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Oh, my gosh...now that you mention the odd bulge effect, it's difficult not to look at it and see that. I see it.

As far as incidence/reflection, a very valuable tip when photographing things that tend to reflect a lot is to tripod mount the camera, and then have an assistant move the light through an arc, and look through the camera to see the exact, precise lighting effect, since the exact camera viewpoint determines how the reflections or highlights look. That's why above I numbered these things as 1,2,and 3, as "1) the light source and 2)the subject and the 3) the camera's lens". You have to have that third element in there to evaluate how a highlight or reflection actually looks--from the camera's position!

The more you work with the same light and flash, the better you'll get at predicting its lighting effect. For this setup, you have the 1/8 power main light and the 1/64 fill power as a pretty good lighting ratio to give that type of look, which is like three stops' less of an output level for the fill light, in relation to the main light's output level.

For what it's worth, I think the brown fabric backdrop in this looks very classic; I personally love brown backdrops for formal studio type shots. For the reflector placement, make sure NOT to put it too far back! Many people put the reflector so far back that it fills in the dark-side ear way,way too much! The reflector usually should be positioned literally in front of the subject, closer to the camera than the person is, otherwise it tends to light-up that dark-side ear and face, and it looks bad. Beware on on-line lighting diagrams that show reflectors placed in unrealistic positions, or in flat-out "impossible" placements where the reflector can not even "see" the main light's output; the web is filled with so-caleld lighting diagrams that are deceptive/misleading/silly,etc..
 

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