Portrait lighting

Christie Photo

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Something is starting to come into focus for me: It seems many here, when working on location (in some one's home), don't plan on creating lighting, but rely on the existing lighting. Is this right?

I understand if it's an outdoor portrait, but really?.... is that what most are doing?

There are SO many variables: direction of light, quality of light, placement of light, level of light...

Also, I understand the desire to use ambient light if you're equipped with a single strobe. But I can't see where this is a good plan.

At the most basic level, a fill light and a main light are needed. It's POSSIBLE to get nice results using the available light for the fill, but only if it's the right color temperature (to match the main), and is falling on the subject from the right direction... and is broad (large and diffused) enough. I wouldn't want to rely on that, especially with family groups.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks.
-Pete
 

Big Mike

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I agree. I prefer to do my in-home portraits in a room with little or no ambient light...that way I can control the light I'm using.

I did a Christmas card shoot a couple months ago, where I had to shoot with a huge, bright window to the side. I decided to use it as fill and use a softbox as the main light. It worked out well...but I did have a bit of a problem with color temps and skin tones.
 

Sw1tchFX

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If you use ambient as fill for your key, put a gel on the key to match the ambient, or if you want to do something, say emulate the color temperture of a sunset, use a cto on the strobe.

Ambient's great, if your shooting in bright daylight, the sun can become a hair light, kicker, key, fill, anything depending on what time of day it is.
 

Nikon Norm

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Even outside I will use my strobes, when they are not available and I'm in bright sunlight with no shade I have a scrim to create shade.

Inside I light with strobes, usually 4 , although I'm finding that another couple could come in handy.

A long time ago I found strobes scary, trying to get the right exposure etc, especially in the film days. Now with practice I set my lights up go to f16, take a look, maybe it's one stop either side and bingo start taking pictures.

We often forget that photography is about light.
 

nicfargo

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When shooting on location, If I'm shooting with ambient light I use a CTO gel to correct for ambient or florescent on my flashes. I only take small flashes with me on location a la the strobist method. You can get some really great shots doing it this way.
 

AprilRamone

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I guess when I said that I see if they had good light, I mean if they have good window light coming in. And I would use a reflector as well.
I should also say that I try to only do newborn sessions in client's homes and I try to do everything else outdoors.
 

MichaelT

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I love working with God's light. It is by far the most beautiful quality. The open sky is the main light and then I look for natural scrims to give it direction. When doing family portraits, which is the mainstay of our studio, I go on a light hunt. First I find the light, then adjust angles for the background, and finally add the people. The only other thing is a small Q Flash on a stand, usually at 1/16 power, just to give a nice catch light if necessary.

I do work inside, but not real often, and of course bring on the strobes.

Feel free to check out my family portraits on our web site if you want to see how it works out.

http://www.riverstreetphoto.com
 

Alpha

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Window + daylight-balanced strobe
Window + reflector
Flourescent ambient + cool gel
Incandescent ambient + warm gel
 
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Christie Photo

Christie Photo

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The open sky is the main light and then I look for natural scrims to give it direction. ...I go on a light hunt. First I find the light, then adjust angles for the background, and finally add the people. The only other thing is a small Q Flash on a stand, usually at 1/16 power, just to give a nice catch light if necessary.

Exactly! Thanks for this concise explanation.

I do work inside, but not real often, and of course bring on the strobes.

This is what I'm wondering about. I see you have one in-home portrait in your family gallery. (VERY nice, consistent work BTW.) I can't imagine going into that setting without proper lighting. Ceiling lights are just that... ceiling lights. Light falling straight down. Windows can't be repositioned either. Nor can they be made larger.

Thanks for your input.

-Pete
 

JimmyJaceyMom

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Well up until now it was my only choice - ambient lighting, and also a sunpak flash attached to the camera adn reflectors. It's worked out okay but I am about to have the opportunity to buy some things.
Waht do you think it the most important thing to have first. I do have two tungsten lights on stands but they're harsh unless I flip them around and use an umbrella, which I don't even know is the correct thing to do. I just know it works out but its a pain.
What do you suggest I buy first as a key peice of equipment for portraits?
 

jols

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Window + daylight-balanced strobe
Window + reflector
Flourescent ambient + cool gel
Incandescent ambient + warm gel




window plus reflector?

which colour reflector would you say is best.

i have just got some and have yet to try them out as they arrived about 20mins ago.

i have white black gold and silver.

thanks for any help
 

MichaelT

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My typical rule of thumb for indoor home portraits is to set strobes to mimic the natural light coming into the room. Usually I bounce the main strobe against the wall or ceiling near the window. Then bounce another strobe off the ceiling closer to the camera and at lower power to give adequate fill. Turn on room lights and drag the shutter so the lights appear well in the image - it warms it up really nice. Lastly, if there is a place for accent strobes, like lighting up a hallway or doorway in the background, it adds depth and texture.

The goal is to make the image look natural, not contrived. If your main lights come from a direction that is not natural, even though the portrait is nice, the clients just don't feel right about it.

If the ceilings are high, then use white umbrellas on the strobe.

White balance is set with an expodisc, which nicely combines all light sources for an excellent balance.

I never use a strobe attached to the camera except for wedding candids. In portraiture, using a camera strobe is the sign of an amateur. Invest in a couple White Lightnings and light stands. You can spend more on a high-end kit when the money starts rolling in.
 

Mike_E

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Well up until now it was my only choice - ambient lighting, and also a sunpak flash attached to the camera adn reflectors. It's worked out okay but I am about to have the opportunity to buy some things.
Waht do you think it the most important thing to have first. I do have two tungsten lights on stands but they're harsh unless I flip them around and use an umbrella, which I don't even know is the correct thing to do. I just know it works out but its a pain.
What do you suggest I buy first as a key piece of equipment for portraits?

Learning lighting seems to be a little like learning to juggle- it's best done with one thing at a time (adding as you go).

Since none of the other position lights will do much good without a main light I would suggest you get one of those first. I would also suggest that bigger is not always better. (you might also want to see how many reflectors you can use with your main before getting the next light)
 

JimmyJaceyMom

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Learning lighting seems to be a little like learning to juggle- it's best done with one thing at a time (adding as you go).

Since none of the other position lights will do much good without a main light I would suggest you get one of those first. I would also suggest that bigger is not always better. (you might also want to see how many reflectors you can use with your main before getting the next light)


Yes you are right, I have to find stands for the reflectors I have - life will be mucj easier for me.
 

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