Preschool portraits with gels

Discussion in 'People Photography' started by adamhiram, Jun 10, 2019 at 11:16 AM.

  1. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    These are a few images from a recent photo shoot with my son. I wanted to make it more fun and got a creative with some accessories and colored gels.

    Nikon D500 with 85mm f/1.8
    85mm, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 400

    Lighting
    • Key light: 38" octabox with grid to control spill on backdrop
    • Fill: 42" white reflector
    • Background light: 25° grid with blue gel for a gradient spot behind subject
    • Backdrop: fashion gray seamless paper
    • See pullback shot for lighting setup

    Additional thoughts:
    • I had to raise ISO a few stops to get enough light - between the gel reducing light output by 2 1/3 stops, and the double diffusion and grid having a similar effect on the soft box, I am starting to hit the limitations of using speed lights for portraiture
    • I see some fringing around the edges of the subject - any thoughts on ways to reduce this?
    • I am curious if anyone has opinions on using colored gels on a neutral backdrop vs. a colored backdrop - in this case, blue paper instead of a blue gel? As long as I am lighting it separately, gels seem like a simpler solution, but I'm sure there are some limitations with this.
    Thank you, and any feedback is appreciated!

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    20190608-DSC_2726a
    by adamhiram, on Flickr

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    20190608-DSC_2757a
    by adamhiram, on Flickr

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    20190608-DSC_2748a
    by adamhiram, on Flickr

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    20190608-DSC_2794a
    by adamhiram, on Flickr


     
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  2. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Nicely done! You can have a lot of fun with a light or two an a pack of gels!
     
  3. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    @adamhiram These may be some of the best ones yet, of your son, he is so stinkin cute!!! A+ for creativity, use of color and props, it all works really well.

    Shot 1 with the glasses, I love, but the reflection of the gridded key is killing it for me. I'd likely try to take it in Ps, clone out and replace with a smaller/diffrent highlight. Shot 2 I like, but wish there was more eye contact with the camera. Shot 3 is just great!!! I've said it before, and I'll say it again, catching a smile is one thing, catching a smile and the eyes smiling at the same time, is over the top great.

    I am starting to hit the limitations of using speed lights for portraiture Yup, the difference in output between good studio lights and speed lights is night and day.

    I see some fringing around the edges of the subject - any thoughts on ways to reduce this? To me it was more noticeable on 2 & 3. I may be wrong but I think your picking up reflection off the background. You might be able to over ride it with a kicker, (strip box), but it's pretty uniform around the edges. I'd probably try to move him forward a hair and use a rim light behind him.

    I am curious if anyone has opinions on using colored gels on a neutral backdrop vs. a colored backdrop First of all I'm not sure why, but I'm seeing significant banding in the blue of the background. The only thing I can think of as to why, is the use of a small reflector???? Maybe some others can enlighten us both. As to the choice of backgrounds, I'm a fan of the Dean Collins method with it you only need white and black.
     
  4. JBPhotog

    JBPhotog No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    However, in this case it all worked so good job. Among the major benefits of studio strobes are power and recycling time so if those components are holding you back start looking for replacements.
    Did you meter the background light hitting the back of your sons head? Fringing can occur when the bounced light from the background starts to compete with the meter reading of the subjects face. In other words if the meter says F5.6 on the subjects face the background light should not exceed this otherwise it bleeds around the edges. In shot #2 one can see a hot spot in the centre which is likely brighter than the density of the gel, this happens when using a dense gel and wanting bleed to form that big blue circle. This can be offset by having a selection of gels to get the right look without blowing out the gel to get the bleed.
    Paper background colour vs gels is interesting but for most they would rather pack a bunch of gels vs rolls and rolls of paper. White, grey or black are far more versatile since they can be any colour you want to make them with the appropriate gel, of course black requires more power to get a gel to read. Picking a specific coloured paper is generally used to produce a background fill of one colour with no centralized hot spot, as in your examples. It is far easier to produce an even tone of colour across a background if one uses the right coloured paper, if that is the look you are after.
     
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  5. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thanks! I started working with gels about a year ago, and even created my own reference chart to make it easier to figure out which ones to use and when, which has proven invaluable.
     
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  6. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Your blue gel background made me think of some preschool portraits I did of my son back in 2007. In just a couple of days my son will turn 16, but for his Easter 2007 portraits, I used a black or a gray background paper and a blue gel.

    One of the more interesting things is that just a couple of days ago I was going through my Facebook and I found one of those photos and it brought back a memory of something I used to do whenever I use the blue background gel: I would take the photographs into Photoshop and then select the color was able to turn the background from blue to yellow to green to orange in just seconds, without affecting anything except the background.

    Yes, I can see a little bit of blowback. The easiest way to eliminate that is to move the background farther behind the subject or move the subject closer to the camera.

    One way to compensate for the 2 1/2 stops of light loss is to use less light on the subject and open the lens up more to compensate. This in effect makes the background light "more powerful". The same thing is often used when you want to key shift and turn a gray background into pure white. Rather than blasting an exceptional amount of light onto gray paper,the easy answer is to use_less light_ on the subject and therefore make the difference in f-stops greater thus "driving the gray up" to white.

    For example if you were to use 1/4 power on the speed light and full power on the gelled light in the background, you could "get more power ".

    And of course you can fire a gel at a white, gray, or black background paper
     
  7. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thank you for the kind words, as always. I will once again reiterate that your themed shoots have provided a lot of great inspiration!

    As you can probably imagine, I spent a long time with my "product photography" hat on trying to deal with that reflection. I tried removing the grid and just flagging it from the background, but I could see the flag in the reflection. I eventually moved it far enough to the side to eliminate the reflection altogether, but I also lost catchlights when he took the glasses off, and I couldn't get him to put them back on again later. Ultimately, I just decided I could deal with it, and #2 and #3 wound up being the favorites anyway. Managing reflections is a challenge!

    Agreed, thanks!

    It's definitely from the background, but not really sure how else to address it. More subject-to-background distance would probably do it, but I already had him about 10' from the backdrop, and maxed out my 20' long room. 85mm on a crop sensor needs a lot of space, and anything wider would have necessitated a wider backdrop, which I did't have available.


    I think the banding is being introduced by the browser's rendering engine, or possibly Flickr's resizing algorithm. The originals have absolutely no banding in LR or in the exported jpegs. The small "reflector" (Rogue Flash Grid) does create a central hotspot, but I don't think that's what you are referring to.
     
  8. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I started having issues with misfires on the background light, which was at almost full power. I definitely foresee more powerful strobes with faster cycle times in my future!

    I metered the incident light in the center hotspot of the backdrop at between f/4 and f/5.6 (key was f/5.6), but never exceeded this. It sounds like I just blasted too much light on the background without enough distance to cut down on the amount reflected back.

    I typically use gray paper when I want it to take the gel's color, but I also tend to keep the background brightness a lot lower than I did here. I'm curious if using white paper would have provided better results here, since I would have needed less power on that light, but at the same time the effective brightness of the background would have been the same.
     
  9. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    IMG_1439.JPG I just found this photo of my son biting the head off of a chocolate Easter bunny, from 2007. That background was about the same exact color of blue as was in your photos, and all I did to make it a yellow background was to open the file in Photoshop, and go to selective color and start messing around with the blues.
     
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  10. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Great idea! I actually took some test shots with a yellow gel, but ultimately I preferred the bold blue to compliment the blue band on the hat. I'll have to keep that trick in mind for future reference.

    Sounds like I need a bigger space or a wider roll of paper!

    This makes sense, but doesn't that also mean I'd need to increase my ISO or use a wider aperture? In this case I was already at f/5.6 when I would have preferred to be at f/8 - anything wider at 85mm and parts of the subject are out of the focal plane. For example, once I get to f/4 with this framing, the ears start getting softer. I think I followed this advice by increasing the ISO 2 stops though.

    Is there any noticeable difference using gels on black/gray/white paper? I assumed black didn't take color very well, and I typically don't want the background brighter than the subject, so I stick with gray instead of white. Would white have worked just as well here, but with the ability to use lower power on the background light?
     
  11. JBPhotog

    JBPhotog No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Sure white would have allowed you to dial back the power of the background light with a caveat. With white paper one needs to be diligent on spill affecting the background, flags and V-Flats come in handy here.
     
  12. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    That's great! Time sure does fly by. This looks to be almost the exact color palette I used for my alternate setup - same yellow background and a blue shirt. Great minds think alike!
     

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