School pictures

adamhiram

No longer a newbie, moving up!
Joined
Feb 6, 2015
Messages
736
Reaction score
475
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
One of my goals in learning studio lighting was to take better school photos than what typically came home from school. A criticism I frequently had was the flat cross-lighting often used, where key and fill were equal power, the face lacked shadows and dimension, and the eyes always had horizontal double catchlights, which I found unsettling. It was also pretty common for them to be taken on a green screen, where the hair never seemed to be cut out very well, and the lighting rarely matched that of the composited background.

This is a portrait of my son I took for school, with fairly traditional lighting. Nothing too exciting, but hopefully well-executed.

Lighting setup (see pullback photo)
  • Key: I used a 38” octobox (technically a dodecabox) somewhere between loop and Rembrandt lighting. My goal was to shape the face withe s significant amount of shadow, and create a pleasing single catchlight.
  • Fill: My go-to modifier for fill is a 42” white reflector, moved close enough to give a 2:1 key/fill ratio. I find that a white reflector is a great way to brighten shadow detail without adding a noticeable 2nd catchlight in the eyes, as you would see with a silver reflector or separate light source.
  • Background: I used a pair of bare strobes in reflectors to evenly cross-light the background, with barn doors to control spill. The backdrop is a dark gray hand-painted canvas that I find to be quite versatile, particularly with colored gels (although none were used here).
The shot below is a 5x7 crop, but shot wide enough to allow a variety of aspect ratios for printing. Processed in Lightroom with light retouching in Photoshop.

Nikon Z6II with 85mm f/1.8 lens
85mm, f/8, 1/200s


20210925-DSC_4239a-crop2-5x7 by adamhiram, on Flickr


20210925-DSC_4277a by adamhiram, on Flickr
 

NS: Nikon Shooter

No longer a newbie, moving up!
Joined
Aug 11, 2021
Messages
836
Reaction score
654
Location
Québécois in central Europe since 1989
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Well done, Adam, I see nothing wrong in this portrait! :encouragement:

Maybe you could explore using only one head on the BG creating
some kind of gradient and the other as rim light.

Think 4x5 as final frame as it is most commun for that end usage.
 

ac12

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Dec 5, 2017
Messages
2,315
Reaction score
748
Location
SF Bay Area, California, USA
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
Many/most school photos are a production line process.
The goal is NOT quality.
The goal is to process a LARGE number of students in a limited time, at an "acceptable" quality.
At my local high school, the goal was to shoot about 2,400 students in two days.

When I was in HS, it was a SINGLE camera. From sitting down to standing up to leave was less than 30 seconds.
At my local HS, they have a bank of five or six shooting stations. Lighting is set and left alone. The ONLY change that I remember seeing the photographers do, was adjusting the height/angle of the camera, for the height of the student. You sat down and left in less than a minute.

This is in contrast with the SENIOR photos.
They were shot much faster than the traditional 30 minute portrait session, but much more time was spent "getting it right," than the 1 minute generic/underclassmen school pics.


As for lighting.
I think that depends on what the photog decides to used for his "set and shoot" lighting; how fancy or simple.
I wish I took a pic of the setup used at our school. But "I think" it was simply a single umbrella. KISS

As an old foggie, I cringe at the wide (seemingly excessive) use of umbrellas. Although I admit, that makes the process run faster.
Many today seem to have lost the art of working the lights. Vs. the portrait photographers when I was a kid, who would fine tune the EXACT placement of the lights.
 

smoke665

TPF Supporters
Supporting Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2016
Messages
12,802
Reaction score
6,426
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
There's that big smile. All in all very well done Adam. Even even without a kicker the reflection off the background provided good separation. The skin texture/processing, is excellent. The only niggle I have is the focus on his left eye is tack sharp, but the his right eye appears softer and not quite as bright for some reason. At f/8 I wouldn't think that DOF would be a problem.
 

Lez325

Photographer
Supporting Member
Joined
Apr 12, 2021
Messages
300
Reaction score
335
Location
Taunton / South west UK
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
It appears to me that the viewer is looking slightly up at the subject - maybe shoot with the camera at the subjects eye level?

Lighting looks spot on

Les :)
 
OP
adamhiram

adamhiram

No longer a newbie, moving up!
Joined
Feb 6, 2015
Messages
736
Reaction score
475
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Well done, Adam, I see nothing wrong in this portrait! :encouragement:

Maybe you could explore using only one head on the BG creating
some kind of gradient and the other as rim light.

Think 4x5 as final frame as it is most commun for that end usage.
Thank you! I tweaked the setup for some headshots afterwards, using a single strobe with a gridded reflector to create a grid spot behind the subject. I'll share it in another thread for comparison. I have 4x5 (8x10) crops as well, I just figured I would share the version with less empty space!

Many/most school photos are a production line process.
The goal is NOT quality.
The goal is to process a LARGE number of students in a limited time, at an "acceptable" quality.
At my local high school, the goal was to shoot about 2,400 students in two days.
...
As an old foggie, I cringe at the wide (seemingly excessive) use of umbrellas. Although I admit, that makes the process run faster.
Definitely agreed with quantity over quality, which is why I started taking them myself each year. I still think it is easy enough to use a real background rather than a green screen, which never looks right to me unless someone invests time in more accurately cutting out the subject. I'm not a fan of umbrellas either, especially for more close-up shots where you can see the catchlight in greater detail. For example, I can clearly see the umbrella ribs in the eye on my passport photo.

Nice shot.....
Thank you.

There's that big smile. All in all very well done Adam. Even even without a kicker the reflection off the background provided good separation. The skin texture/processing, is excellent. The only niggle I have is the focus on his left eye is tack sharp, but the his right eye appears softer and not quite as bright for some reason. At f/8 I wouldn't think that DOF would be a problem.
Thank you. Agreed - at f/8 it's not a depth of field issue, and at 1/200s (and more accurately with strobes as the sole light source) it's definitely not motion blur. I don't see the issue in the original image, so I'm guessing Flickr may have added perceived blur from the eyelashes when resizing the image. Looks good printed though!

It appears to me that the viewer is looking slightly up at the subject - maybe shoot with the camera at the subjects eye level?

Lighting looks spot on
My impression is that the kid chined up and looks down to the camera.
That is correct. This was shot with the camera perfectly level with the eyes about 1/3 of the way down from the top of the frame, then cropped a little tighter. If anything, the camera was probably a few inches below the subject's eye level!
 

NS: Nikon Shooter

No longer a newbie, moving up!
Joined
Aug 11, 2021
Messages
836
Reaction score
654
Location
Québécois in central Europe since 1989
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
That is correct. This was shot with the camera perfectly level with the eyes about 1/3 of the way down from the top of the frame, then cropped a little tighter. If anything, the camera was probably a few inches below the subject's eye level!

So much for gk's laughing reaction! :laugh2:
 

ac12

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Dec 5, 2017
Messages
2,315
Reaction score
748
Location
SF Bay Area, California, USA
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
Definitely agreed with quantity over quality, which is why I started taking them myself each year. I still think it is easy enough to use a real background rather than a green screen, which never looks right to me unless someone invests time in more accurately cutting out the subject. I'm not a fan of umbrellas either, especially for more close-up shots where you can see the catchlight in greater detail. For example, I can clearly see the umbrella ribs in the eye on my passport photo.

I wonder why they used a green screen.
Unless they want to give the parents the option of choosing their own background. IOW marketing.

The old all purpose mottled background works for most everyone.
And for those that don't work, a 2nd alternate background could be used.
For a head and shoulders pic, alternate backgrounds should be somewhat easy to use. They are not dealing with a 10 feet wide background, like in a studio.

Or like in my school's case, they could use one of the school's colors for the background.

While I have not used a green screen, I think it is down to the software, and it's ability to accurately cut out the subject and put it over the selected background.
 

NS: Nikon Shooter

No longer a newbie, moving up!
Joined
Aug 11, 2021
Messages
836
Reaction score
654
Location
Québécois in central Europe since 1989
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
-

For schools, I will setup the boot and let two assistants — third year stu-
dents at the trade school — operate it.

The school has the choice of BG that will always be a green screen first.
While schools will go for a standardised BG and parents choose some-
thing more to their liking.
 

CherylL

TPF Supporters
Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2012
Messages
3,206
Reaction score
3,134
Location
near St Louis
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Well done with the lighting and the catch lights. My novice opinion is it seems the camera could be higher?
 

Space Face

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Feb 7, 2020
Messages
6,915
Reaction score
2,843
Location
UK
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
Regardless of how high the camera or where or at what angle the laddie was looking it's a very good take indeed. I'd be chuffed to take anything half as good. Quality shows through.
 

Most reactions

New Topics

Top