Self Portrait - Learning Lighting

Discussion in 'People Photography' started by adamhiram, Feb 13, 2018.

  1. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I think you're right - I reduced exposure in Lightroom by about 1/2 stop and the exposure looks much better. I suppose that's the downside to working without a light meter. However I was careful not to clip the highlights, and the specular reflections on the forehead and nose are still there after re-editing. Any suggestions on how to avoid this in the future? My light sources are pretty large and soft, so perhaps it was just shiny skin?

    Awesome link, thank you for sharing! I'm pretty sure I read the prior article from that author, as the photos look very familiar. I was going for more of a 2:1 ratio with this lighting, which I think I achieved with the white reflector, while the shot taken with a silver reflector (not shown) is pretty close to 1:1 and just just looked too flat to me (and also created another catch light). I agree with the fill light being more even with the soft box for fill, albeit a little brighter than intended, but I still want to figure out how to make a 2nd catch light look less "alien".

    Hmm, I didn't realize I missed focus, but it was likely for the obvious reason you mentioned. I shot at f/8 @ 85mm, so that should still should have given me a few inches of DoF, but without being able to look through the viewfinder, there's a good chance the focus point was on a brow or nose. Not much I can do about that, except step down further or find another subject!

    Thanks for the great feedback! It is definitely appreciated, and I'm excited to keep learning.


     
  2. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Yes. Buy a good meter. You don't have to spend a fortune. I picked up a decent Sekonics L-308S used one off Ebay, for around $75. So simple to operate, and so much faster than the shoot, look, adjust, shoot, look, adjust method. With multiple lights it's pretty much a necessity.

    I strive for somewhere between 2:1 and 4:1 but again that's a personal preference, unless I'm going for a low key or high key shot. Also I have a large collapsible white, silver, gold reflector (you know the kind that takes 14 arms to fold back up LOL). Most of the time I stay with white, as I find it easier to control the light. The silver as you found will move a lot of light, and I'll use it at times for that reason or if I want to take out some of the reds in a face. It seems to neutralize them. Frankly I've never got the hang of the gold. I went crazy for awhile during my "golden days", everything I shot looked like it was being illuminated by some sort of "heavenly" light. It wasn't necessarily attractive.

    The double catchlights I've learned to either live with or clone them out.

    Yup, it's virtually impossible to figure out to place your nose in the exact same spot repeatedly. I even rigged up a bar and card with a circle to place my nose in, then bumped it out of the way when I was ready to shoot (I have a remote). It is sssoooooo much easier to be just the photographer and I also find it easier to give others directions, less arguments :02.47-tranquillity:

    I'm not sure that increasing your DOF is the answer. At one time I was fascinated with extreme detail, but sometimes there are things in a face that aren't attractive in ultra sharp detail. I've been experimenting with wider apertures, following the outstanding examples of some here on the forum. However that requires even greater care in making sure you have the eye in focus. Like all problems, solving them is a series of steps. Using yourself as a model will let you work out lighting details, but to pull it all together you need a model other than yourself.
     
  3. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    3rd round... Sticking with the same setup, but I made a few changes based on @smoke665's recommendations.
    • I picked up a Sekonic L-308S-U light meter to get a more accurate exposure, as well as play around with key/fill ratios
    • Lowered the styrofoam fill card under the chin to lap level - some fill from beneath is nice, but I wanted to leave some shadow
    • Raised my ISO to 400 - for the sake of learning, I really don't need to burn through so many batteries firing my strobes at half or full power
    This was shot with a 2:1 key/fill ratio. The key light still looks a bit hot to me, but according to the light meter, this was the correct exposure.
    [​IMG]
    20180302-DSC_5908a
    by adamhiram, on Flickr

    Here's the same setup with a 4:1 key/fill ratio.
    [​IMG]
    20180302-DSC_5920a
    by adamhiram, on Flickr

    Similar to last time, I swapped out the fill light for a white reflector for fill without a 2nd catch light. This also metered as a 4:1 key/fill ratio, but the quality of light is quite different from the previous shot, which could just be the result of slightly different positioning of the fill source.
    [​IMG]
    20180302-DSC_5932a
    by adamhiram, on Flickr
     
  4. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Isn't this easier then guessing? It's like trying to read a book in a dark room and then turning on a light. I don't think its unusual for a meter to be off slightly, mine is just a tad under. Some of the more expensive models have a calibration feature, but I don't think the 308 does. I just automatically compensate in my head. I also use the 3 shot bracket method (over, on, under) to dial in the exposure, as it can also be a matter of preference.

    In following your thread I can see the improvements as you learn and adjust. Very interesting to follow.
     
  5. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I feel silly for waiting 5 years to finally pick one up! 30 minutes to setup gear, and 2 minutes to dial in 3 flashes. I'm still on the fence whether this is slightly overexposed, or if it's just different than how I would normally edit, but I think I'm happy with the final product. I also tend to like quite a bit of contrast in my editing, although I'm not sure that is quite as appropriate in this type of shot. I would definitely be curious to hear what others think, and where to go from here to keep improving. Thanks for the ongoing feedback!
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2018
  6. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    I know that feeling. Dialing in one flash by eye is doable, but add multiple units and it becomes a nightmare.

    I've really enjoyed reading about your journey. Viewing you images and details has given me some ideas on lighting I also want to try. As to editing post my personal observation is that knowing what constitutes the basics of a solid exposure is needed before you can make a determination on the edit choices. Otherwise like the lightmeter, it's just a guess.
     
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  7. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Flash meter, FTW! I like the second of the three shots shown here, as to the exposure and flash to fill ratio. Keep on with this, you're having fun and learning!
     
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  8. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thank you, and I definitely appreciate the feedback! Your Christmas Angel shoot was one of the things that inspired me to go beyond a single light and learn more about portrait photography, and if memory serves me right, we've had a lot of similar questions about catch lights and gray card/whitebalance issues.
     
  9. mrca

    mrca No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Adam, I commented on another of your posts and you are working hard at progressing. Good job. I recommended a meter in another post and you didn't ask the usual questions, dome in or our, point at the lights or the camera. Here's something you won't here many places. In studio, pointing the dome in at a particular light will work since you can turn off the fill for example. Outside, how do you turn off the sun to get a reading of the strobe? You can't. Pointing the dome at the individual lights to measure the ratio is the SOURCE METHOD. However, out doors as indoors when you have the main and fill on for the shot, the fill overlaps and adds to the area illuminated by the main. The ADDITIVE METHOD takes that into consideration. You can use the same method inside and outside. First take a reading from the fill side dome out pointed to the camera. Then take a reading from the area on the main side where both lights overlap with dome pointed to the camera and both lights on. Adjust the main to get the desired ratio/difference. You set your camera to the additive reading from the main side. Find the ratio you like and start there in the future. The classic 3:1 ratio taken by the source method is 1 2/3 additive so ou might just start with 2 stops and adjust. I like being able to shoot at particular apertures so if I want to shoot at say f/11 with a 3:1 ratio, , I set my fill 2 stops under then just power the main to f/11 and I have the aperture I desire. Now, outside, you meter the ambient on the shadow side with the main strobe off, then power up the strobe and take readings from the additive area to give you that ratio you like. Also, if you want to use the strobe as fill, say 1 stop under, look for the percentage strobe contribution to ambient reading that Sekonic's give. A stop is half or double the amount of light, so that means the main gives one stop, ie 2 units of light and the fill 1 unit, half as much. That is 1 unit of fill from the strobe of 3 total units or 1/3. Look for about 30% flash contribution. As for accents and hair lights measure pointing at the light. Hope that helps.
     

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