Senior Portraits HELP


TPF Noob!
Jan 24, 2009
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So I am trying to help a friend out by taking his daughters senior portraits. Outside ambient light no problems but I just got all this studio stuff and I want to try to get some of those classic studio shots we all had (you know the standard head shot, head laying on your hands, yada yada) but for the life of me i can't get them to pop!

So here's what i have.

Test shot with my dog =) doesn't help with skin tones though

Test shot trying to figure out the hair light (didn't work)

Gear available (and i can go buy some things like reflector if i need it):
2 Alienbee 400's w/stands
42 Sliver umbrella
33 White umbrella
Large Softbox for bee's
Stripbox with grid for bee's
2 SB600's
Small softbox/stand for SB600

I know that's a hodgepodge of gear but when your are buying stuff on craigslist you don't get to be too picky :lol: I am willing to go buy more if needed (i think i need some reflectors but i was going to wait until i figure out how to use them).

I also have a couple of heating lamps (we used them for puppies that have big reflectors on them) i was thinking about swaping the bulbs out and using one as a constant hairlight/background light. What kind of bulb should i use or should i forget that?

Some of the issues i think i am having is the preflash is tripping my Alienbees so i can't use the 600's and the bee's together.

Also with my D300 can i use the sync cord and the commander mode (sync to control my bee's and commander to control SB600's)??? Is there anything special i have to turn on in the settings to use Sync cabe or is it just plug and play??

Thanks for any help!
In no particular order: Your sync cord is indeed 'plug & play'. Just make sure that the shutter is at or below sync speed. Your best bet here IMO, will be to use your sync cord to trip the AB and get an optical trigger for the '600 and just use it as a dumb manual flash.
Of course if the budget permits, a set of radio triggers would really be the best way to go.

If you're going to use your heating lamps as hot lights (this might work for fill light, but not especially well for a hair light IMO) then look for CFLs which are the same temperature as your ABs.
Get the Nikon flash and camera into a MANUAL mode, and thus cancel the pre-flash of the SB-600,and one of your biggest problems will be solved. That will allow you to ad the speedlight to the Alien Bees. Think vertical camera orientation or "Portrait Mode" compositions on most head and shoulder shots.
Derrel: will my sb600 in manual mode trip like the Bee's do?

So here is my second attempt at portraits, how can i do better and anyone care to teach me how to fix these ones =) I have big jpeg's and NEF/Raw. These shots are right out of the camera just resized.





I was having a hard time getting separation from the background dang sb600! I might just go buy a little background light.
If you're having difficulty with your SB-600 having too wide a beam to use as a 'hair light', try wrapping a piece of black craft paper around the flash head. Varying the width and length of the cone will get you the results you're after. Cheap too. Move farther away from the background. Use your 70-200 if you have the room, it excels at this kind of stuff (the 35-70 is no slouch either).

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