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Archive 2011 · Critique first time lighting set up
  
 
essphoto
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Critique first time lighting set up


Just picked up a couple of strobes (SB900s) and asked a family member to pose for me. I'm looking for some critique and suggestions. My set up was pretty simple. There was a strobe with a diffuser on an umbrella to camera right, and a strobe with umbrella to camera left, which was my key light on 1/2 power. On photo one I was hoping to get a Rembrandt effect, but I don't think it came out as strongly as I had hoped. Number two is with my key move closer to the middle. Number three is with a diffused fill light to camera right and a key with snoot directly in front of the subject. Any feedback would be really appreciated. Thanks!





#1







#2







#3




Dec 30, 2011 at 03:32 AM
cwebster
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Critique first time lighting set up


Uniformly underexposed

Not enough light

<Chas>



Dec 30, 2011 at 05:03 AM
alohadave
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Critique first time lighting set up


You didn't get anywhere near Rembrandt lighting on #1. The position of your lights are all wrong. Try it with a single light nearly to the side of the face and raised up a bit. The fill light is too bright as well.

This may help a bit: http://www.vividlight.com/articles/1615.htm

#3 is not flattering at all, to anyone. Light coming from below is usually used to indicate something sinister about the subject, which is fine if you mean to do that, but it's not good for making people look good.



Dec 30, 2011 at 05:18 AM
Mark_L
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Critique first time lighting set up


I'd ditch the fill light and work with just one light and get it's position right and expose correctly. These are all underexposed. In 1 there is no shadow off the nose or on the side of the face; google Rembrandt lighting and have a look at the examples it throws up.

Lighting isn't easy (especially with flash which isn't wysiwyg). Maybe try a desk lamp or something moving it around so you can see the effect of a change of position.



Dec 30, 2011 at 11:50 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Critique first time lighting set up


See my tutorial http://photo.nova.org/CluelessToCompentent/ and http://photo.nova.org/Fill to better understand the concepts behind where you need to put the fill and key lights to get a natural looking and flattering result.





Dec 30, 2011 at 12:49 PM
essphoto
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Critique first time lighting set up


Thanks all. Definitely needed the critique. Chuck, I've actually read though your tutorial once already but it looks like I should go over it again. I think that my key was the problem here. I had in on 1/4 power. I'll try again and post the results to show. Thanks again.


Dec 30, 2011 at 02:55 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Critique first time lighting set up


cwebster wrote:
Uniformly underexposed


+1 ... but recoverable (although certainly not ideal compared to properly exposed)
Also, some small color cast

S&P to taste








Edited on Dec 30, 2011 at 04:40 PM · View previous versions



Dec 30, 2011 at 04:17 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Critique first time lighting set up


In your first the nose shadow clue says its most like a butterfly pattern, which is a very flattering strategy for a full face pose IF you don't put the light so high as you did here that the brow shade the eye sockets. Get her looking up more into the light then stand on a stool to raise your shooting position. The dark unflattering shadows are the result of fill placement. If you keep your fill centered with the camera about chin level it creates no shadows and as a result you get every even shadows with front > back roll off when key is added centered and above the camera to create the downward "butterfly" nose shadow seen in #1.

The second looks more like crossed lighting where two lights fight each other from opposite sides, one canceling out the other but neither one reaching the smile lines. Again realize that dark unfilled and unflattering harsh shadows can only be addressed by changing your fill strategy to one that is more centered and shadowless. Try starting by turning on just your fill light and moving it around starting centered and chin level then moving it higher / lower and to the side. Observe how it creates shadows on the face. Everywhere you see a fill only shadow you'll have a darker unflattering shadow in the final result.

The third shot has the key light unnaturally low. What looks "normal" or not with lighting is a mental comparison with how we see faces lit in real life where most of the time the key lighting comes from overhead. When your key light angle gets below 45° to the eye line the modeling becomes less natural by comparison with the "seen at mid-day" base line.

As for Rembrandt? Instead of trying to create a copycat pattern consider the subject and the goals for how you want to portray her. A heavy ratio Rembrandt is a wonderful pattern for a character study of a thoughtful or grumpy grandfather, but not the most flattering for the wife or grandmother.

The butterfly approach used in #1with centered fill and better exposure would be the more flattering choice for this subject in a full face pose. Set fill just under camera, center the key above the camera and the face so it hits at 45° downward angle. Meter the lights, one at a time, so both are the same incident strength for a 2:1 reflected ratio...

H:S
1:1 even fill at chin level
1:0 equal key light from above and centered
===
2:1 ratio butterfly pattern

http://super.nova.org/TP/ButterflyDiagram.jpg

The results should look similar to this with modeling if the features with the downward direction of the key light much like a subject in open shaded outdoors, without any harsh unflattering shadows..
http://super.nova.org/TP/MM_2225S.jpg

Setting the lights equal strength takes care of fitting the range to the sensor with light soft looking shadows. To get correct exposure simply open the lens until you see the white highlights starting to clip in the camera playback. I put a target like this on a stand where the face will be and adjust the light before my subjects arrive...

http://super.nova.org/TP/CardTargetHisto.jpg

It makes it easy to see from the clipping warning and histogram when the exposure is correct in the highlights.



Dec 30, 2011 at 04:24 PM
rico
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Critique first time lighting set up


As noted, #1 doesn't fully achieve Rembrandt lighting due to lighting angle, although the contrast is commendably high. Indistinct nose shadow indicates off-axis fill. Post needs attention, but this a good portrait!
http://patternassociates.com/rico/fm/essphoto1.jpg



Dec 31, 2011 at 07:26 AM
essphoto
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Critique first time lighting set up


THANKS everyone. All very helpful. Here's a second go at it. Key light was to camera right very close to subject on 1/8 power, and a background light with CTO filter was placed behind the subject to add interest to the window blinds behind her. (Then processed a bit in PS )









Jan 01, 2012 at 12:35 AM
 

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alohadave
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Critique first time lighting set up


It's a nice portrait, but you've obliterated all the detail in her face.


Jan 01, 2012 at 01:14 AM
essphoto
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Critique first time lighting set up


I was worried that I did too much skin smoothing in PS. I'll try to tone that down.


Jan 01, 2012 at 03:33 AM
BrianO
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Critique first time lighting set up


essphoto wrote:
...There was a strobe with a diffuser on an umbrella to camera right, and a strobe with umbrella to camera left, which was my key light on 1/2 power.


For most portrait subjects, I find that having a large fill source close to the lens axis works best, with the placement of the key light and the type of modifiers on the key light, if any, used to change the look.

It's often said that the fill should be placed opposite the key, but I find that the use of a large, near-axis fill will prevent dark holes under the eye brows, in the corners of the mouth (including inside the mouth in smiling subjects), under the chin, etc. much better than an off-axis fill will. You can still get dramatic modeling by controlling the key placement and the key:fill ratio, but it won't be as harsh as with cross-lighting from split key and fill.

essphoto wrote:
...On photo one I was hoping to get a Rembrandt effect, but I don't think it came out as strongly as I had hoped.


Looking at the lighting, especially the catchlights in her eyes, I don't see evidence of a Rembrandt key-light placement; it looks more like Paramount/Butterfly lighting. For Rembrandt lighting, the key light needs to be fairly far to one side, and should be a fairly hard (small) source.

This might help:

http://photo.stackexchange.com/questions/6601/what-is-rembrandt-lighting-and-when-do-i-use-it

essphoto wrote:
...Number two is with my key move closer to the middle.


Look at the shadow cast on her face by the dog's head. The key light is way too low for normal lighting.

essphoto wrote:
...Number three is with a diffused fill light to camera right and a key with snoot directly in front of the subject.


What was your intent? In other words, why did you choose a snooted light as a key light, and why the low frontal position?

That kind of lighting isn't neccessarily wrong, but it's a pretty specialized look that should be limited to situations where you have a specific goal in mind.

I agree with the suggestion above about experimenting with a lamp to see how light position affects the "feel" of a portrait. Although they're too dim to be a good photo light, a reflector flood bulb from the hardware store in an inexpensive fitting on a light stand can be a great teaching tool. You can move the light around the subject, change the height and tilt, and so on, and then return to the "camera" position to study the effect. A patient human model is handy, but lacking that (or not wanting to over-burden her generosity) a large doll or mannequin, a soccer ball on a table, or something similar can be very handy.

Here's the kind of lamp fitting I'm talking about:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/760136-REG/Impact_SP_UM_Ceramic_Floodlight_Socket_120V.html

And here is the kind of bulb I'd use in it:

http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R-100671115/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053

Lastly, although "just doing it" is a great way to learn lighting, studying the classic patterns can accelerate the learning process since one needn't reinvent the wheel, and learning the standard vocabulary can help when discussing the topic with others so that everyone is on the same page.

Here's what I consider to be one of the better reference sources on the Web:

http://www.portraitlighting.net/topics.htm



Jan 01, 2012 at 09:21 AM
Mark_L
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Critique first time lighting set up


This one is much better. Usually you would expect deeper shadows from one light but using a shoot through umbrella inside I think you are getting a lot of 'fill' from light bouncing off the walls of the room which is making seeing the effect of your main light more difficult. Here you have used board lighting (shooting into the light side of the face). Short lighting (shooting into the shadow side of the face) is more often used because it makes the face look thinner; using it is not wrong as long as you are aware of the differences between each and choose accordingly.

On a post processing note you have brushed absolutely all the texture out of her skin, skin retouch needs to look real especially for portrait shots. If you really want to get into skin retouch google frequency separation retouching.



Jan 01, 2012 at 12:14 PM
michael kilner
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Critique first time lighting set up


Cant give any advice on lighting as I dont know what Im talking about,but it appears that the focus is slightly forward of the models face,if you look at her hair where it falls on her shoulder,that is the sharpest part of the shot,focus then appears to soften back from that point


Jan 01, 2012 at 02:01 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Critique first time lighting set up


Your second attempt is better, but again you are missing the "bigger picture" of what makes a portrait flattering. Step back from technique, such as striving for a specific lighting pattern you've seen or read about, and consider the goal of the exercise.

The broadest goal is creating some emotional reaction in the mind of the viewer. To you want the viewer to think her happy, sad, pensive, thoughtful, engaging, reserved, sexy, demure? If you don't have a clear image of that goal, whatever it is how can you self-critically measure if you succeeded or not.

Every goal needs some criteria to measure success. The biggest hurdle beginners face is not understanding what those criteria are to create the range of emotional reactions in photos listed above. A useful exercise, I think, is to take each of those desired reactions on the part of the viewer and try to define your own personal criteria for what causes you to look at a photo and conclude the person in it is happy and engaging vs. reserved and thoughtful.

What is the first thing you do when meeting a stranger? Try to make "eye contact". What is your reaction if the meet your gauze directly vs. if they instead avoid eye contact? Much of the reaction in a photographic portrait is also based on clues in the expression on the face eye and mouth area and not surprisingly how well a lighting pattern highlights the eyes and mouth will affect the viewer's reaction. In terms of implied body language well lit eyes and centered irises in portraits convey a willingness to engage with the viewer. Shaded eyes are the photographic equivalent of a person you new person you meet avoiding your direct eye contact — avoidance — implying that the person does not wish to interact. Dark eye sockets in portraits aren't "bad" if they are in context with the overall implied mood the photographer wishes to convey, such a person alone, sad, or simply lost in their own thoughts. But they aren't "good" in a portrait where the goal is to make the subject appear happy and engaging as is the case with your smiling shots.
Happy....
http://super.nova.org/TP/AlexHK4.jpg
Grumpy...
http://super.nova.org/TP/AlexHK3.jpg

Most of the clues are in the expression on the face, but in the case if the second the fact the eyes are shaded rather than well lit also convey the mood. Why are the eyes shaded in the second? She looked down. Would those shaded eyes have worked in the first shot? No, because shaded eyes are not in context with a "happy face". Note the difference in color balance? That's another way to send clues about mood to the viewer on a more subliminal level: warm/happy/engaging vs. cool/grumpy/stand-offish.

Those are the bigger picture goals of the exercise and triggering the reaction starts by controlling the lighting on the eyes, mouth and front of the face in relationship to everything else in the photo. So when lighting a face the #1 thing I pay attention to is light in the eyes.

On a perceptual level what draws attention to the eyes vs. other parts of the head such as the ear is CONTRAST. If you light a face in a way that makes the side of the eye and ear contrast more on the background than the front of the face the viewer will be pulled by the relative contrast towards side of the head because it contrasts more than the front. That's why on dark backgrounds patterns like butterfly for full face and short lighting for oblique are very effective —they highlight the front of the face where the eyes and mouth are creating contrast with the background which pulls and holds the viewer to the face. The more "hang time" on the face, the stronger the emotional reaction to the expression and other clues on the face about the subject's mood.

A way I gauge how contrast attracts attention in lighting patterns and defines 3D shape is to take a photo and blur it. The reason I prefer 45° "short" lighting for oblique views but centered butterfly patterns for full face is because of how the patterns create a "mask" of highlights on the face which match the idealized general perception of what the 3D shape of a face looks like...

http://super.nova.org/TP/FaceMask.jpg

All the clues for shape come from contrasting highlight and shadow. Whether or not the clues add up to a "normal" looking appearance in the photo is something the brain of the viewer decides by comparison with what it considers normal. We normally see faces lit from above and expect the 3D shape of the face to be modeled that way with the "mask" pattern.

What makes "lighting" work holistically in a photo to attract the viewer to the front of the face and hold "eye contact" is how the combination of clothing, background and lighting combine to create contrast gradients that wind up pulling the viewer into the eyes and mouth in stages from the time their eyes enter the edge of the frame...
http://super.nova.org/TP/TwoStages.jpg

By comparison here's your second shot blurred....

http://super.nova.org/EDITS/FaceBlur.jpg

Instead of creating a "mask" pattern which highlights forehead, top of cheeks and chin in a diamond pattern there is a bright line down the middle of the face. Your eye isn't well enough developed to see the clues for why that is happening but it starts with the fact the eyes are being shaded by the brow due to the relationship of face angle and key light angle.

There is a huge amount of variation between faces and your subject happens to have very deep eye sockets which makes it more difficult to get light into the eyes. Because you are focusing on so many other things you are missing that very basic clue which has a huge impact on the impression the lighting creates. That's exactly why I suggested you try a very basic Butterfly full face strategy TO GET HER FACE AND EYES INTO THE LIGHT!!!!!

Sorry to shout, but if you what to progress forward instead of taking one step forward (better exposure) and one backwards (less than ideal light placement) you need to learn the basics like the cause and effect of putting good light in the eyes before you try to paint nuanced portraits like Rembrandt.

What you will come to realize when shooting different people and there is a wide variation to the shape of faces and some patterns that work well on some faces don't work as good on others due to the difference in the size of nose, chin and other features. So next time concentrate as your #1 goal technically to get more light into those deep eye sockets. Try as I suggest centering your key light them then move the face up into it until you get light into the eyes and the tops of the cheekbones. Then achieving that work on where the shadow from the nose falls beneath the nose. Try it first without any fill on so you can see what the key light alone is doing. Next add fill centered about chin level. Then once you get that looking good, move the fill off the the side and compare the difference. Once you can master the basic butterfly pattern then more to the more complicated strategies involving placing the key light to the side of the face.











Jan 01, 2012 at 03:08 PM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Critique first time lighting set up


michael kilner wrote:
Cant give any advice on lighting as I dont know what Im talking about

Don't let that stop you. It doesn't seem to slow down a lot of others.



Jan 01, 2012 at 06:55 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Critique first time lighting set up


michael kilner wrote:
Cant give any advice on lighting as I dont know what Im talking about


dmacmillan wrote:
Don't let that stop you. It doesn't seem to slow down a lot of others.


Hey! I resemble that remark!



Jan 01, 2012 at 08:41 PM
elluDe
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Critique first time lighting set up


cgardner wrote:
The broadest goal is creating some emotional reaction in the mind of the viewer. To you want the viewer to think her happy, sad, pensive, thoughtful, engaging, reserved, sexy, demure? If you don't have a clear image of that goal, whatever it is how can you self-critically measure if you succeeded or not............



Some good advice here.



Jan 03, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Dudewithoutape
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Critique first time lighting set up


I've been reading through these slowly and can't believe the amount of time and effort people are putting in to help the OP. Thank you all, I'm learning so much.


Jan 04, 2012 at 05:08 AM
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