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Archive 2013 · A portrait
  
 
Ernie Aubert
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · A portrait


I'd appreciate any feedback on this...







Jan 02, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Eyeball
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · A portrait


Hi Ernie. My suggestions/observations:

- Main light seems too high. It's not making it into his eyes and it's causing some pretty harsh shadows at the hairline and below the eyes.
- Over-all exposure seems too high although it is difficult to say whether this is due to lights too strong (particularly the main) or over-exposure in camera.
- Fill light is too strong. It appears that an on-camera flash was used for fill and it looks like it was zoomed primarily onto the face. I say that because his neck is brightly exposed but there is still a fairly dark shadow under the lapels of his shirt. The small on-camera flash is also providing the catchlights and since no flash modifier was apparently used, the catchlights are very small, bright, and sharp. I normally don't care for that effect. I think it normally works better to move the large main light so it gets into the eyes and use that for the catchlights. The fact that the fill has exposed his neck so brightly gives the impression that he has no chin.

Here is an example with Photoshop tricks to try to illustrate my lighting comments above. It's quick and dirty and not meant as a perfect retouch. Most of what I did was to do burning and dodging to simulate different lighting. I also replaced the existing catchlights with large, off-center ones. I also added a subtle vignette, cropped to a more standard portrait, and cloned out the tip of the pen.







If you want me to remove the example, just send me a PM.



Jan 02, 2013 at 09:11 PM
Ernie Aubert
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · A portrait


Thanks for the suggestions and for the sample rework. The fill wasn't actually on the camera, but it was very close; it wasn't just a bare flash, though, it had the larger Graslon diffuser on it.

Lower on the main light, huh? I'll give that a try next time. I only have square softboxes so far, no umbrella or beauty dish. I guess a beauty dish gives the best catchlights? I'll have to look into that.



Jan 02, 2013 at 09:22 PM
Eyeball
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · A portrait


For me, it's more about size and position of the catchlights more than the shape in most instances. The square or rectangular shape of a soft-box can almost be more attractive than a beauty light in some cases for me since it looks more "windowy" and less "lighty".

I think the biggest problem with your fill was that the diffuser was fairly small and it was a good distance away from the subject (if you had it close to the camera with a full-frame equivalent 110mm lens, it was pretty far). At that size and distance, it wasn't much better than bare flash in terms of light diffusion and size of catchlights.

I have never used a beauty light but my understanding is that one of the main strengths of a beauty light over a soft-box or umbrella is the reduction of the hot-spot in the middle of the light. It is supposed to help with reducing forehead glare and things like that if it's aimed right. You could probably create a poor-man's version by taping a piece of black paper in the middle of one of your soft-box panels if you wanted to experiment a little before purchasing a new light. It won't be the same but may give you an idea.



Jan 02, 2013 at 09:56 PM
Ernie Aubert
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · A portrait


Hmmm... there's no hot spot in the middle of my softboxes; there are diffuser panels behind the outer panel, and the light is totally even.


Jan 03, 2013 at 01:07 AM
Eyeball
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · A portrait


I was afraid you were going to take me a little too literally when I wrote "hot spot".

Mainly I am speaking in relative terms. Since the beauty dish has no light in the center, it is less-hot there than some other lights. A shoot-thru umbrella will have a more pronounced hot-spot. Soft-boxes will often have a mild hot-spot that may not be very visible unless you take a direct shot of the softbox or the light from one projected on an empty wall.

Here is a pretty good link that I came across that shows comparisons of umbrellas, soft-boxes and beauty dishes. I am sure there are many others.

http://www.clickinmoms.com/blog/studio-lighting-softbox-vs-umbrella-vs-beauty-dish/

What are you using for your main light and with what kind/size of modifier? The lighting gurus would probably slap me for this but I think you can do a pretty good standard portrait with a good-sized soft-box (say 2'x2' minimum) and a reflector. That gets you about 80-90% of the way there. A fill light, hair light and background light will get you another 10-15% of the way home. Beyond that, it's adding special sauce like rim lights, a larger soft-box, beauty light (particularly for women), etc.. Just my thoughts. Zack Arias has some great tutorials for lighting on a budget and I believe some of those are free on his site or elsewhere on the Interwebs.



Jan 03, 2013 at 01:33 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · A portrait


It's not that the panel has a hot spot delivering the light ... it's that the forehead, nose, chin, cheekbones, etc. can be closer to the light than others , and that the curvature/angle of the facial components will reflect a hot spot with the directional light coming from the central portion.

Blocking the center forces the angle of the light to come from wider angles only and thus more diffuse avoiding the specular reflection / hot spot. The BD is an attempt to offset the specular reflections by restricting the angle of light delivery. (AI=AR)

BD's perform this best within a given distance range depending on the size of the BD.



Jan 03, 2013 at 01:39 AM
Eyeball
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · A portrait


I'm not sure I totally buy your specular/AI=AR explanation, Kent. It makes perfect sense in the extreme case of where the beauty light is very close to the camera, like in the case of a ring light.

It makes less sense to me when the BL is farther off-axis. In that case, I don't see how the BL has any great "specular" advantage over a soft-box or umbrella. You still run the risk of getting specular reflections from the light to the camera if the skin/surface is shiny enough. Since BLs normally produce a less-diffuse, more direct light than a soft-box, the specularity could even be worse.

Where it DOES help (and maybe this is what you were thinking) is in control of the light intensity. If we think about a face and the projection from a light source as being two balls, you can imagine that the highest intensity is where those two balls touch. The BL has a dimple in its "ball" that allows more even illumination around the ball of the face - sort of the way a tee forms around the surface of a golf ball.



Jan 03, 2013 at 02:14 AM
Ernie Aubert
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · A portrait


I have two Lastolite Ezyboxes: 30" square and 24" square; I have 430EX IIs in them, with PocketWizard FlexTT5s, controlled by an AC3. (I'd have gotten 580EX IIs if not for the radio frequency interference issue.) For this particular shoot, I didn't have room in the back of my pick-em-up truck for the bigger one. I used the 24" one for the main light, a reflector, and the near-camera Speedlite with the Graslon for fill and catchlights.

You guys are giving me good information; thanks!



Jan 03, 2013 at 02:16 AM
 

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RustyBug
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · A portrait


We're kinda saying the same thing ... different way.


Jan 03, 2013 at 02:20 AM
Eyeball
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · A portrait


Ernie Aubert wrote:
I have two Lastolite Ezyboxes: 30" square and 24" square; I have 430EX IIs in them, with PocketWizard FlexTT5s, controlled by an AC3. (I'd have gotten 580EX IIs if not for the radio frequency interference issue.) For this particular shoot, I didn't have room in the back of my pick-em-up truck for the bigger one. I used the 24" one for the main light, a reflector, and the near-camera Speedlite with the Graslon for fill and catchlights.

You guys are giving me good information; thanks!


We have similar equipment then. I have two 24" square soft-boxes along with some umbrellas and a few Canon flashes.

You should be able to make an order of magnitude improvement with the equipment you have and just doing some re-positioning. I would bring that main down and use it for the catchlights. For fill, you might be able to get away with just a reflector if it's big enough (and maybe use your second light to light the backdrop instead). A hair light can add a little zip but it's normally not absolutely necessary unless the head/hair of the subject are blending too much with the background (think black hair against black background).

Artificial lighting adds a whole different layer of learning and complexity to the photographic experience. I think it can be helpful, even for those folks who don't really want to become studio photographers. It heightens your awareness of lighting issues and can help even with your natural light photography. Good luck.



Jan 03, 2013 at 02:39 AM
Ernie Aubert
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · A portrait


Would you use both a hair light (I'm assuming that's a light behind the subject, aimed at the back of the subject's head, providing backlight for the hair) and a background light (I'm assuming that's a light either behind the subject or off to the side, aimed at the backdrop behind the subject)?


Jan 03, 2013 at 02:56 AM
Eyeball
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · A portrait


You can use one or both. It's up to you. Both help separate the subject from the background to some extent. The background light with some gels and maybe even some cut-out patterned gobos/flags can be an easy, low-cost way to provide a variety of backgrounds. That first link I provided has some examples using different gels.

I would suggest keeping it simple initially - sort of like juggling 2 balls before 3 and 3 before 4, etc..

Here is a link to a virtual lighting simulator that you might have fun playing with.

http://www.zvork.fr/vls/

Also, the Strobist site is a goldmine of good lighting info and tutorials.



Jan 03, 2013 at 03:21 AM
gneto
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · A portrait


I have a question!

Did you have some light, really high almost on top of him (a little to the left), aiming almost straight down (some kind of hair light)?

That's what it seems from the shadows cast by his hair on his forehead, from his shirt collar, from his nose on his mouth, and so on.

Just curious...



Jan 04, 2013 at 02:40 AM
JHut
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · A portrait


Eyeball wrote:
Here is an example with Photoshop tricks to try to illustrate my lighting comments above. It's quick and dirty and not meant as a perfect retouch. Most of what I did was to do burning and dodging to simulate different lighting. I also replaced the existing catchlights with large, off-center ones. I also added a subtle vignette, cropped to a more standard portrait, and cloned out the tip of the pen.


Dennis, Very nice with the rework. I like your crop and lighting.



Jan 05, 2013 at 02:59 PM
Ernie Aubert
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · A portrait


gneto wrote:
I have a question!

Did you have some light, really high almost on top of him (a little to the left), aiming almost straight down (some kind of hair light)?

That's what it seems from the shadows cast by his hair on his forehead, from his shirt collar, from his nose on his mouth, and so on.

Just curious...


Just saw this... yes, that's where I had the 24" softbox (our left - his right). It was pretty high. I'm glad I posted this; I got some very helpful feedback!



Jan 05, 2013 at 05:15 PM
gneto
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · A portrait


Ernie Aubert wrote:
Just saw this... yes, that's where I had the 24" softbox (our left - his right). It was pretty high. I'm glad I posted this; I got some very helpful feedback!


I'd say that's the major problem with your image; bring it down, or lower it's power by one or two stops, and you'll see a wonderful change



Jan 06, 2013 at 12:18 AM
Ernie Aubert
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · A portrait


Yes, I've already done that:








Jan 06, 2013 at 03:33 AM





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