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Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Enviro...
  
 
kpjsy
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Environmental Portraiture


I usually shoot documentary/street photos with available light, but many times I like to taking the time to make environmental portraits. However, more often that not, the available light that's available is terrible, and trying to control things gets pretty tiresome.

I've pretty much read and watched plenty of lighting 101 resources, but I'm not sure where to start hardware wise. I pretty much work alone so I've always hated using reflectors. I've played with speedlites, but I don't find them powerful enough in the daytime, especially when moving them off further away for a wider shot.

I figure if I'm going to start somewhere, it better be a brand or system that has room to grow from their smaller lights, triggers, and bigger lights.

Any recommendations?
I don't think TTL is necessary for me, but HSS interests me.



May 19, 2017 at 01:21 AM
rico
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Environmental Portraiture


Speaking as a studio maven, I think all available light is terrible. Environmental portraiture covers a vast range of styles: perhaps you can post an example of your work, or link over to the FM People subforum. Even with a big battery pack, you will find yourself modifying the light with a reflector, diffuser or softbox, so some means of support must be carried in the field. There's a certain art to finding on-location support (walls, fences, lawn furniture, trees) if you want to lessen the load. A Speedlight off-camera is remarkably effective for single subjects if you avoid direct sunlight, large distances, and excessive modifiers.


May 19, 2017 at 02:30 AM
c.d.embrey
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Environmental Portraiture


Lighting 101, bootcamp, etc, etc are a waste of time. Off-Camera-Flash is a bad joke—good only for selling un-needed gear.

If you work alone, then Monoblocks and Studio Packs won't work. Too big, too heavy. You can't place them in a public place and walk away, thats asking for unwanted attention from the authorities, and injury lawsuits from citizens.

So you are stuck with Speedlites. Get the most powerful you can. Mount them on you camera. Use them direct like Juergen Teller https://www.nytimes.com/video/t-magazine/100000003620570/kanye-west-juergen-teller.html or bounce the light off of walls, ceilings, whatever.

Here's the built-in bounce card on a Canon 580 EX 2 https://www.learn.usa.canon.com/app/media/images/articles/speedlite_choose_right_flash/speedlite_right_flash_580ex_bouncecard_2010__hero.jpg This will make a catch-light in the eyes, even at high-noon outdoors. Works great in rooms with high ceilings aswal, bounce of the ceiling to bring-up the ambient, and the card will take care of the eyes.



May 19, 2017 at 02:44 AM
Paul_K
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Environmental Portraiture


IMO really hard to answer without knowing what 'look' you're after for your 'environmental' portraits

If you want do use your lights as main source for your subject, even if that means despite what the available light is for the 'environment', 'solutions' as Profoto or Elinchrom (and plenty of other) battery powered, HSS capable units come to mind
But as already mentioned, that also means big, and possibly heavy and cumbersome (if you're alone) to lug around

In that regard speedlights might indeed be a better/lighter solution, although that doesn't solve the issue of still needing stands and light modifiers (although those can be smaller then with battery powered 'studio' units

But (contrary to another poster ) I cringe at using artificial lights, especially strobes for 'environmental' portraits (different story for studio beauty, fashion or portraits though)

I often get the impression that people in their enthusiasm to throw in a flash forget what the additional value of also using the correct light modifier is
Softboxes seems to be considered 'the' thing to use, irrespective of what is considered the strict relation between size of the softbox and distance from the subject (to indeed get a 'soft' light)
Or just a bare strobe, or a power setting no matter the effect of overpowering the available light is used, resulting in harsh lit 'portraits' (no, not a 'Martin Parr' style fan)

When I shoot portraits, I prefer to just use the available light, even if that means having to shoot at high ISO and wide open
But as said, just a matter of personal taste and preference





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Nikon D800 1.4/58mm AFS at f1.4



May 20, 2017 at 07:34 PM
ugdog
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Environmental Portraiture


Hey kpjsy,

Go get yourself a Godox 360II and a Photek soft lighter. Links attached:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/690335-REG/Photek_HSD_4000K_Softlighter_Hot_Shoe_Diffuser.html

https://www.amazon.com/Godox-AD360II-N-Speedlite-PB960-Nikon/dp/B017L93IRE/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1495370107&sr=8-9&keywords=godox+360



May 21, 2017 at 12:36 PM
Michael White
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Environmental Portraiture


Try watching several of the lighting videos at Kelbyone.com I especially like the joe McNally vids


May 22, 2017 at 08:42 AM
evertdoorn
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Environmental Portraiture


I enjoy the Elinchrom ELB 400 (HSS support) with a small softbox with grid a lot. Very easy and quick to setup, and a smaller modifier means you'll have enough power.

Some of Brent Stirton's portraits he shoots as part of his wildlife conservation documentaries are very nice and well lit.



May 22, 2017 at 09:07 AM
kdphotography
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Environmental Portraiture


You might want to consider the new SMDV BRiHT 360----very small, portable, HSS and TTL, and very easy to use. All cordless. Very impressed with the Flashwave5 transmitter and implementation of TTL.

Still editing and soon to release a users-report---we've had the SMDV BRiHT 360 over four months...

Ken
www.carmelfineartprinting.com



May 22, 2017 at 01:59 PM
Mark_L
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Environmental Portraiture


rico wrote:
Speaking as a studio maven, I think all available light is terrible. Environmental portraiture covers a vast range of styles: perhaps you can post an example of your work, or link over to the FM People subforum. Even with a big battery pack, you will find yourself modifying the light with a reflector, diffuser or softbox, so some means of support must be carried in the field. There's a certain art to finding on-location support (walls, fences, lawn furniture, trees) if you want to lessen the load. A Speedlight off-camera is remarkably effective for single subjects if you avoid
...Show more

This is good advice. David Hobby (strobist.com guy) was a newspaper photog and went most of his career using a few speedlights and simple mods. Get a speedlight and also step up your knowledge of lighting to be able to use available light better, the more knowledge you have the more you will find you can do with less.

I'd look at the Godox 360II if you are sure you need some more power, 360ws is plenty for this use.



May 22, 2017 at 03:51 PM
 

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kaplah
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Environmental Portraiture


c.d.embrey wrote:
Mount them on you camera.

Heresy!

One can easily move a speedlight off-camera while out and about.

For example: https://strobist.blogspot.ca/2006/07/strobe-on-rope.html

A more modern method is a Godox flash with an X1T transmitter.




May 22, 2017 at 05:00 PM
c.d.embrey
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Environmental Portraiture


kaplah wrote:
Heresy!

One can easily move a speedlight off-camera while out and about.

For example: https://strobist.blogspot.ca/2006/07/strobe-on-rope.html

A more modern method is a Godox flash with an X1T transmitter.



When working on city streets shared with non-attentive citizens, strobe-on-a-rope is a bad idea. Hitting a senior citizens head, and injuring them or maybe breaking their glasses could cause you problems. Hitting a gang-banger or other bad-actor could cause you to get injured ;-)

One morning I was walking on the paved beach path in Huntington Beach CA. There was a small crew—photographer, 2 assistants and a suit. They were shooting an ad for a major sunglasses company, maybe Oakley. It was guerrilla, no permits. The flash was the top-of-the-line from the camera manufacturer. It was on the hot-shoe and pointed straight-up, with the little bounce-card pulled-up. They had driven a black Cadillac onto the beach path, and the male model was leaning on the open door, turned so that he was back-lit. The photographer was 3-5 feet away. They got a couple of dozen shots before the authorities arrived to run them off. The suit engaged them as they got out of their car, allowing the photographer to get his last shot. If a pro can shoot a print ad this way, why can't a street photographer do the same??



May 22, 2017 at 06:40 PM
story_teller
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Environmental Portraiture


Street photography is a special circumstance where you have to take what you can get. Sometimes that means flash on camera. Is it the best light? Absolutely not, but you have to work with what's practical at the time. Run and gun is easiest with flash on camera, but you often end up with hard, flat light, mug shots and crime scene photos. That can be great for documentary and moody street shots, but not as great for portraits.

When you're doing environmental portraits you want to start blending the flash with ambient in a subtle way so you don't kill the "environment" part of the photo by blasting away with the on camera flash. The bounce card trick mentioned by c.d.embry is a good trick provided you don't have low ceilings where the flash will blanch out the colors and mood. Also think about flash gels, small flags, snoots and grids to modify or limit where the flash goes.

Neil Van Niekerk has some great videos about ways to properly use on camera flash with small, hand-held modifiers. He gets some great results, so it can be done.

http://neilvn.com/tangents/which-direction-to-bounce-on-camera-flash/

He also has a book (apologies to c.d.embry for encouraging books, videos, etc.) about using on camera flash properly.

My first instinct, however, is "How can I get some directional light on the subject?



May 24, 2017 at 02:48 PM
c.d.embrey
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Environmental Portraiture


story_teller wrote:
He also has a book (apologies to c.d.embry for encouraging books, videos, etc.) about using on camera flash properly.


My problem is with the people who sell videos and books advocating OFF-Camera-Flash ONLY. That On-Camera-Flash is always harsh. That only clueless amateurs use ON-Camera-Flash. Yeah, sure!

Here' a nice, non-harsh, softly lit portrait using ON-Camera-Flash. ON-C-F bounced off a wall. Hobby-ists tell us that ON-Camera-Flash is always harsh—really?

https://2.img-dpreview.com/files/p/TS560x560~forums/59598838/5b252c8a003b47dfbe948706fdd9befd

This photo by itsDing can be found on at https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/59598838



May 24, 2017 at 04:52 PM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Environmental Portraiture


c.d.embrey wrote:
[
My problem is with the people who sell videos and books advocating OFF-Camera-Flash ONLY. That On-Camera-Flash is always harsh. That only clueless amateurs use ON-Camera-Flash. Yeah, sure!

I think there needs to be a clarification regarding the term of "on camera flash". I consider their criticism to be aimed at those who use the on camera flash directly at the subject as the main light. That kind of light is usually harsh and nasty. Amateurs often have a hard time delineating between "lighting" and "illumination".

In the photograph you shared, the on camera flash was not the key light. The key light was the wall that was bouncing the light from the flash.

I have also seen on camera flash used outside as fill to prevent "raccoon eyes" and provide a catch light. When done subtly, it can be quite effective. Phillip Flitz, a high school Senior photographer who used to post on FM until he got tired of some of the BS here, does a great job with this lighting technique.



May 24, 2017 at 05:40 PM
c.d.embrey
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Environmental Portraiture


dmacmillan wrote:
I think there needs to be a clarification regarding the term of "on camera flash". I consider their criticism to be aimed at those who use the on camera flash directly at the subject as the main light. That kind of light is usually harsh and nasty. Amateurs often have a hard time delineating between "lighting" and "illumination".


There is a difference between lighting and illumination! is at the bottom of all my email messages. Has been for years.

BTW non-amateur fashion photographer Juergen Teller has been using On-Camera-Flash as his key since the mid 1990s. I guess that some advertisers like harsh and nasty.

In the photograph you shared, the on camera flash was not the key light. The key light was the wall that was bouncing the light from the flash.

Many people have a problem understanding Angle of incidence equals angle of reflection. http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/refln/Lesson-1/The-Law-of-Reflection And all the other subtleties of bounce, so I don't go there—no need for adding confusion that needs further explanation.

BTW do you know that,when bouncing, spotting the light will decrease illumination? This happens because you are illuminating a smaller section of wall, so the source becomes smaller. You won't learn the good stuff in lighting 101

I have also seen on camera flash used outside as fill to prevent "raccoon eyes" and provide a catch light. When done subtly, it can be quite effective.

I've been doing that since the 1970s. Not much new under the sun, I can't remember where I learned the technique.



May 24, 2017 at 06:55 PM
kaplah
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Environmental Portraiture


c.d.embrey wrote:
[...]ON-Camera-Flash is always harsh—really?

https://2.img-dpreview.com/files/p/TS560x560~forums/59598838/5b252c8a003b47dfbe948706fdd9befd

This photo by itsDing can be found on at https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/59598838


Lovely shot, but as pointed out the key is not "on camera", it's the wall of whatever the light is bouncing off of. Or, the key is a window and the on camera is used only as fill - the catch lights suggest that might be the case.

The OP said "documentary/street photos with available light, but many times I like to taking the time to make environmental portraits". Which sounds like outdoors, which is often impossible to find a bounce surface (yes, walls work, some, but it isn't like indoors). Hence my strobe-on-a-rope link. If one can put a strobe off-camera in the crush of a sporting event, it can be done well and safely in an outdoors street setting - most of the time - creating directional light.

When not feasible, then by all means use the available light and maybe use the on-camera for fill.






May 24, 2017 at 07:29 PM
c.d.embrey
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Documentary Photographer Getting Into Lighting for Environmental Portraiture


kaplah wrote:
Hence my strobe-on-a-rope link. If one can put a strobe off-camera in the crush of a sporting event, it can be done well and safely in an outdoors street setting - most of the time - creating directional light.


Here's Hobby's set-up photo.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/31454864@N00/202102026/

Notice the the camera (on the right) is by the crowd—not sticking-out over a well traveled sidewalk.

Bouncing flash off walls outdoors, has worked for me. YMMV.

BTW Burlington, Canada, isn't the San Francisco Bay area. Different laws, different physical layout of streets and sidewalks.

Many people have a problem understanding Angle of incidence equals angle of reflection. http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/refln/Lesson-1/The-Law-of-Reflection And all the other subtleties of bounce, so I don't go there—no need for adding confusion that needs further explanation.

I was thinking of you




May 24, 2017 at 09:04 PM







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