Don't usually shoot people, but....

Discussion in 'General flash photography, lighting, and technique' started by snugelbune, May 16, 2007.

  1. snugelbune

    snugelbune

    313
    Mar 15, 2006
    NYC suburbs
    Ok, I generally like to spend my time in swamps, hiking trails, or on the river looking for birds of prey--I do take pictures of my son and my husband, and I am VERY interested in portrait photography after taking a couple of classes. So, here's my question. A friend of a friend asked me to photograph her husband with their 8 month old daughter. She's very specific in that she wants the husband in a black t-shirt, the baby naked *she spells it nekid for emphasis* and she wants all black backgrounds. She's hoping for pictures of the husband holding the child, putting the child on his shoulders, etc...So here is my question.

    How the heck does one do that?:BigGrin: That's not too broad, is it?

    I have a D200, 70-200 VR, 90mm 2.8 (tamron, but it's not a 2.8 throughout no matter what they say!) and a Nikon 50mm 1.8 *used it all of ONE time in almost 2 years of owning it.* I also have a 300 f/2.8 but I'm pretty sure that is overkill!

    I have a small (6X7) black backdrop or a small dark grey back drop..only one backdrop stand. I have very small monolights, 1 200 watt/secon mono and one 150 watt/second monolight (the 150 can be equipped with a 45 degree reflector--for back lighting) I have 45" and 40" black and silver umbrellas and a 32" black and white umbrella.

    I also have my SB800 (I have a demb flash reflector and diffuser for this)

    I'm shooting this at my friend's house because her friend is visiting for the weekend (she lives a few hours away) and I don't have a suitable studio space for a baby to be in.

    SOOOOOOOOO, I'm begging all of you awesome people shooters to let me know how you'd handle this. I'm really nervous as this isn't me on the banks of the Hudson waiting for an eagle to fly by or hanging in a swamp for whatever other bird might pop by...in other words, I know what I've read, and I know what I've done with my child *most of which are candids because he won't sit still for studio stuff...so flat lighting snap shots, not real photos* and I've done exactly one studio thing with a person involved *the friend who asked me to do this for her friend* and some product shoots for a trophy company...In other words, I'm not experienced.

    My main concern, outside of everything, is how you get definition in black clothing and bright white baby skin all at the same time! Also, I'm assuming tripod but which lens (I'm guessing the awesome 70-200 VR) and do I keep this on a tripod or use it handheld to capture baby's expressions since she won't listen to "look at the camera" comands. I think the room I'll be using will give me maybe 15 feet of space for everything...is this ok?

    Thanks in advance for any (I do mean ANY) help.

    Oh, and Dit (cafe member--good guy!) told me to bracket. Have to say I know what bracketing is but I've never (do mean NEVER) used that feature on my camera. So, if you all agree with bracketing can someone point me to a bracketing for dummies type thing that I can absorb in the next 2 days?

    Ok, since I can't seem to post a picture w/o getting the red X you can see the pics I've taken at my website. The family and friends section is 99% my son and just quick snapshots...at the end are a few of the pictures I took of my friend with her dog...first/last/only studio work involving people

    Again, thanks
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 16, 2007
  2. WayneF

    WayneF

    Apr 3, 2006
    Texas
    This may be where you want to use the 50mm lens. It is "effectively" 75 mm on the digital body anyway and very suitable for portraits (and is a very nice lens). I routinely use 50 or 60mm (also DSLR) with studio lights, except groups. The 70mm lens will put you back pretty far and there is not always that much room indoors, esp if you need the background far back too, to keep it black. The flash units are fast themselves, so VR wont be able to help much then anyway. The white umbrella will be better light quality than the silver, so if one is stronger, it should be white.

    Your D200 should have an automatic bracket, if you want to bother with it. You specify bracket interval like 1/3 stop, and then each three frames or shots are at -1/3, 0, +1/3. There should be even more actual controls and possibilities, read the manual about bracket.

    Or you could do it manually of course. You are surely using M mode (manual mode) with the indoor flash, so just twist the aperture dial a click (but dont forget you did).

    I really doubt you want to do either with the fixed lighting. I just examine the first couple of shots carefully on the camera LCD, and get it right at first. Then the studio lights and subject are not going anywhere. You can zoom in on them on the LCD (the Enter button on my D70S) to be able to scroll and see and examine the lighting and shadows and glares, etc. It is a fairly crude view, but far better than nothing. Monitor the histogram too, to prevent overexposure. Just the first couple of shots need the most care, then it should stay there, under fixed lighting.

    Ideally, you have a flash meter for the lights. Makes it easy. Specifically, it lets you set the level of each light individually too.

    Keep the modeling lights on, to keep the pupils reduced a little, and it helps focus too.

    You are probably aware that the SB-800 will work great in SU-4 mode with the other lights. Just in case, SU-4 is optically triggered like any other studio light, so it is wireless in manual mode. When you set SU-4, then you must go back to the main menu to change A to M mode, and then set power level. It is light-weight on a boom, and makes a good hair light (105mm), up to one stop stronger than key light. A just-visible hair light adds a lot. However, the baby on shoulders stumps me. :)

    Has to be a black shirt? No suggestions how to get both the black and white, but it sounds like you already know as much about it as anyone. :) Note that large soft studio light does not like overexposure.

    Lights up close as possible is a key for the smooth soft light for portraits. Close makes the large umbrellas appear even larger... An 8 inch head facing a 4 foot umbrella at only 2 feet sees the light coming from every which way, like +/- 45 degrees from the one light. Smooth, lots of wrap around, and takes a lot to make a shadow. That is just the idea, not always possible, but you can do 2 feet with a softbox or with a shoot through umbrella.

    Oops! I just saw your web site. You don't need me to tell you anything. :) Very nice.
     
  3. snugelbune

    snugelbune

    313
    Mar 15, 2006
    NYC suburbs
    Wayne,

    thank you very much for your reply and all of the advice...never thought of using the sb800 as a hair light, but what a wonderful idea! Ok, I'll have to figure out the boom thing, but I think I can do it. I will check to see if I can shoot through my black/white umbrella, I think the black comes off for just that purpose, so it may work. Hmmm, the 50 1.8...now that would be nice to use it more than once! You're right about the 70mm being too tight for small indoor space. You've given me a lot to think about. I appreciate it. Also, thanks for the very nice comment about the website.
     
  4. WayneF

    WayneF

    Apr 3, 2006
    Texas

    The hair light can be on top of any straight stand, back towards edge of background, maybe 45 degrees back and high. Maybe even atop the background stand pole. Many do it that way. However more risk of spill light on face then for me, so a little closer, and higher overhead (still to rear) helps. Do check your early shots closely specifically for this spill on face. And of course, dont overdo the hair light intensity. Just a nice hint works wonders.

    You can wrap a sheet of 8.5x11 inch black construction paper around the SB-800 head with a rubber band or masking tape, to make a snoot to contain it better. It's 105mm is similar to a 20 degree grid with the snoot outlet diameter same or only very slightly smaller than the head width. Or Walmart has the black rubber fun foamies about that size too, works the same, but more durable.

    If on boom overhead and more in rear, then less chance of the spill. It is not the easiest thing to aim that way, and the longer snoot does help to aim it too, but I finally got another AB studio light and a grid, primarily to have the modeling light to aim the hair light. But it takes some boom and counterweight then, to extend it 2 or 3 feet. The light is pretty much the same either way.

    This adapter, with a $10 Stroboframe 300 flash shoe, is very handy to mount the SB-800 to a boom:
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/48953-REG/Smith_Victor_401973_1_4_20_Screw_to_5_8_.html


    There is one issue with the umbrella so close. The light is simply fantastic, but you see the umbrella and specifically the spokes in the eye highlights. Farther back, it is smaller and harder to make out in the eye reflection, but the light suffers. A softbox up close eliminates those spokes.

    You may want to practice a bit at home first, to judge results.
     
  5. snugelbune

    snugelbune

    313
    Mar 15, 2006
    NYC suburbs
    Wayne,

    I'm definitely going to check out the sb800 and construction paper thing, I think I'll try taping my son to a chair and practicing the lighting set up on him--he's 4 and he's not that interested in sitting still while I use him as a guinea pig!

    AS for the umbrella up close, the umbrella with the silver lining has an extra layer of material sewn in so you are not supposed to see the spokes reflected in eyes or glass...however, being that you said the white would be a better quality light, I might scrap the silver umbrella...decisions, decisions!

    Thanks again, I truly appreciate it.

    Oh, and I have the adapter thingy, and yes, it was very handy for the product shoot I did!
     
  6. WayneF

    WayneF

    Apr 3, 2006
    Texas

    Just give him something to keep him busy, and make a game out of it. Exact details how you do that, I'm not very sure. :) I have a 3.5 year old granddaughter coming this weekend, with a ballerina dress and she wants that picture. Maybe a cowboy suit or a firemans hat would work. :)

    Dont take my word for the umbrellas, experiment and see what you think and like. Umbrellas do differ, but the white (translucent shoot-through white, with black cover on and reflected light) will be a softer light when up decently close, like within four feet (fabric).

    The silver umbrella will be a little brighter, and the highlights on skin will be more shiny. They do claim the silver is good for furry pets and bird feathers however, where you want the shine. It has more contrast like the beauty dish, and both are used sometimes for the glamor starlet photos.

    I have a Photogenic Eclipse Plus umbrella with the satin white liner inside for the spokes, which does work on the spokes. It is not silver, but it is is more shiny than the translucent fabric. 60 inches, the plan was to for it to be great... more power is better. :) I use a 40 inch softbox as key, and when I change the fill light from the white above to this satin white, I see an immediate effect... which I dont like much. Not bad at all, just different, and not as soft as planned. I feel sure there are other opinions however.
     
  7. snugelbune

    snugelbune

    313
    Mar 15, 2006
    NYC suburbs
    Wow Mark, thanks!

    That was the perfect thing for me to look at...you have the black w/black thing and certainly some fantastic poses for me to consider. Now...spill your secrets, what was the lighting set up for the black shirts and background shots?

    Seriously though, really fantastic work, thanks so much for sharing.
     
  8. snugelbune

    snugelbune

    313
    Mar 15, 2006
    NYC suburbs
    Thanks again, Wayne


    Whew, I'll try to keep it all in mind--good advice, all of it.
     
  9. Michelle,

    Not my work, and sorry if I gave that impression. It was a gallery that I remember seeing that seemed to do what you wanted.

    Why not PM the owner or ask a question on that site?
     
  10. snugelbune

    snugelbune

    313
    Mar 15, 2006
    NYC suburbs
    Thanks Mark...

    Mark,

    don't be sorry, I just assumed...besides, the fact that it isn't your work makes me even more appreciative that you took the time to link me to a gallery that is spot on what I need to look at.

    Thanks!!
     
  11. StephanieHelen

    StephanieHelen

    Jun 9, 2006
    Hi Michele, you got some great advice here. I have read that some people used a bedsheet to soften the light if they didn't have umbrellas or softboxes; whatever works, as long as you get enough of the right light :)

    I think you'll be fine once you experiment a bit. I am not all there yet but I was hired to photograph kids for the dance studio, (72 in one weekend and more signing up). I had butterflies in my tummy, but after the first few shots, aha, the (brain) light was on and the shoots went very well, parents and kids were happy :)

    Sometimes it helps to have the parent in the room to settle and direct the child to look your way, sometimes it confuses the child, having more than one person calling his attention; just be ready to gently direct the other parent, friends etc out of the room if necessary :) Oh, and make sure baby has his nap and is fed before your session.

    Have fun!

    Stephanie
     
  12. snugelbune

    snugelbune

    313
    Mar 15, 2006
    NYC suburbs
    Stephanie, thanks...wow, 72 in one weekend, oh my!
     
  13. DanWhite

    DanWhite

    Jul 10, 2005
    Lansdale PA
    Michelle.

    How I would handle this (an I will be soon with my new son) is as follows. I have shot quite a bit of black background shots and the one tip I can give you is to keep you subject WAY away from you BG. Spill can kill this shot. I would set my key at about 75 degrees camera right, up about 1 foot above the fathers head with the umbrella shaft pointed at his nose.
    Your fill I would set as close to camera axis as possible.

    Dan
     
  14. snugelbune

    snugelbune

    313
    Mar 15, 2006
    NYC suburbs
    Thanks, Dan

    First and foremost, congratulations on your new son! Mine is 4.5 and every day is an adventure--mean that in a good way.

    I had the shoot yesterday and the FIRST problem was the woman had pretty much majorly overestimated the amount of space we would have to work with. She said 15' to 20' and it was more like MAYBE 10' to 12'. Needless to say, I was thankful I packed the 50mm lens just in case as the 70-200 VR was too much for the room even at the wide end. That being said, I really did want to be able to put them say 6-7 feet from the back drop and then put me at almost twice that distance--didn't happen. I did have a pretty decent backlight reflector and I sort of rigged a "barn door" on top of that to keep the back lighting limited to the back drop. I didn't get to read your post until I was done with the shoot, but amazingly enough, I had the lighting set up very similar to what you suggested (I SHOULD have had the key light a little higher!)...it worked very well and you are right on with your suggestions.

    The shoot went well...only problems I ran into were A) not trusting my light meter when I should have--looked at the LCD screen on the camera and decided I was a 1/2 stop over exposed and when I put everything in to NX at home, you guessed it, I was now a 1/2 stop under exposed...had I trusted the light meter I would have had great exposure without playing with it. Live and learn. Problem B) was the fact that I think the father was either wearing some type of make up (didn't look like that in regular lighting, though) or he applied a sunless tanner...he is red/orange/yellow and against the pale, pale cool pink skin of his daughter, he looks as if he's in the last stages of liver failure. Color correc the entire thing for his skin and the baby goes greyish green---baby looks perfect in all the shots, so I'm assuming that in photoshop I'll be able to mask him and drop the yellows and reds down a bit in his face and hands. Problem C) was that the very best picture of the entire shoot was the 2nd one I shot...with the 70-200mm and it is priceless in every way EXCEPT that even in portrait orientation, the baby's feet are missing out of the shot. I'm thinking that's not really acceptable for this kind of shoot. It's heart breaking because I should have just switched to the 50mm right off the bat instead of seeing if I could "make it work." The baby never again had that wonderful smile on her face while her dad was looking at her with that look that only dads can have when they are looking at one of their beloved children. I mean it is really a sweet shot except the poor baby's feet are nowhere to be found in the picture:mad:

    Other than that, the baby was pretty cooperative. Actually if I compare her to my son at that age she was amazingly happy and cooperative. The mother (who via email seemed difficult) was priceless. Happy, easy to work with and amazingly appreciative of the options I had with me as far as different ideas to try. (rose petals *fake of course* and angel wings and a faux metal wash tub and rubber ducky along with a few vintage stuffed animals). She was also great about sitting under the camera and singing things like "the wheels on the bus" and any other song she could think of to keep the baby happy and smiling.

    All in all, I left thinking that I had a great time and that I'd love to do many more of these things!

    When I get a few of the shots together, I'll try to post them for you all.
     
  15. Michelle,

    Show the best results without comment. Remember that the photographer may be the bigger critic than the purchaser. If they don't like the feet cut off, offer to reshoot. I would think that they are as aware, even more so, than you, about the temper of the child.

    In photography of babies, close can be good enough for a successful shoot. And then the next time, you're even better prepared....
     
  16. snugelbune

    snugelbune

    313
    Mar 15, 2006
    NYC suburbs
    Thanks Mark,

    Thanks Mark,
    Yes, you are right, I'm sure I'll be more obsessive about the photos than the parents. They are looking for a nice photo of their daughter with her dad...I accomplished that a few times over so I need to let go a bit. Thanks again for the link to the website, it really helped give me some ideas as far as what the black back ground looks like.


    Ahh, if I could figure out the posting thing, I'd link a couple of pictures but I keep getting the dreaded red X when I try...I'll work on it and try to put a couple of results up.
     
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