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Low key single flash portraits

Discussion in 'People' started by Beezle, Apr 30, 2005.

  1. One sort of photo I am currently working on is single flash, usually off camera and in a softbox or umbrella, low key or completely black background portraits.

    I have and will move on to more lights later on.

    Not sure what attracts me to these, but I most certainly am staying stuck here for a bit.

    Here are a few recent favorites of my two sons, shot with the 85 1.4 on a D70:


  2. Steve S

    Steve S

    Feb 1, 2005
    SE Florida
    These a excellent!

    Really cute kids! Love the lighting on these! Do you mean to say you used an SB flash unit to light these, or a strobe. I'm not clear on that part. I will say the busy bg on the 1st is a slight distraction, but not so much that it really kills the great feel of the pic. Of course, you could deal with it by selecting it out, and darkening it further, and applying some Lens, or Gaussian Blur. I see you shot it @f8, and he appears to be pretty close to the bg as well. Of course, this is best done through Layer Masking, but that's not something I've mastered yet. To me, at least, it's pretty complicated. Uncle Frank did a tutorial on it, but I get lost somewhere along the way.
  3. Simon


    Apr 30, 2005
    Sydney, Australia
    Like # 2 best

    Hi Beezle

    The 2nd one grabs me - the lighting is more subtle and has more character to it.

    It's a fine picture - well worth framing I think.
  4. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005

    I like them both. The BG of the first doesn't bother me that much. Of course, Steve is a much more experienced and accomplished photog than I, so I ain't going to disagree too much with his observations. 8)


  5. Thanks for the compliments.

    The BG on #1 was purposeful. It is a rocking chair I bought for him in a store I lived near when I was a child myself. I agree in general it distracts a bit.

    Usually I use flat black curtains the wife found me at Target for the background.

    These shots are with an SB800 mounted on a light stand, connected via the SC29 cord and fired into a small Photoflex softbox. I usually meter manually using a Sekonic L358.
  6. I think these are great. Cute kids.
  7. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    WOW great stuff.

    Handsome children.

    Well taken.

    I like that type of portrait with the dark.

    Background in first goes with kids. Not distracting at all for me.

    Keep them coming and would love to learn how to do that.
  8. I think it would have worked better if the detail on the chair was better illuminated or invisible, but
    as it is, I have to agree with Steve.

    I do a lot of isolation work with florals against dark backgrounds...

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    but when it comes to children's portraits, I lean towards bright environmental backgrounds.
    It's just a matter of personal preference, but I think the lightness emphasizes their innocence.

    View attachment 7949
  9. I agree completely. If the chair is in the shot, put it in the shot!

    Great shot of the little girl. The other sort of photos I take of my kids try to catch them doing the things they love the most. For example:

  10. Nice shots!! The lighting is.........well amazing.........I don't know how you do it?!?!!?
  11. I use an SB800 mounted on a lightstand, behind a small softbox.

    In the images above, the light is at camera left, a few feet higher than the subject's head, pointed at their shoulder or so. I tend to keep the flash as close as I can, which in both these cases was about 4 or 5 feet.

    I use a light meter and the flash in manual mode to come up with the exposure, changing the flash's output until I get an f stop I like. I try to underexpose just a tiny bit, maybe a third of a stop.

    The background in the second shot are just cheap flat black curtains under the subject and draped over a large chair behind him. So long as the flash isn't aimed directly at the backdrop, I can achieve a nearly totally black background.

    This comes entirely from my own experiments and reading about lighting on DPR, etc. I am quite sure is purely amateur grade stuff.

    A lot of it is coercing the subject to get poses I like. My older son is quite the ham, so it is rather easy. My 16 month old is another story. He doesn't cooperate so much as I just keep him busy until he does what I want. ;) 

    Here is another one from that session. He finally is starting to loosen up a bit and have fun in front of the camera for me.


    And yet another I like. He had quieted down and was probably planning his escape from my clutches. The mark on his arm is not a bruise, by the way. That is a birth mark common in asian children.

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