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Multi-flash portraits

Discussion in 'People' started by Uncle Frank, May 4, 2007.

  1. Taking portraits has become a complicated matter recently. I'm trying to learn how to control 3 off camera flashes using my new SU800 IR Commander, and positioning the light stands for best effect will take some experimenting. My biggest problem was the hair light, which I'm not even sure I need.

    Here are some of my early efforts.

    My bride was kind enough to pose for me...

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

    ... so I returned the favor.

    View attachment 93740

    The UPS guy stopped by to make a delivery just when I needed him ;-)_.


    More victims :biggrin:. My daughter and her husband are in town, and stoppped by for a free dinner.

    View attachment 93741

    Here, see what I mean about the dratted hair light?

    View attachment 93742

    Sometimes love bites :rolleyes: .

    View attachment 93743

    I'll work on doing better.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2007
  2. Wow you must really know your UPS guy.

  3. bob swanson

    bob swanson Guest

    :cool:  I think all you need is a formula of power on each of your lights. the hair light is usually the same or a stop less than your MAIN. Your fill is typically a stop to 3 stops less than your MAIN depending on how much of a shadow you want. Are you using your softeners ? Dome? or your built-in bounce card? I'm just assuming your using a quantity of SB-600's or 800's. I use studio mono lights but the formula is the same. From what I've seen you've done fairly well with the exception of your hair light being too strong or too close to the subject. www.bsvirginian.smugmug.com
  4. I'm using sb800s in ttl mode for my main and fill flashes, and an sb600 in manual mode for the hair light. The fill was set at 1.3 f/stops below the main. The hair light was adjusted to 1/64th power. I shot the main flash through a white umbrella, and the fill flash is fitted with a diffuser dome. I made a homebrew snoot for the hair light using aluminum foil.

    Whew. This stuff does get complicated.
  5. Well Uncle Frank, I know nothing about the fancy way you're doing portraits, but I DO LIKE the way you caught your "victims!" I got a chuckle out you getting the UPS guy, and bribing with free dinner! I just use 1 sb800 with a Gary Fong sphere on it. Good luck in achieving what you're after!

  6. It should be clear that I don't either... but I'm working on it. Now that I've bought all this expensive gear, I don't have a choice :rolleyes: .

    Thanks, Dianne
  7. Uncle Frank,
    I keep on following your posts here.

    Thanks to your earlier posts, I have successfully implemented ABBC. Posted my test shot there.

    I keep watching your posts on daily basis and contmplate on buying some stands, umbrella etc. so that my victims have their lovely images captured. :biggrin:

    Thanks a lot for sharing.
  8. Another small step towards working out a 3 strobe setup! A gentleman on another site recommended I aim the hair light straight up and bounce it off the ceiling. I gave it a try, setting it at 1/32 power in manual mode. To my eyes, the result was a nice improvement.

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

    A little more progress and I'll be able to concentrate on the model instead of the light stands :-/.
  9. very nice Frank. good idea about bouncing the hairlight off ceiling.
  10. Thanks, Roy! It was a brilliant suggestion. I think this was my best result so far.
  11. frede


    Dec 9, 2006
    Princeton, NJ
    The last shot is very nice Frank. Seems you are getting your new setup dialed in.
  12. Well at least I am not the only one still trying to fine tune my three flashes. You are doing great and I like the last image of your bride. Of course the UPS guy was a nice touch. :biggrin:
  13. bob swanson

    bob swanson Guest

    Are you familiar with the "inverse square" rule? when I mentioned the hair light being too close, the other option was to bounce it or diffuse it. In some of my studio's I've had to control light intensity with ND filters. Usually a hair light can't be bounced because of the distance to the ceiling. Are you using a flash meter? bsvirginian
  14. Hey Frank, forgot to tell you earlier, your wife is very lovely! She looks like she's quite a character too!
  15. When I had my strobes set up, I never used a hair light even though it was recommended.
  16. Sharon


    Feb 18, 2006
    Frank, I think the last one looks fantastic! I think the suggestion to bounce it off the ceiling made a huge difference in the quality of the light. Your wife certainly is a beautiful woman.
  17. Thanks, Fred.

    Gordon, I thought you had it all worked out ages ago. It looks that way from the pictures you've shown.

    Yes to the inverse square rule, Bob. I'm not using a flash meter, but I don't understand why I'd need one. My camera has metering built into it, and I'm operating the flash in iTTL mode. Plus, I check the histogram for each setup and adjust accordingly.

    Diane and Sharon, thanks for taking the time to post your observations and kind comments.
  18. Davo


    May 3, 2005
    Las Vegas
    positive first ;) 

    i like the black and white of the (very lovely) daughter. it almost has a window light quality to it...a south facing window at noon in winter in the northern hemisphere, but window light nonetheless, and i like it quite a lot. i also love the moment captured in the last one.

    i (almost) always have a hair light, if i can...sometimes it's not an option.

    i find it interesting that folks have all been suggesting to keep the hair light so low. i almost always have my hair light equal to or hotter than my main (unless i'm shooting someone with white or platinum blonde hair, and even then i keep it very close). my fill obviously is very flexible depending what i want.

    this morning i was shooting a fashion/glamour headshot...my main metered at f/16 (shoot-through umbrella) and my hair light was at f/32 (bare bulb with standard 8" reflector dish), fill was at f/11 i think (silver umbrella). this is using monolights, not SBs.

    with the hair light....make sure it's aimed where you want it, it seems like it's spilling onto the models and causing brighter spots than your main light, and icky shadows (i had an issue with that this morning until i realized what i'd done). you want it just on the crown of the head...whether that means having it higher so the light spills down the back, or aimed so it goes over them and onto the floor on the side is up to you.

    i think, lastly...i'd say to watch where the lights are positioned regarding where the catchlights are in the eyes. when there's one it's fine, but with two it takes a little patience to get them to not look a bit funky. but you're onto that already.

    the ratios look good, except where the hair light spills in and brightens beyond the main light like i mentioned above.

    so yeah...good shots...direction where to go...willing victims....keep up the good work and progress. ;) 

  19. Jez


    Jun 22, 2005

    A question I've often asked myself. This 20 minute video will give you a good answer. Or not.... :wink:

    I'm still not convinced!

  20. Ray C.

    Ray C.

    Nov 7, 2005
    Frank, I've found that a very good way to using and understanding a three or more light setup is to first start with only one, off camera in an umbrella, softbox etc. Play with the placement, intensity etc. and shoot lots over a week or two.

    After you've mastered your (one) main light, then add a simple large reflector and shoot that combo for a while. Then one at a time, add a fill, backlight, hairlight and so on...

    This way, I think photographers gain a much better understanding of light; both quantity and more important...quality.

    For LOTS more info, Dave Hobby of the Baltimore Sun has put together a tremendous lighting resource at http://www.strobist.blogspot.com/

    P.S. Forgot to mention...No you don't need a meter at all, but I highly suggest shooting "Manual" on all the flashes for consistency. Also, the CLS is "okay" for lighting in small studios, living rooms etc, but as you move up to larger location shoots, the line of sight required to trigger your remote units is quite limiting. I much prefer the reliability of Pocket Wizards. The Strobist site delves into this in much greater detail, and I don't want to simply parrot Dave. But my experience is that he's right on the money in most cases. Again, it is a GREAT site for any shooter who seriously wants to learn good, solid location lighting techniques.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2007
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