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My First Commercial Shoot (Long Post)

Discussion in 'People' started by j_b_l, Mar 25, 2007.

  1. I haven't been too active here lately. I've been preparing for my first commercial shoot...my son's pre-school. So for my 2,000th post, here goes!

    So here was my setup for my first set. My key light was an SB800 in a 36x36 Westcott softbox, manual mode, full power (charged by a Quantum Turbo battery). Fill was another SB800, manual mode, 1/8, bounced into a white umbrella with a black back. Hairlight was a third SB800 in a small Photoflex softbox, 1/8 power. I used a Sekonic L-358 meter to meter the key to f7.1, ISO 320. I wanted a small aperture to get everything in focus, and my SB800 through the softbox, couldn't give me f8 at ISO100. So I decided to up the ISO instead of lowering the aperture...big mistake, as you'll see. I then metered, the fill to 2 stops below the key, and the hairlight to one stop below the key. Overall exposure was measured as f8, all at 1/200, ISO320. All of the SB800s were fired from the SU800.

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    And here is the first image shot at this setup...

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    It looked OK on the LCD, but when I got home, I was very disappointed with the results...ISO320 really killed all of the detail in the shot, and I think I was about a stop underexposed for some reason. My WB was also set with the expodisc, which I had practiced with before, but it was off during the shoot. The combination of underexposure, high ISO, and incorrect WB gave a magenta cast to all of my shots. Thanks to some very talented photographers here, Stuart (Ottrott's Human) and Dona (fireflye24), who responded to my pleas for help, I made some changes in exposure and in lighting setup for my second day of shooting.

    First, I moved my key more forward to be about 35 degrees off center. Then I moved my fill to the left more. I set ISO back to 100, but this meant I was only able to get f4 out of my key at 1/200 (and at 1/60, it really doesn't matter). But I decided to trade DOF for a cleaner ISO. I set my D200 to Flash white balance. Lighting ratios were the same...fill was 2 stops below key, and hairlight was 1 stop below key. Here is what it looked like:

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    And here was my first shot using this new setup...

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    I was very pleased with these results. And finally, my favorite shot from the two days of sessions...

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    Sorry for the long post, but I sure did learn a lot during the session. Thanks again to Stu and Dona for their help during my sessions.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 25, 2007
  2. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Well those last two look fantastic to me
    If I was Mom....I would buy bunches:>)))
    I like the last best also
    What a couple of cuties...Bet they are just full of the devel too:>)))))
  3. Very interesting post John. The adjustments you made sure did the job, excellent lighting!
  4. srwatters


    Feb 27, 2006
    Plano, TX
    I think you did really well considering your equipment. To be honest with you, a better choice might have been to rent at least one studio strobe for the key light and use your SB-800s for fill and hair. You would have then been able to keep the F/8 aperture @ ISO 100. Commercial work really calls for commercial equipment IMO. I'm not aware of anyone in my area (Dallas) that uses on camera style flashes for commercial portrait work. It takes quite a bit of power to light up that 3' softbox.

    The vignette works well with the seamless. I like the earth tone. Beats the typical blue or gray muslins that I see in my kids school pictures (usually not good enough to be called photographs IMHO). Those last two are really quite good.
  5. John,

    The change between the first and second day is incredible! Good job!

    I'm not really clear on your shutter speed; did you shoot at 1/200 or 1/60 or somewhere in between?

    Did you move the lights during the shoot or did you leave them alone once you had them positioned to your liking?

  6. Scott, thank you for your comments. Don't get Stu and Tom Johnson started on the studio lights...they were bugging me for 2 weeks to buy a strobe, but I resisted, thinking I could do it with my SB800 and the Westcott box...especially since Gordon just bought one...I was anxious to see how I could do with it...but I'm now going to order that strobe, and keep my SB800s for fill/hairlight. This has the added bonus of allowing me to fire the strobe with my SU800...which I love. I can still control the light output of the fill/hairlight (and even background light) with my SU800 channels and keep the key metered evenly.

    The background is actually a sheet...I did a duplicate layer, surface blur, and then painted a mask over the b/g to smooth out the wrinkles...then added the vignette...I was pleased with the results.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 25, 2007
  7. Mike, my sekonic meter showed the same aperture for all shutter speeds between 1/60 and 1/250. I think I shot them at 1/200. Those kids do squirm around, so I needed to ensure that I froze their motion.

    I had 2 days of shooting..so the first day was the first setup and the second day was the second setup. Once I had them set, I didn't move them...the steady stream of kids prevented doing anything but "Smile, Cheese, Shoot".
  8. Gale, thanks!

    Frits, thanks. I'm really pleased with the second day, and I'm still processing the first day to get images that I am comfortable giving to parents...
  9. Bunic


    Jun 27, 2006
    South Central PA

    What a huge and beautiful difference in the otwo outcomes! I love the 2nd day shots!

    Did you do much (or any) PP?

  10. John,

    Thanks for the info!

  11. Mike, thanks...

    As far as processing, I did some small exposure tweaks in ACR, and then in photoshop, I did a surface blur layer to completely smooth the background, some blemish removals, a slight blur on their skin, a litle dodge on the eyes, and then added the vignette.
  12. Ottrott's Human

    Ottrott's Human

    May 21, 2006
    An absolutely outstanding job. The shot of the two girls is really wonderful. Well done....especially considering your lack of studio strobes!!:smile:

    I'm glad I could help, but I think you had probably already figured out what I recommended so you deserve all the credit for this shoot.

    I wish my kids school photo's were half as great. It's refreshing to see some that aren't the typical photo mill "Say Cheese" shots.

    I'm sure the school and parents are more than thrilled!
  13. Stu, thanks...sometimes having someone confirm what you're thinking is all it takes...and yeah, you're right, I needed that strobe...

    It's nice to be able to take the shots of the kids. I know all of them and their parents, so it's easier to get a better smile out of them...
  14. lowlight_junkie


    Nov 28, 2005
    Great work and a very informative post two. A little patience has worked wonders for you!
  15. John:

    Wow! That last shot is as nice a portrait shot as I have seen. Often, I find indoor studio portraits almost plastic in their appearance (people seem flat and posed and the backgrounds are flat and fake looking).

    That last shot is so awesome! Looks like natural light coming in on their faces! Gorgeous! And their smiles are not at all forced. Totally natural looking. The fact that their eyes are in perfect focus even though they are not an equal distance from your camera is impressive too! Love that shot!
  16. Chris, thanks.
  17. Marie, thank you. That was the first image I processed through the new PSCS3 and Bridge rather than Aperture...I think I like the results. I tried something I don't normally do...I did some "surface blur" on another layer and painted it in..it really gave a nice appearance...I'm pretty pleased...especially compared to how the shoot started...
  18. John.............. for someone who is a complete dipstick in regarde to using flash/studio setups............ this is an extremely informative thread my friend.

    Seeing the difference the settings on flash/camera and the positioning of the lighting was a real eye opener for me.

    That last shot is just beautiful work!

    I'd hire you! :biggrin: :biggrin: :biggrin:

  19. Graeme, you're welcome! If you pay the plane fare over, I'll bring my lights!! :biggrin:
  20. The last one is outstanding. Any parent would be proud to have that portrait. With respect to the first two, the lighting in the second one far superior in my opinion. The shadows fall in the right places to help define the face. The first one produced too much shadow on the face.

    Great work on the last two.
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