My first portraits

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For those that followed my stressed-out posts about what equipment to buy for portraits, here's what came of them (for now...but then isn't that always the case:smile:).

I bought a Impact 60" umbrella kit and a 60" Softlighter II with stand and Impact flash mount (so I could experiment with each). For triggers I went with PocketWizard PlusX...not the cheapest solution but easy to use. I use the PW to trigger my SB-600 in the Softlighter, and the SU-4 optical slave to fire my SB-800 (in the umbrella). I also have a LumoPro LP180 that I intend to also use optically-slaved as a rim light or a background light (with gels....someday) but was not used here (I couldn't get enough geometric separation between the chair and the backdrop to make use of it).

Note: I was surprised that it took full power on the SB-800 to get to F5.6 (ISO 100). I initially set the fill (SB-600) to 2 stops less and it was too little light, bumped it up a bit.

Note again: I was also surprised that the SB-600/SB-800 had no settings between 1/1 and 1/2 but did between all other full stops (The LumoPro LP180 does).

Finally, for you Softlighter users, I bought one of these to tip the flash 90º into the sock.

Here's a couple of shots of my initial setup (click on each picture for a bigger version):



And my first shots...a bear holding my light meter and my wife's cat were my first subjects. The bear didn't seem to mind mind but the cat ran after the first couple of shots.



My bride surprised me by offering to help me practice...she normally hates getting her picture taken (That said, she had right of first refusal on anything I posted)


Thoughts?
 

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Good job!

This might be a matter of personal taste, but it appears you have the umbrellas too close to the speedlights. When I was setting up my UK-2 kit, I took off the black cover and made lots of test shots of the back of the umbrella to find the ideal spot where the speedlight illumination covered the entire umbrella surface with the speedlight at the widest zoom setting. It looks like you are not using the 60-inch umbrellas to their full capabilities. This might contribute to you needing full power with the SB-800.

When I need to adjust the light output to something that is between the adjustment steps available on the SB, I move the umbrella. Sometimes, only a foot of movement is all it takes to balance the key and fill.
 
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Nice Roscoe,

I can see that you are restricted for room but it would be great if you could get the BG further away from the sitter.

Also, there is an advantage in using a wider aperture in that it blurs all that detail in your BG.

Keep posting,

DG
 
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Good job!

This might be a matter of personal taste, but it appears you have the umbrellas too close to the speedlights. When I was setting up my UK-2 kit, I took off the black cover and made lots of test shots of the back of the umbrella to find the ideal spot where the speedlight illumination covered the entire umbrella surface with the speedlight at the widest zoom setting. It looks like you are not using the 60-inch umbrellas to their full capabilities. This might contribute to you needing full power with the SB-800.

When I need to adjust the light output to something that is between the adjustment steps available on the SB, I move the umbrella. Sometimes, only a foot of movement is all it takes to balance the key and fill.
Hadn't considered about the umbrella being to close, but I wouldn't think that would reduce the light at the subject (i.e. it isn't spread out). Rather, I would have thought too far away would be the problem (too much spill around the umbrella wasting the light). That said, I'll give it a try. As far as moving the light, I couldn't get any closer :).

Nice Roscoe,

I can see that you are restricted for room but it would be great if you could get the BG further away from the sitter.

Also, there is an advantage in using a wider aperture in that it blurs all that detail in your BG.
I tried but...That said, I actually needed a little less aperture because in the photo of my wife with the cat they were both slightly out of focus, I thought due to depth of field issues (I was shooting f6.3). I thought about going up in ISO but hoped to keep the images a clear as possible.

Thanks for looking!
 
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FWIW, with speedlights in reflected umbrellas, I place the light at full shaft length, at 24mm zoom. If closer or zoomed tighter, the speedlight only makes a small spot in the umbrella (see your two from rear view above). If farther, they can fill the umbrella diameter. And large umbrella diameter is the entire point (large for soft light). The shafts are long for this reason.

Sure, there is a little more spill, but there is always some spill (you can visually see some of the flash front lens panel no matter how far to the side you stand). The Speedlight specs are 78x60 degrees at 24 mm zoom (spec chart in rear of Nikon speedlight manual - surely the half power width specs, one stop down).

You can hold the 90 degree corner of a sheet of paper at the flash head, to judge that 78 degree width in the umbrella fabric. 24mm at full shaft length is not too wide, assuming you want to fill the umbrella.

For a shoot-through umbrella, the outer diameter of the umbrella is curved back anyway (and so does not illuminate a close subject), so choking the flash up closer is no big deal then. Only a smaller spot is effective anyway.
 
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No hesitation here using ISO 400 on a D7100 for a subject like this. Noise should still be _very_ low and LR provides excellent noise reduction.

Exif indicates you were using your 70-200 at 90mm. I'm surprised that at f/6.3, both your subjects were o-o-f even slightly. Have you checked focusing accuracy for the body & lens combination? What was your focus point? If it was your wife's face (eye?) at least her face should be sharp.

On a different subject, I would lower the main a little (camera left). Shadow position & (as best I can tell) the absence of a main catchlight in your wife's eyes indicate it's just a little too high. Your overall shot confirms it for me.

I usually position the axis at no more than 45* up, although my main for a 2-light setup similar to yours is usually smaller: 16 to no more than 36" unless I'm lighting a group. By filling less than 100% of the umbrella, you've effectively made your main smaller (more directional) than it would be otherwise, btw. A rule of thumb is that the nose shadow should reach toward the corner of your subject's mouth when they're straight on to the camera, as in your second example. Height/angle should make no difference in exposure - it just makes a more pleasing light.

With a female subject & two 60" umbrellas, I'd also experiment with 'clamshell' lighting (google the term for examples). Place the softlighter in front of your subject so the bottom edge touches the floor. Place your main above it with a gap large enough for your lens, then position your camera in between them. Set the power so the softlighter produces 1 stop less light than the main, and expose for the main: Meter the main (by itself) to produce f/5.6 at the subject at your chosen ISO. Adjust the power output of the fill so it meters f/4.0, measured at the same point. Look at the cover of any issue of 'Cosmo' for an example. The catchlights in the model's eyes reveal where the light comes from.

One other suggestion: The late Dean Collins was a master of lighting and a fantastic teacher. His concepts have permeated contemporary photography, even though many photographers don't realize that they're following Dean's footsteps. His books are out of print, but available in PDF form here. I think that's among the best $50 purchases most people photographers could make.

hth,
 
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Good advice by all. in retrospect I think the OOF picture (Wife and cat) may have been a one-time operator error as all the other pictures were spot on (on my wife's eyes).

Thanks
 
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