Portrait Lighting: 3 SB800's Help needed

Joined
Feb 11, 2006
Messages
746
Location
Illinois
Alright guys/gals, here's what I need from you as a group: I have a wedding that I'm shooting in 8 days and, for a few of the formals the bride has requested a backdrop and portrait lighting setup for a couple shots of just her, B & FOB, B & MOB & FOB (3 people max). I can handle the whole wedding fine, but this is a new part for me--in all honesty. I have played a couple times now with how to set up my 3 SB800's and backdrop, but I'm not sure if I'm there yet with the ratios, the amount and position of hairlight, etc.

So, what I need from you guys / gals is to look at the example below (along with my lighting setup schematic--if you can read it) and tell me what needs to happen with the lighting. I summarize in words to help interpret the handwritten notes.

Forget about the posing of my wife in the picture (BTW, she cleans up very nicely, she's probably going to hate me for posting her pic here, but I need the advice on the lighting desperately). I just need advice on the relative ratios and, perhaps, examples from others who've posed small family groups in a similar fashion as I'll be doing for this wedding.

Here's the photo of the subject with the 3 light setup:

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Technical: Body: D2Hs, Lens 17-55 f/2.8 @ 55mm & f/5.6, metering: Sekonic 758, 3 flashes off camera: main to camera left in a Westcott Apollo Softbox (50"), fill to camera right shot through a 30" white umbrella, hairlight above backdrop w/no modifiers (I have a small 14" X 18" mini softbox I can use for this flash if that's what you suggest I use--I just haven't tried it yet).

Here's the schematic of the setup:

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Please let me your expert lighting advice on how to set things up for these few, important shots that are making me nervous about this next wedding (OK, I'll take tips on posing also, but I do have a book I'm reading about that right now).

Thanks in advance for your constructive comments and suggestions--I owe you as a group a lot. :smile:


Sean
 
Joined
May 1, 2006
Messages
4,291
Location
Youngstown, Ohio
Hi Sean,

Here's what I would do.

1. Put your SB800 in the softbox at full power. If you're going to shoot a 3-person portrait, you'll need as much DOF as you can get. Use your light meter to see what kind of aperture you'll get. I'm guessing that you might get f5.6, but more likely f4.

2. For your fill, turn off the key light and meter it to about f2. Might be 1/4 power or so. Make it 2 stops lower than your key, whatever it turns out to be.

3. For your hairlight, by all means use the softbox. Your test shot above, (for my tastes and in my opinion) is too hot and is too harsh. Turn off your key and fill and meter the hairlight to maybe f2.5 or 3.2 or somewhere around there...I like my hairlights not as hot as the key...but that's just me. Also, I think I can see the hairlight reflection on the background...which should go away if you use the softbox...

4. Finally, turn on all lights and take a meter reading with the dome pointed at the camera...hopefully you'll have f5.6 or maybe even 6.3 with fill.

This is what I would do with your setup. I really do think you'll need the DOF for the group shots.

Oh, make sure you get some type of White Balance setting...either the Chuck Gardner White Towel (do a google...you'll see what I mean)...or just use "Flash"...it should be good enough if there isn't too much ambient light contributing to your exposure.

Manual mode on the camera, aperture set to your meter reading and shutter speed set to at least 1/125. ISO 100 if it were me...maybe 200, but nothing higher...IMHO...
 
Joined
Feb 11, 2006
Messages
746
Location
Illinois
Hi Sean,

Here's what I would do.

1. Put your SB800 in the softbox at full power. If you're going to shoot a 3-person portrait, you'll need as much DOF as you can get. Use your light meter to see what kind of aperture you'll get. I'm guessing that you might get f5.6, but more likely f4.

2. For your fill, turn off the key light and meter it to about f2. Might be 1/4 power or so. Make it 2 stops lower than your key, whatever it turns out to be.

3. For your hairlight, by all means use the softbox. Your test shot above, (for my tastes and in my opinion) is too hot and is too harsh. Turn off your key and fill and meter the hairlight to maybe f2.5 or 3.2 or somewhere around there...I like my hairlights not as hot as the key...but that's just me. Also, I think I can see the hairlight reflection on the background...which should go away if you use the softbox...

4. Finally, turn on all lights and take a meter reading with the dome pointed at the camera...hopefully you'll have f5.6 or maybe even 6.3 with fill.

This is what I would do with your setup. I really do think you'll need the DOF for the group shots.

Oh, make sure you get some type of White Balance setting...either the Chuck Gardner White Towel (do a google...you'll see what I mean)...or just use "Flash"...it should be good enough if there isn't too much ambient light contributing to your exposure.

Manual mode on the camera, aperture set to your meter reading and shutter speed set to at least 1/125. ISO 100 if it were me...maybe 200, but nothing higher...IMHO...
JBL,

Thanks for the detailed information! I basically did what you were saying, except I shot at ISO 200 and was still able to get 1/4 power setting and f/5.6 out of my setup (this was shot at night so there was very little ambient fill--so it was all flash). I had the ISO up to 400 initially and was getting a reading of f/9. Thus I turned the body down to ISO 200 and stopped down about a 1/3 of a stop, hence the reason for the slight underexposure in the picture. Here's a picture with exposure increased by 1/3 stop:

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I agree about the hairlight being too hot. I'll try again tonight with either the softbox or an umbrella to soften it up. So, in relation to the main light, are you saying the hairlight should be -1/3 to -2/3 stops (that bright)? That's a lot brighter than I would have thought--especially since it is brighter than the fill light.

I agree about the minus 2 stops for the fill light in relation to the key light. This yeilds a 2:1 ratio, correct?

Again, thanks for taking the time to respond with such detailed information.


Sean
 
Joined
Feb 11, 2006
Messages
746
Location
Illinois
Hello Sean,

You might want to take a look at this article on the Photoflex web site.

http://www.photoflexlightingschool.com/Equipment_Lessons/Soft_Boxes___Strobe/LiteDome/A_Three_Light_Portrait_with_Portable_Flashes/index.html

It looks similar to the set-up you are using.

Good luck with your portraits.

Take care.
Donald
Don,

Thanks for the link. That's very informative and applied well to my situation. I do have a 52" reflector and stand that I could use for the fill. Do you happen to know roughly how many stops less this would result in? I suppose I could do a direct meter (dome retracted) and find out when I setup again tonight. If it provides the correct ratio, then I could use my reflector as my "fourth flash" for my setup (I was contemplating picking up another SB800 or SB600).

Thanks again for the link--very useful.


Sean
 
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