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Studio Image of a little girl. Any suggestions or critiques?

Discussion in 'Nikon DX DSLR Forum' started by Catz, Jun 4, 2005.

  1. I posted this on the Lighting Forum as well but wanted to post it here since it was taken with the D2X. It is my first People portrait photo. The girl here is not a client but a relative.

    I am looking for some critiquing on this photo. I was not going for poses as I told Holly to just be herself. She wanted to be silly in a few photos for her friends and family as she is a funny person to begin with.

    Aside from that, I only did cropping on the photo. It is straight out of the camera. However, I am seeing either too much cyan and or too much bluish cast.

    What do you think?


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  2. twig


    May 23, 2005
    Do you have a hair light in your set-up? I think that would help frame her hair and separate her from the backgroudn a bit.

    She looks a little blue, yes - I would warm up your WB setting maybe?

    It's nice that you got good light in here eyes and no problems with her glasses- where are your lights?
  3. I do have some comments - I hope you don't mind my candor.

    The good:
    Very cute expression. Nice exposure.

    The parts that need work:

    Pose doesn't work. The right eye is obscured by her nose and the frame from the glasses cuts through the center of her cornea. To me a portrait is about the eyes - capture them right and we learn something about the person. You're VERY close here - just a few tweaks.

    Lighting is too flat and broad. Women & girls look best with short light or butterfly light (I can post examples if you wish). Short light would have the key on her right and a nice shadow area on that broad patch of skin from her cheek to her left ear. She's turned a bit much to the right as well for any light style - a few degrees back towards the camera would look better (the left ear is too prominent IMO).

    BTW, butterfly lighting would solve 2 problems - 1) it would soften the light and 2) it would provide more separation from the bg since spill from butterfly lighting could light her hair if positioned right.

    WB is off to me - since I don't know her true skin tone I judge WB by the whites of here eyes which have a distinct blue cast. I use a WhiBal card to set a custom WB at the start of a session - works great.

    The hand position looks too posed for me and the crop is too tight on her left shoulder.

    Question - what light mod did you use? The light is not very soft so either it's too small or too far away. As an example I have used a 48" octabox less than 2 feet away from the subjects face.

    Hope this helps Melissa.

  4. Hi Twig,

    Thanks for the response...I don't have a hair light, but I do have two Bowens that have settings 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, and 1/1 The power goes all the way up to 1000.

    I could use one of the lights as a hairlight. I want to get a boom arm for a cheap price because I am fixing up my 1966 Mustang and I had to get a 4 gig card because the X needs the memory on it.

    What setting would you recommend for the w/b to make It warmer?

    I appreciate the help because I want to get really good.

    Thank you so much,
  5. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Melissa :

    Be careful ! This forum allows for camera and lens lust, but not vintage car lust. :lol: :twisted: :twisted: :lol:

    And do you have any photos of this car ? {wistful look}

    John P.
  6. Joe here is a picture of my studio. First of all Joe, I can pose others but Holly wanted to be silly so I let here do her own thing. And no I don't mind you being candor. I want the help. Please do post some samples of a butterfly light. I have all kinds of umbrellas and a huge softbox (darn thing is hard to put on with those rods) but on this one, I set up one light with an umbrella and one without. I took readings and adjusted the lights until they both were f/8. is this the wrong thing to do? If so, please explain how I should meter both of them to get a good picture.

    I used to have a w/b card and I can't find it. I am ordering another one from BH and if you would tell me which kind I should get, I would appreciate it. I know there are medium grays and light grays. Which is better?

    Maybe from the picture, you could tell me how I should change them around to get a better picture.

    See my reply to twig and you will see all of the different settings that I have on the Bowens.

    Please let me know and thank you for any help you can give me to do perfect studio shots.

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  7. Thanks John,

    Yes I have pictures of the vintage car...I ordered a new carborator and gas tank yesterday. Hope to have them on the car by next week. I have decided to paint the car a candy apple red. My favorite color for a car.

    Thanks for you interest. BTW, I got the car for free from my cousin. He didn't want it so he gave it to me. I couldn't pass it up. We have since vacumn it out and cleaned it up a bit. Hardly and body work to fix. It runs too and will run better after we put a new carborator in.

    Here is the link to the car.

  8. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Melissa :

    Nice buggy ! I've had an unrequited love affair with early Mustangs for many, many years (since they were being sold new, as a matter of fact), but it's going to remain unrequited. Given my work, it's just not a car that I could drive all the time, and leaving it in a garage wouldn't suit me well.

    Post shots when the paint-job is completed !

    John P.
  9. Iliah


    Jan 29, 2005
    Melissa, what I would do is to try setting camera to different flash white balance compensations and check the results of shooting something neutral. If that does not help, you mightneed to cover your flashes with colour compensation filters.

    I would also check that the white balance is the same for all power settings.
  10. Melissa, here's my long-winded reply. :) 

    First, don't set your lights to the same exposure - that's a recipe for flat light (1:1 ratio). :D  You want different ratios between the key and fill. I tend to favor 3:1 which is 1 1/2 stops more light on the key vs. fill. 2:1 is 1 stop and 4:1 is 2 stops. I rarely go more contrasty than 4:1. Since I only use one light I get my ratio from a large foam core board. My fill light is based on the angle and distance of my board. I meter with the dome on the key side of the face then the shadow side. I move the foam core to create the ratio I want. I'm rarely precise about fill. I tend to rely more on test shots than strict light ratios. Even if I were using 2 lights I would still meter both at the same time. Since large soft boxes tend to wrap around the subject they will impact the fill side. So meter with both lights on and adjust the fill light DOWN until you get a nice gap in meter reading from key to shadow side (example: f11 on key side and f5.6 on shadow for 4:1 or f11 to f8 for 2:1).

    Another key point is don't use a bare light for fill - too contrasty and specular. If you have a big soft box use that for your key and the umbrella for fill. A good starting point is placing the key 45 degrees off axis and less than 5 feet from your subject for a head/shoulders shot (your set up shot has the key closer to 60-70 degrees in my estimation and a bit too far away for really soft light) and place the fill right next to the camera and FARTHER away from the subject than the key (ideally above your head but you don't have the ceiling space).

    As for WB - I literally meant the card called a "WhiBal" card. ;)  Here's where you can get one (B&H might carry one also):


    Heres a shot I used to set WB - notice the nice color balance of W, B, Gray and Lt Gray.
    I use the large set for studio and the small set for my camera bag.

    Here are the samples you wanted to see (so to others who might not have read her post - I'm not hijacking this thread). :D 

    Keep in mind I'm not a "traditionalist" when it comes to light - I do what looks right to me. So these aren't CLASSIC by any means but they're close to the classic style.

    Here's BUTTERFLY LIGHT - signified but the butterfly shape of the shadow under her nose. Shot with 22" beauty dish and fill from the paper bg. Fairly low contrast since the shadows are minimal. Still not FLAT since her face has clear dimension:

    Here's SHORT LIGHT - (meaning the key is on the short side of the face where no ear is showing). Shot with 36"x48" soft box and fill from reflections in the room. The ratio is easily 4:1 or more here - very contrasty shot:

    Here is CLAM SHELL or GLAMOR LIGHT - shot with a 48" Octabox 18 inches away above and slightly off axis and a reflector 12 inches below her chin (the light and reflector make a "clam shell" shape). This is silky smooth light - great for women since it hides blemishes. :)  Notice while it's low contrast it's NOT flat (meaning her face has clear dimension):

    This is REMBRANDT LIGHT - has that "old masters" look with the light almost behind the subject and the classic loop nose shadow on the cheek. Shot with 48" Octabox and reflector for some fill. I chose a very dark/moody processing for this one:

    Here is BROAD LIGHT - meaning the key is on the broad side of the face. Best for men/boys. Shot with 36"x48" soft box and white foam core for fill. Never use this style with wide faced people or overweight people - it will exaggerate their facial width and be quite unflattering:

    Ultimately I recommend you keep it simple. Use only 1 light and work it every way you can imagine until you "own it" (meaning you know it so well you can see the image before it's shot). Then and only then should you add a second light. Starting with 2 lights is fairly complicated and you're missing the intricate understanding of how a single strobe reacts under varied circumstances. It's SO much harder to see the impact with 2 lights. BTW, I have been using studio strobes for about one year and I've yet to take a shot with 2 lights.

  11. Joe,

    Would you mind posting a pic of your setup?

    Thank you for all of your info here. This is going to help me immensly.

    From what you are saying that if I get a boom arm, I can't put it up high enough because of my ceilings are low?

  12. twig


    May 23, 2005
    Fantastic examples, really really appreciated.
    I find your post very informative, thank you.
  13. Melissa, I plan to take a shot of my set-up next time I shoot (probably this weekend). I'll post a shot for you.

    You're very welcome for the info - it was my pleasure.

    As for the boom arm - that's correct - you need 10-15 foot ceilings to get the boom above your subject as a hair light.

  14. Twig, thanks for the compliments. I'm really glad you find the post valuable.

  15. WOW. That is high ceilings. What do people do that don't have that high of ceilings? What can I do? I hate to rely on PS to always use the S/H tool to fix dark hair all of the time. That would drive me insane. I want to not have to mess with PS as much as possible.

    Thank you,
  16. Seated or short model :D  and bring the light close with the center of the light about 12 inches above her head for "wrap around light" - so the light acts as main and hair light at the same time.
  17. Thanks Joe,

    Now I need to order that boom arm from Alienbees. I just hope it holds the weight of my Bowens.
  18. bpetterson

    bpetterson Guest

    For a hair light you might use a snoot on one of your lights.

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