lighting

best / portable softbox for on-location headshot photography

I vary the lighting kit that I use for on-location portraits and headshot photography. It could involve multiple lights, or a single-light setup on location. My choice of lighting is most often decided by how complex it need to be, and the logistics of getting to the location and setting up.

More than struggling with something, I detest the appearance of struggling with something. Let me explain – when working with clients, it all needs to appear smooth and efficient. Everything in place, and professional. No struggling with gear. Set it up efficiently; shoot; and then break it all down even faster at the end. I don’t want to appear like I am battling with anything. (This is also why I shy away from anything that looks home-made or makeshift.

With this extended gig described here – photo gear & logistics: corporate headshots – I used a large setup with multiple studio heads. This involved a lot of logistics with the lighting gear, carting it around in New York, and being able to set it all up quickly. With another headshots gig for a company, I needed multiple spots set up simultaneously on the company’s site – on-location headshots and promotional portraits. Different needs, and different solutions.

When shooting inside, we can rely less on the available light to act as a natural fill light. But outside, on location, the ambient light and flash are often neatly balanced, and then a much simpler single-lightsetup can be sufficient.

Back to the idea of setting up fast, and not struggling – a softbox with speedring and rods can be a mild battle, with the need to push down on the rods and flex them.

The Westcott Rapid Box 36 XL (affiliate), alleviates that. This 36″ double-baffled octa-box opens and closes like an umbrella. There is a zippered opening on the side where you can stick your hand in to settle the mechanism inside, and then also wiggle it lose afterwards to collapse it. The Rapid Box 36 XL fits into a carry-bag.

Learn more inside…

{ 1 comment }

posing people: tips for improving your portrait photos

posing people: tips for improving your portrait photos

Throughout the numerous articles on the Tangents blog, I’m often asked about how I go about posing people. I’ve described some of it in the article, adjusting a pose with incremental changes. Instead of a traditional way of posing, it’s mostly a “feel” thing, looking at my subject and seeing if there are elements that could be better balanced. This studio portrait of a model, Adrienne, doesn’t follow rigid guidelines of formal portraiture. Her shoulder is a little scrunched up, and her head is tilted to the side. Yet, to my eyes, this works. There’s a “looseness” to it. Yet, I did adjust a few things before firing the shutter.

That is a constant for me – I wouldn’t just fire off frames without being at least partially satisfied how my subject appears in the frame. It’s that delicate balance between maintaining spontaneity (and capturing some of the real personality of your subject), and controlling what you see in your frame. Just firing off frames will rarely give you many successful images.

For all that though, the moment and expression trumps technical perfection. It’s not an excuse to not put in the effort to excel — it’s permission to be okay with a photograph that is awesome despite what might technically be seen as flaws.

In posing someone, there are a few things I immediately look out for:

Learn more inside…

{ 12 comments }

flash photography tutorial: balancing flash and ambient exposure

This topic – balancing flash and ambient exposure – seems to one that many newer photographers struggle with. The big hurdle seems to be the basic starting point – how do you decide on the exposure for each?

I’d like to explore this topic a bit with this post. The trigger for this was a question that someone emailed me regarding an image in one of my books on flash photography. Instead of answering the question directly, I thought that a wider answer might be more illuminating. We’re still on that perpetual quest for more aha! moments. So let’s see where we head with this. (I’ll come back to the specific question and answer at the end of this.)

Why do we even want to add flash to our subject? The answer is that with flash we can control the direction and quality of light, and create a more dynamic image.

We don’t necessarily just use flash to avoid camera shake and / or poor exposure in low light. We use flash to create better light on our subject. We can ‘clean up’ the light that falls on our subject. Or to create more dynamic and interesting light. It’s about control. We decide. So where do we start?

Learn more inside…

{ 42 comments }

creative portrait photography on location – allowing opportunities to happen

There was an interesting challenge for me during a recent individual photography workshop in NYC – Don (who arranged the workshop), already knew the essentials of lighting techniques, and said what he really wanted was insight into the way that I see a photo before I take it.  How do I know something will work or not. Don was particularly impressed with the series of photos of Anelisa that I shot for the review of the Profoto B2 Flash. The shallow depth-of-field images was a particular draw-card.

Serendipity – I love that word. A bit of chance favoring you. When a tiny bit of serendipity comes your way during a photo shoot, you have to be open enough to see it and then run with the idea. In effect, you have to be open to opportunity and allow it to happen to you.

There are a number of examples on the Tangents blog where I stumbled on interesting found light, and used it for effect:

These are the kind of opportunities that you need to allow to happen, and not get fixated on the ideas you had in mind. Grab what is happening and work with it. Here is one example from the workshop in NYC:

Learn more inside…

{ 7 comments }

dramatic studio lighting: using the beauty dish as a single light source

I love the forgiving nature of large light modifiers – you don’t have such precision with a huge softbox as you do with a smaller, more contrasty light modifier.  But you also have less opportunity for dramatic light, as you do with smaller light sources. In line with the idea that a smaller light = harder light = dramatic light, I wanted to create a series of portraits that had a darker, moodier feel.

Brian Calabrese, a New York portrait photographer friend of mine, met up with me in my studio, and through various iterations of how to position him, and how to place the light, we got to some stunning portraits of him.

In trying to use the beauty dish as a dual light – lighting up Brian’s features, and as spill light on the background – it took careful positioning of the light, and posing of Brian. The beauty dish was  on a Manfrotto 025BS boom (affiliate) that was on a light stand with casters. I kept the weight-end of the boom close to me so I could just reach out and adjust the light’s placement. (You can see this in the pull-back shot.)

Learn more inside…

{ 9 comments }

portrait photography & studio lighting – inspire your own style

I keep a folder of Inspiration images to which I often add interesting photos shot by other photographers. This serves as an ideas folder. There are hundreds upon hundreds of images. I add to this Inspiration folder, and I also discard images over time as my own style and what I want to work towards, form better shape. I might browse through this and see what sticks in my mind. Sometimes it is the amalgamation of ideas that lead to something new. Even when I try to emulate the style and lighting of an image, there are always distinct differences that lead to new images with a different look for me.

Similarly, the photo above was loosely based on ideas I saw elsewhere … yet, by the time we were done, the  photos from this session didn’t look like the inspiration images. Different model; different lighting; different post-processing; different interpretation and a different photographer.

Learn more inside…

{ 4 comments }

lingerie photo session in the studio – lighting, light & textures

This photograph of Melanie, one of my favorite models, is one of a sequence where we played with different lights and lighting styles in the studio. I wanted lighting that was both soft and dramatic. Both feminine and bold. The lighting is the same idea – using a big gridded strip-box / soft-box – as I used in a previous photo session with another model, Anita DeBauch.

The final image above, is the result of my first tentative exploring of using texture layers in Photoshop. I wanted to retain her shadow and other detail in the wall, while enhancing the appeal of the image with a texture layer in PS. I felt that the unadorned photo needed an additional element to elevate it.

Learn more inside…

{ 6 comments }

on-location headshots and promotional portraits – Jonathan Arons

One of the things I like the most about photography, aside from the cool toys, is that you get to meet interesting people. Characters. People with spark. The challenge is then to capture that and show it in the photographs. A headshots photo session needs to be more than just a mere glimpse of your subject’s personality.

Jonathan Arons, also known as “the trombone dancer”, is a multi-talented actor, singer, dancer and musician, based in New York. Jonathan needed some professonial headshots and some portraits for promotional use. We shot these on location in New York. As you can see, there is a dynamic persona here with a lot of energy! With portraits, the intent is always to show the personality and charm. Even some of the playful spiritedness. All of this added up to make the photo session real fun. That glitter suit though!

Learn more inside…

{ 5 comments }

boudoir photography: couples boudoir photo session – gesture and connection

With portraits of a couple, the way they connect with each other is often the main factor whether the image is compelling. It could be through gesture and touch. The gesture might even be subtle – if a couple snuggles in, they don’t have to look at each other – it’s entirely possible to give that sense of connectedness, even with a downward glance. As long a it looks like they are concentrating on each other or responding to each other, it works.

With the image at the top, Olena and Austin are directly looking at each other, hands intertwined and legs touching. Connection clearly there.

Learn more inside…

{ 11 comments }

portrait & headshot photography: studio lighting tools – Westcott Eyelighter

With portrait lighting for head shots, there are so many configurations – all the way from dramatic lighting, to very even light – but always keeping in mind that the lighting needs to look flattering. It is all in how we balance the various lights, and how we add fill-light.

Westcott has released a curved reflector, the Eye-lighter (vendor), and it is quite versatile:

Learn more inside…

{ 15 comments }

12345...10...18