lighting

headshot photography in the studio

Mike is an actor / musician friend of mine, who also works with the Modern Gypsies at times. We recently updated his headshots with a session in and around the studio. As a working actor in New York, he has appeared on stage, as well as some spots on television. Amusingly enough, while shooting outside the studio against the warehouse building’s facade facing the main street, a young boy, walking past us with his mom, turned around and asked Mike, “Are you famous?” Of course we couldn’t disappoint the kid.

Being a character actor, and shooting with that in mind, we took many photos where the expressions were quite goofy and strange. But I’ll leave that up to Mike to show to the world. Someday perhaps. Here’s a small selection of headshots of him, where we show some of the character and expression. That’s actor Mike. For raconteur Mike, you’d just have to meet him in person.

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going for that classic look in a photo – lighting & posing  (model: Elizabeth)

When I saw the beautiful architecture of the Court House in Denver, CO, I knew that I wanted to use this as a backdrop for part of the mini photography workshop in Denver. In terms of composition, the imposing pillars and leading lines of the steps would simultaneously make a simple and classic background. Our model, Elizabeth, fortunately had this simple, yet elegant black dress as part of her wardrobe. For me, this photo comes together with the way the model (with her own style and styling), and the chosen location, complements each other.

That’s all a long way to say that I really like this image.

So while “having some kind of idea what you want to do” at the start of a photo session, is always a help, the success of any resulting photographs are most often a result of all the other choices coming together as well – posing, composition and lighting.

The composition is fairly straight-forward. But do notice that I shot slightly upwards towards her, to accentuate her legs. Shooting down would’ve created a strange fore-shortening effect. The focal length on the zoom lens was 38mm – wide-ish. If you’re photographing people with a wide lens, it is best to shoot from belly-button height with the camera – exactly where an old twin-lens reflex camera would’ve been held. This way you’re not shooting down, nor shooting up. So spatial distortion is minimized.

Then there’s also that touch of serendipity – yes, that word again – which brings some unexpected magic. In this image, her shadow was what helped pull the image together. Suddenly it isn’t just soft lighting – now it looks like a bit of sunshine sneaking through a thin layer of clouds. And the image pops!

The specific look to this B&W image was done via a recipe I created in Radlab.

To get that dramatic light on her, we used undiffused off camera flash. In other words – hard direct off-camera speedlight. Since this is a small light source, you have to be very specific in posing your subject. Posing “into the light” usually works best. You have to be careful though not to get weird shadows, but to have the light from the bare flash still be flattering.

The way the shadow fell behind her, was an accidental little bonus. I’ll take it when it comes.

More about the lighting and the camera settings ….

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creating Hollywood Glamor lighting with video lights

The old Hollywood masters such as George Hurrell, CS Bull and Laszlo Willinger had a dramatic way of lighting their portraits, with specific use of light and shade.

For my review of the Litepanels Sola 4 LED Fresnel Lights, I had Ulorin Vex as model. Her style and clothing are quite unique, and dramatic enough that these lights enhanced her look. I loved what we came up with.

In using these Litepanels Sola 4 LED Fresnel Lights (B&H) to specifically emulate Hollywood Glamor lighting, I called in another model, Elle Olins. Elle has that smoldering look to her that turned out to be perfect for this style of lighting.

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studio photography – creating sun-flare images

One of the sequences I photographed of Anelisa for the video clip of a photo session in the studio, was to create this kind of sun-drenched flared image. I wanted it to look bright and airy and summery.

There was a studio flash behind her to (partially) create the flare. I had to keep adjusting my movement just so that the flash-head wouldn’t be entirely hidden, or entirely revealed.

There was a total of four flashes used, and the pull-back shot shows their positioning.

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studio lighting: smaller light source = harder light = more dramatic light

When I first started exploring bounce flash, and then off-camera flash and then progressing towards studio photography, my tendency was also instinctively towards softer light. A large light source gives you softer light, and it is more forgiving in terms of how you position your subject and yourself in relation to the light. A large light source is easy to work with. Soft light is flattering. It is a forgiving light source. But it soon became obvious that I was missing out on that dramatic element that attracted me to other images, and what I saw in movies. While soft light is flattering, it tends not to give dramatic results. (Of course, this depends on how you position your light.)

Working with video light in photography, I quickly got to love the light fall-off and the way that you only light a specific part of your subject, instead of just flooding your subject with light.

Working with just a speedlight in bright sunlight, we mostly have to get used to working with a harder / smaller light source … and make it look good! As an example, here is the photo of Molly K, taken during an individual workshop in New York, where we worked with direct off-camera flash.

In the studio as well, selectively lighting part of your subject, or just using a smaller harder light source as a single light, gives you more opportunity for different looks than just using one large light source. In photographing Anelisa recently for the promotional video clip for my studio, I used smaller light sources for several of the setups. This image above then, is from one of those setups. Here I used the Profoto 50 Degree Reflector (B&H) to concentrate the light, but still give a wide enough beam.

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video clip: photo session in the studio w/ Anelisa

To promote my studio as a rental photography studio here in New Jersey, I created this video clip. It’s not quite a behind-the-scenes clip since my intention was to show some of the diversity that is possible in the studio. Using different lighting, and different backgrounds and setups, the final photographs look quite different.

- gallery of images of photo session with Anelisa, and other models subsequently.

- photography studio rental NJ

The specific sequences will appear as distinct articles here on Tangents, as to how the specific looks were created, incl lighting setups and camera settings and the usual stuff. We’ll come back to this!

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What if you need more light from your bounce flash?

Because I so often use on-camera bounce flash, one of the questions I’m regularly asked is, what if there is nothing to bounce your flash off? There is also the variant – what if there isn’t enough light from the bounced flash?

In both cases, the answer is the same – you improvise!
Not only that, but you need to be prepared to improvise.

The photograph above is from a recent Bat Mitzvah, showing the big group shot of the kids. If you’ve photographed Bar / Bat Mitzvahs before, you know this is coming up, and you have to be prepared for it.

You’re prepared for it by:
- having a ladder handy to stand on
- a wide enough lens and enough space to move back into
- enough light!

You can not just be passive and go … oh, oops! You need to be prepared and have done some homework before any event you photograph. (It seems such an obvious thing to even need stating like that!)

This particular venue has a really awkwardly shaped ceiling, and it has a bronze color in places. So it makes bounce flash photography a bit of a challenge, but I was able to get pretty good results by pushing the ISO higher. Using a camera like the Nikon D4 is an obvious boost here!

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studio lighting: ringflash as a single light-source

I have a confession to make about ring-flash, especially when it is used as a single light-source. I’ve never been a fan. I’ve never liked the stark over-lit look that it produces. Even in images that are supposed to be edgy and trendy.

I’ve seen some incredible examples where the ringflash is part of a multi-light setup, with the ring-flash doing a just little bit of the work. But I haven’t yet seen an image where the ring-flash was the only light source (or dominant light source), where the photo has set my world ablaze.

I’ve taken flack on some of the photography forums for that view – it’s as if I am attacking someone’s religion by offering a non-conforming viewpoint. But I really don’t like ringflash. But, you know, as the saying goes – don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. So when I met up with  Morgan Joyce, I thought her heavily tattooed appearance would make her a good subject for this style of lighting – something modern and … well, edgy and trendy.

For these images, I used the Profoto AcuteB2 Ring-Flash (B&H),
attached to the the Profoto AcuteB2 600 Power Pack (B&H).

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lingerie photo session with studio flash – model: Olena

During this same photo session with Olena - the first in my new studio space - we also worked with just the studio flashes. Actually, this part of the photo session was first. An easy setup just to get things rolling.

Oh, the best part perhaps of this part of the photo session – I got to try out the Canon 6D (B&H). It’s an impressive camera! (More to come in a review article.)

We used two lights here – the main light was a Profoto D1 head in the massive Westcott 7′ Parabolic Umbrella (B&H). It’s an easy light modifier to use, since it gives a wrap-around light that is very forgiving. Forgiving to how the photographer places the light, and also forgiving to the subject – not that Olena really needed that!

The background light was another Profoto D1 head with a Profoto 7″ reflector (B&H) and a Profoto 10 degree grid (B&H).

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lingerie photo session: video light & studio flash – model: Olena

With my new studio space pretty much ready, I’ve been itching to actually use the studio with a photo session there. Olena is a model that I’ve worked with once before during an individual photography workshop in New York, and I was really impressed with her, but we never quite got the opportunity to do further photo sessions. So this was a good opportunity to shoot in my new studio, and re-acquaint with a wonderful model. (Here is Olena’s model mayhem portfolio.)

We shot several outfits, using different lighting setups. This one is interesting because of the simplicity of the setup – using a 1×4′ softbox to control the light, and a Lowel ID-Light (B&H) as a back-light to give that warm glow to her hair. It really helped enhance the intimate feel of the sequence of photographs.

Here is the pull-back shot that will show how the lights were placed.

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