studio photography

portraits in the studio with an 85mm f/1.4 lens

Shooting portraits with fast lenses for that distinctive shallow depth-of-field look, works in the studio too. In fact, it works exceptionally well. But it is perhaps an unexpected way of working in the studio – the usual way is to work with apertures in the range of f/8 or f/11 for great depth-of-field and superb image sharpness.

That super-fast aperture portrait lens really focuses the attention exactly where you want it …

Learn more inside…

{ 30 comments }

portraits with continuous lighting – Westcott Spiderlites   (w/ model: Lauraine)

This striking portrait of Lauraine is a combination of that sparkling mischievousness … and on the techie side, the selective focus of a wider aperture lens, and the flexibility of continuous lighting. The f/1.4 deliciousness of an 85mm – the best lens to change your portrait photography – really brings her eyes to attention.

During this part of the photo session in the studio, I decided to use continuous lighting. Lauraine is new to modeling for the camera and working in the studio, and the lack of flashes popping, helped in keeping the atmosphere gentle. The shorter telephoto length of an 85mm lens, meant I could work close and give instruction on posing. Slight adjustments to her hand or the tilt of her head could be more easily relayed.

Lighting was with two Westcott Spiderlites:

I used the softbox in the background as a hair light and to spill a little bit of light on the background.

The background is this 4 panel room divider screen (purchased via Amazon). Spilling a bit of light on it, and angling it properly, it allowed a hint of color and texture in the background, making the final setting for the portrait series a little more nuanced.

Learn more inside…

{ 3 comments }

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.

Learn more inside…

{ 11 comments }

studio photography: low-key lighting – vintage portrait – Randy

Randy has a look reminiscent of Ava Gardner, so I asked her to be a subject for my book on Portrait photography. I wanted to create a portrait of Randy in the Hollywood Glamor style of lighting, similar to the vintage styled boudoir photo session (with Olena). And it looked great! But while I had someone so photogenic and with such dramatic styling, I wanted to take further photos of Randy, and she happily indulged me.

For one of the setups, I wanted to explore again using the Profoto beauty dish (vendor) as a single light source. As mentioned in a previous article – thoughts on using a beauty dish – a beauty dish is best used with a grid to contain the light spill. This does mean a beauty dish has to be used in a specific way – close up to your subject, and with specific posing. Without additional light from other light sources to give fill-light, a beauty dish can be fairly challenging as a single light source.

I wanted a low-key look, so I used a dark grey backdrop, and worked well ahead of it so that the light from the main light (beauty dish) had very little effect. (The Inverse Square Law helps here with the non-linear light fall-off to the background.) But to not have Randy’s dark hair melt away into a black background, it needed a hair-light of some kind. I set up a gridded Profoto RFi 1’×3′ softbox (vendor) behind her light from the back (and above).

Learn more inside…

{ 7 comments }

thoughts on using a beauty dish as a single light source

A beauty dish is one of those light modifiers that sound attractive just by name already. And when photographers start exploring other options than direct off-camera flash and umbrellas or a softbox, a beauty dish is usually one of the first alternate light modifiers that catches attention. Mine too. Right after I bought my first Profoto kit, I purchased a beauty dish for it and started exploring using a beauty dish.

A beauty dish is ideally used at a closer distance for portraits, with the light “focused” on the face, creating a gradient where the light rapidly falls off between the lighter and darker areas – yet looks soft where the light is focused. But there’s more to it than that – a beauty dish is best used with a grid to help control the light. Or used with a sock, but then the beauty dish acts very much like a round softbox, and some of its specific qualities are lost.

Quite a few of the softbox options for speedlights offer a way to create a beauty dish-like effect. An example is the Westcott Rapidbox – 26′ Octa Softbox (vendor), as mentioned in the review: Westcott Rapid Box 26″ Octa Softbox. You can take the front diffuser off and add the Westcott 2030-DP Deflector Plate (vendor), turning it into a beauty dish of sorts. But the same limitations appear.

Looking at the portrait of David above, you’ll notice a semi-circular band of light to the left. This is because, even though the light from the beauty-dish-ified softbox focuses light on him, there is light that spills from the edge of the speedlight. The detail photo of the Westcott RapidBox will explain it better …

Learn more inside…

{ 19 comments }

a simple lighting setup with speedlights, with white seamless backdrop

A question on the Tangents forum asked about setting up and using two SB-910 speedlights against white seamless. It’s a topic we’ve covered in a previous article – a simple lighting setup for studio photography – but it might be good to revisit this again.

The article on that simple lighting setup with two speedlights, explained our choice of camera and flash settings in detail, so we’ll only briefly cover it this time. Still, a different explanation from a different angle might trigger new ideas and questions.

Learn more inside…

{ 17 comments }

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.

Learn more inside…

{ 7 comments }

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 Magnum Reflector (vendor) to concentrate the light, but still give a wide enough beam.

Learn more inside…

{ 4 comments }

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!

Learn more inside…

{ 14 comments }

Anelisa in the studio for a photo session

To create a promotional video clip for my studio, I had Anelisa stop by today so we could do a variety of looks. We used available light, continuous light, and studio lighting. It is also the first time we saw each other since the release of my new book – Direction of Light – so I was able to give her her copies. (In case anyone missed it, Anelisa is on the cover.)

As we reminisced a while about the number of times we had workshops and photo sessions, I realized that today was exactly three years, to the day, since the first time we worked together. The photos from that individual workshop resulted in one of the key articles on Tangents – effective on-location portraits. So yes, it’s been a long working relationship with Anelisa, my favorite model.

More images from this photo session, as well as the video clip, will be up in the coming days. But in the meantime, here is the pull-back shot of this image at the top …

Learn more inside…

{ 13 comments }