Someone recently emailed me to ask me what lighting I used for this portrait of the groomsmen. I did explain this in the Flickr group, but wanted to expand on a key point again.
When lighting groups like this, I don’t try to get all Rembrandt on the group. Instead, I have a preference for even light. A simpler approach where everyone’s face is equally well lit, with no cross shadows .. all of which makes for a faster workflow. You also have less risk of the chance of a weird shadow spoiling something.
In this instance, the light was from two Q-flashes that I was bouncing into the ceiling and wall behind me. I wanted a flood of even light. The Q-flashes were the older T2 models which I use purely as manual off-camera flash.
There is a slight problem though .. light falls off to the background, which caused the groomsmen in the back to not be as well exposed as the guys in the foreground. This was worsened by there being a slight overhang where I was standing – and this blocked the light that should’ve reached further up the staircase.
But in the image above, the groomsmen in the back are well exposed .. but I had a little help in post-production.
Now, I really try and get my images as well exposed as I can during the actual shoot, and I really try to get the best lighting I can. This can be a challenge during a wedding where there is a lot of pressure and you’re constantly up against the unexpected. Things constantly change around you, yet you have to think on your feet and deliver the best results you can. But often you have to rely on adjusting and correcting in post-production.
With the release of Photoshop CS4 and the latest version of Lightroom, Adobe has now included a powerful tool where you can make localized corrections on your RAW image. You’re now not limited to merely adjusting the overall exposure and color balance and contrast .. you can now apply varying amounts of correction to different areas.
Have a look again at the image .. here is how I brought up the exposure on the groomsmen in the back:
[ click on the image to enlarge it ]
What this sweep of the Photoshop brush did in this case, is brighten that area up by +0.55 stops. Just enough to correct the exposure to have everyone equally well lit.
Previously, you’d have to call up the image in Photoshop to fix that. But right now, you can do it as part of your normal workflow, and adjust specific areas as you need. Much much faster than it used to be. This speeds up post-production so much, that just this feature alone makes it worth it to upgrade to CS4 or the latest version of Lightroom if you haven’t done so yet.
And there is my final image at the top .. nice simple lighting, but with a little bit of help.
Here is another image – this time from an engagement portrait session. No flash though.
I had the couple walk away from me. (I like how their footsteps come closer in the image.) Snow is notoriously difficult to photograph in, since the glare has a tendency to blow out large patches of snow. I had calculated my exposure to give good skin tones, and for the most part the snowy areas were under control .. no blinking highlights .. but some areas were over-exposed.
Instead of allowing large bald areas in the final image, I used local exposure corrections in the RAW file to bring those areas back into range where the highlights weren’t blown out. This is now a very simple matter with local corrections in Bridge CS4 (with ACR), and Lightroom. And having this kind of control over your raw file already, really speeds up the post-processing workflow considerably.
A little bit more about the technical side of the photo of the groomsmen - the settings, and the specifics of the equipment used and the lighting gear:
The equipment .. Nikon D3; Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 AF-S (@ 29mm)
My settings .. 1/25th @ f6.3 @ 800 ISO
Here are the specific bits and pieces that I use wrt Quantum gear ..
I keep two T2 Q-flashes permanently assembled, each on a lightstand. They are the tall Red Wing lightstands which have a special design that allow them to automatically collapse the legs when you pick them up, or the legs to open up automatically when you set them down.
I keep these two Q-flashes and stands in a tall roller case. And then I just add the Quantum 2×2 battery and the Pocketwizard to each.
Total time for me to set up two Q-flashes, with 60″ umbrellas, with batteries for the Q-flash, and pocketwizards … less than 5 minutes. I’d say about 3-4 minutes. Very quick.