Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Lighting studio portraits - the pro way ..

As part of my developing interest and understanding of light, I have recently been on a two day studio portrait photography workshop booked through the Royal Photographic Society and tutored by Chris Burfoot.  I have mentioned in a number of posts before that the Light module was the first time that I have really made any great effort to take photographs inside and get a grip of the lighting requirements to do so effectively, so this seemed an ideal opportunity to get some tuition in the area of portraiture and also to try out some top end professional kit instead of my pieces of silver foil, cardboard reflectors and tracing paper…..  The kit used throughout was Broncolor flash, which is as good as it gets, Lastolite reflectors, and a Hasselblad camera was available to borrow to see just what image quality can really look like (I thought my 5DMkII was good, but the H40D produces images from another world).

The course is based on flash and the pro studio units generate lighting like the surface of the sun compared to my two constant lights or Canon Speedlites.  The two days were so good because they generally covered the same aspects of lighting as are in the OCA light module and there was some commonality in approach as form, shape, colour and texture were emphasised throughout.  We started off with a simple single light setup, then introduced a reflector, then two lights, hair lights etc. and covered the lighting options as listed below.  We also worked with coloured, black and white backgrounds.
Cameras were used exclusively in manual mode and exposures set by use of flashmeter readings and adjusted with the controls on the flash heads, and of course I have to mention the endless patience of the model who smiled and posed for hours over the weekend.  One of the most valuable lessons for me was in the placement of reflectors and I was surprised how close these actually were to the model.  Given the massive light output of the flashes the reflector panels were often only 30cm or so from the model’s face, and that surprised me, but the panels are huge and made for a wonderful large source and therefore soft lighting, ideal for portraiture.

Front light + reflector + hair light with snoot + blue background
Taken with the above set up
Front lighting + reflector just under the hand
Front light high and pointing right down + triple reflector just below frame.  You can see the multiple catchlights in the eyes

There was a lot of other information discussed around the business of portrait photography and I picked up some websites to see how the pros do it.  So if you want to hire a fully serviced studio big enough to photograph a double decker bus have a look at BigSky London, and to see some amazing top end work that’s a bit different, try Ben McDade and Tim Flach.
  • Flash or Continuous light - advantages and disadvantages.
  • How a studio flash works.
  • Setting up a portrait with a single light.
  • Changing the quality of the light with simple accessories.
  • Placing the main light. Using a simple reflector.
  • Using a flash meter and setting your camera.
  • Adding a second light.
  • Light control accessories.
  • Hair/background lights.
  • Getting more depth into your portraits.
  • Using a main and fill light.
  • Balancing light sources with a flashmeter.
  • Lighting a white background - not lighting a black one!
  • Softboxes - stunning portraits with a small softbox.
  • Positioning lights and subjects.
  • The inverse square law

  • Using larger softboxes to create lovely soft lighting.
  • Hard, high contrast lighting. Mixing hard and soft light together.
  • Lighting for full length. The white background, for children and contemporary portraiture.
  • Camera viewpoint.
  • Using a lightbank as a huge soft light.

1 comment:

  1. Wow - what a couple of days Are the images here ones from the Hassleblad?