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Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Krystle Hill

Umbrellas and Wattage

Okay so I am very new to the studio thing, and not that versed in photography as a whole. I have a Nikon D50, 53" white paper, 2 "hot lights" that go up to 500w each (I am currently using 200w each), a silver lined umbrella, and a white transulucent umbrella. I am shooting in a room 9'x22'.

This is not working for me :) Granted I shoot in auto at the moment because metering, f stops, etc make my head spin. Maybe this is part of my problem? Also in this pic I did not use my on camera flash with the lights. Even with lights on the backdrop I get nasty shadows.

So I was hoping to get advice on what I need to do differently. Do I need a third light? Different umbrellas? Different positioning of the lights? Any other advice? Thanks so much.


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6/2/2006 1:21:38 PM

Alan N. Marcus   Hi Krystle,
This is question that will get you a myriad of answers. All such answers should be regarded with suspicion, including mine. However, I am gutsy so I will try and answer. First, you should known that when it comes to art, there are no hard fast rules. You are free to go out their and do anything you like. However, I advise that you should fist try to master those techniques that sell pictures.

1. One light rule. Most portraits look best if they convey the illusion of one light coming from above. Light from below create a ghastly monster. Therefore place one of your two lamps high and off to the side. Pay close attention to the shadows it casts. Adjust this lamp, know as the main so it casts a nose shadow of medium length, directin is down but not so long that it is touching the lips. With experience you will learn to adjust this lamp to correct facial defects. For example, subjects with a short nose, adjust for a longer nose shadow. Long nose, short shadow, round face, light more from the side. Long face light from the front. Placement of the main lamp is an art.
2. Place the second lamp close to an imaginary line drawn between lens and subject. This lamp is the fill and its job is to fill shadows cast by the main. It is subordinate to the main so it maintains the one light look. It is normally set to ˝ power. Power is not just brightness but how much light arrives at the subject. Try setting both lamps at the same wattage with the main set closer (closer is brighter). As a rule, the fill is set back using a multiplier of 1.4 (back is dimmer). Stated another way, if the main is 5 feet from the subject, the fill is set back to the 7 foot mark. Never forget that the fill is used to fill shadows from the cameras prospective therefore its placement is close to the imaginary line described above, at lens height. The most common mistake is to place this fill lamp off to the side. However better off to the side than to have it cast an equipment shadow on the subject.

Latter you can add a third lamp to illuminate the background. It will allow you to adjust the brightness of the background and kill shadows cast on the background by the main and the fill.

The contrast of the finished picture is adjusted by changing the fill brightness. Dimmer (further back) yields more contract. Try for more contrast by moving the fill back once more using the 1.4 multiplier again. This gives a main distance of 5 feet with a fill placement of 10 feet.

You’re going to get lots of advice. Some will foo foo what I have written.
Balls in your court.
Best of luck.

Alan Marcus

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6/3/2006 10:33:05 PM

Krystle Hill   Thank you so much Alan. That helped put alot of what I have read in English :)

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6/4/2006 5:33:12 PM

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