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Photography Question 
Angie M. Murdock
 

hair hotspot! Help!!


 
  jake
jake
© Angie M. Murdock
Nikon D80 Digital ...
 
  jake 2
jake 2
© Angie M. Murdock
Nikon D80 Digital ...
 
  jake 3
jake 3
© Angie M. Murdock
Nikon D80 Digital ...
 
 
Can somebody please tell me at what position my lights should be in order to make the hair look the way it should? It seems to be hit or miss with me. Sometimes the hair looks perfect, most times it does not. I seem to have the most trouble with my son's hair, or blond. I have a softbox strobe for my main light at about 45 degrees from my camera and an Alien Bees 800 with umbrella next to me for fill. I have tried my lights at a variety of different heights, but the hair still looks like this:


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10/28/2008 4:52:41 PM

 
Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Angie,

Excellent question!

The "hair light" is not too tricky, but you need to modify the light a little.

A "Snoot" essentially constrains the light so there is no spill over is one way this is often accomplished. It "focuses" the light and is highly specific where you aim it. (i.e) Hair.
It attaches in front of the strobe and is often funnel shaped.

A "Grid" is similar, but does not constrain the light as much. They come in various levels of focus measured in "degrees." It really looks like a grid and attaches in front of the strobe. These are for sale from your strobe company (Alien Bees)

The standard umbrella and softbox is generally not used as a "hair light." There is too much light spill to work properly as a hair light.

As a home work assignment; watch the news channel. You will see light being used for the anchor persons shoulders and hair. The Bill O'Reilly program on Fox network is a good example of this. The lighting on Bill is some of the best crafted I've seen. You can clearly see the effect of a properly used hair light AND shoulder light.

The "hair light" not only lights the hair, it also (separates) your subject from the background. This aspect is critical to a good portrait.

Hair lights and shoulder lighting is generally positioned behind and off to one side of the subject. Proper positioning takes a little trial and error; with a little practice it is a piece of cake.

Again, umbrellas and softboxes will not work properly as hair or shoulder lighing.

all the best,

Pete


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10/28/2008 5:24:22 PM

 
Alan N. Marcus   We use a hair light to exclusively illuminate hair. The idea is to force the hair to image with texture (individual strands become apparent). A hair light is particularly useful when the hair is dark. Additionally proper placement will cause the head to separate from the background.

Your images are different: Your subject is a blond and the hair is quite transparent. Additionally the subject is quire fair. What is happening is: the flash (main illuminant) is penetrating the transparent hair; the light then strikes the forehead underneath and reflects backward transversing the hair a second time. This action gives the illusion that the scalp line is lightly colored as compared to the crown. You might not like this look but likely itís partially a natural phenomenon.

You might experiment, feathering the main so that it strikes the hair with reduced intensity. What is needed is a main with barn doors. You can experiment by pointing the main more towards the chest. Careful, the main still wants to be high to simulate afternoon sun.

Thatís my assessment for what itís worth.

I hope this helps!

Alan Marcus (marginal technical gobbledygook)
alanmaxinemarcus@att.net


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10/28/2008 7:06:15 PM

 
Angie M. Murdock   Hi Pete, thank you so much for the great information. So what you're saying, is in order to produce quality portraits you must shoot with at least 3 lights? Correct? I've read so much about just one light being fine for portraits.

Can you suggest what type of "hair" light I should purchase? is it set on a light stand like the strobes? I think I've seen them where they are on the floor, behind the subject? or is that only a background light? Lighting is by far my biggest challange. Everything I've learned and shot so far is strictly self-taught, trial and error! Thank you again for your information.


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10/28/2008 7:12:32 PM

 
Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  "So what you're saying, is in order to produce quality portraits you must shoot with at least 3 lights?"

Ummm, no..I didn't say that.
"The "hair light" not only lights the hair, it also (separates) your subject from the background. This aspect is critical to a good portrait."

A properly lit subject outdoors can be hair lit by the sun.

Since your question was about studio lighting, I was speaking about artificial light.

Many fine portraits can be done with one light and a reflector.

When you begin to get into two, three sometimes four light setups, the complexity of placement, directional control and f/stop becomes not so much harder to handle, but requires more tought.

As Alan correctly points out, your subject in this discussion is blonde. This presents a different problem; one I would handle with a (grid).

Below is a link to a grid Alien bees sells.
If you do a google search on "hair light" you will get many results with diagrams etc on how the hair light is set up.

http://www.alienbees.com/hg4x.html

Every good portrait photographer Angie seeks their own look and feel. There are soooo many ways to shoot a portrait from classical Rembrandt lighting to the wacky and wild; all are portraits.

We all have our own techniques; but they all start with basic lighting setups; then we build from there.

Personally, I like to use four lights in the studio for a classical head and shoulders. Left, right, background and hair.
For a full length portrait, I still use four lights, but the positions change drastically.
How I position these as well as f/stop is another discussion.

Hope that helps a little,


Pete


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10/29/2008 4:41:47 AM

 
Angie M. Murdock   Thank you both for all your great information. Pete, this does help a lot.
Now it's time to research those hair lights! You guys were really able to lead me in the right direction.

Angie


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10/29/2008 6:47:48 PM

 
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