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Photography Question 
Heidi E. Zimmerman
 

How do I lower the light in my softboxes


I just recently purchased my first set of soft boxes. Before, I shot just with shoot through umbrellas. I cannot figure out though how to change the power on my soft boxes. All of my photos are pure white. I have tried everything with my camera. I shoot with a Canon XTi and with a 28-80 lens for my studio shots. I have tried pointing the boxes in different directions - i.e., ceiling, wall, ground - and nothing is working ... everything is white white white. And it doesn't help that my soft boxes didn't come with any type of instruction as well. Any help that anyone can give, I would appreciate it. The room I am shooting in is 13x21. Thanks!


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11/16/2008 11:07:57 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Reducing the power of your lights themselves is what you need to do. Assuming you're using hot lights and there isn't a rheostat of some kind to do that with, you can build one using a proper sized dimmer switch available in a hardware store or at an electrical supply house. If you're using strobes, read those instructions for reducing power output.
In the alternative, you could modify the softboxes themselves by adding some kind of non-reflective liner and placing modifiers on the front of the box. You can make barndoors, scrims, gobos and other things to reduce output out of screen, cardboard and fireproof materials (assuming again, you're using hot lights). Or buy them.
Take it light ;>)


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11/16/2008 2:55:26 PM

 
Heidi E. Zimmerman   Thanks Mark. Unfortunatly, my softboxes didn't come with instructions what so ever, I did contact the company to tell them that, so hopefully I will hear something from them soon. Yes, there are no dials what so ever to turn them down, it is on or off and then strobe, so right now I am kinda stuck. I guess I spent a lot of money without researching them sooner.


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11/16/2008 4:01:55 PM

 
Alan N. Marcus   Hi Heidi,
"Hot Lights" is a synonym for tungsten lamps. Tungsten bulbs can be dimmed using a resistor or transformer or the like ... however, as dimming occurs, the color temperature of the lamps moves towards the red end of the spectrum. This method is OK for black and white, but adds complications for color photography. Florescent lamps are more difficult, nevertheless specialized dimmers are available. That being said I genuinely doubt that the brightness of the lights are the culprit.
Washed-out images are likely due to overexposure. Likely this is due to camera setting rather than lamp brilliance. I tell you this with confidence because artificial light is feeble by comparison to sunlight. And I can tell you with confidence that your camera is capable of handling a sunlight vista.
First, assuming your soft-box lighting is too bright; you can adjust light energy using distance. Measure subject-to-lamp distance, multiply by 1.4; this calculates a revised distance equal to a 50% drop in brilliance. You can repeat this again and again till you run out of room. Conversely multiplying by 0.7 computes a revised distance that doubles the light energy on the subject. Don’t like math, use a light meter to make these adjustments, your camera has a good one built-in.
What’s the problem? You need a refresher course in camera settings. It wouldn’t hurt to shoot a bracketed series in manual mode. How about setting the ISO at 100. Set the shutter speed at 1/125 sec. Shoot a series using every f/stop. Repeat at different shutter speeds. Wouldn’t hurt to include a gray card (18% target) in the scene. Wouldn’t hurt if you shot in full auto mode.
Try one lamp at 8 feet from subject placed high and off to the side. Place one lamp along side the camera at 11 feet from the camera. Shoot at f/8 at 1/125 sec. examine the results and adjust f/number and shutter speed for optimum.
Best of luck,
Alan Marcus (marginal technical gobbledygook)


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11/16/2008 9:02:33 PM

 
Bruce A. Dart   Heidi,
Alan has given you the alternate method to replace a flash meter -- a good, old fashioned bracket test. Your strobes, through a soft box, are many times more powerful than available light. Setting your camera with auto setting just doesn't compensate and gives you white overexposure. One of the finest lighting instructors ever, the late Dean Collins, pointed out that two f stops more light on any color (he was talking background as opposed to subject but it holds true here) will render it white with detail; one more stop (8 times the amount of light with three stops) with make it white without detail. Your situation likely has three or more stops difference. Using strobes it is advantageous to have a flash meter to get you in the ballpark but the tests that Alan described will do the same. You must be in MANUAL MODE or the camera will try to base its exposure on the "modeling lights" or ambient light in the room. It doesn't have time to adjust when the flash goes off to oversimplify. Setting lights at equal power then placing them at "f-stops" away from a subject (main light at 8 feet; fill light at 11 feet, etc) with one F-stop difference will give you a pleasing ratio for most subjects in portraiture. John Siskin has a very good tutorial on this as well. Once you get close in exposure you can adjust the power output and/or your camera settings to fine tune. Remember too, that soft boxes (in order to maintain their soft quality of light) are designed to work fairly close to your subject. The farther away they get, the more "specular" the light becomes and the effect looks more like other types of lighting.
Bruce


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11/18/2008 5:08:20 AM

 
Alan N. Marcus   Bruce is right on target. We can adjust exposure and lighting ratio by position adjustment lamp-to-subject distance. The secret is; light follows a rule called the law of the inverse square. No need to go into detail on this subject but: Increasing lamp-to-subject distant results in a reduced amount of light on the subject. The best technique is to adjust in 1 f/stop increments. Measure lamp-to-subject distance and write down. Use the below listed multiplying or dividing factor (both yield the same answer.

The multiplying factors:

Main high to simulate afternoon sun – Fill at lens height near camera.

To decrease brightness move lamp away from subject.
1 f/stop factor multiply by 1.4 or divide by 0.7
2 f/stop factor multiply by 2 or divide by 0.5
3 f/stop factor multiply by 2.8 or divide by 0.35
4 f/stop factor multiply by 4 or divide by 0.25

To increase brightness move lamp closer to subject
1 f/stop factor divide by 1.4 or multiply by 0.7
2 f/stop factor divide by 2 or multiply by 0.5
3 f/stop factor divide by 2.8 or multiply by 0.36
4 f/stop factor divide by 4 or multiply by 0.25

1 f/stop factor multiply by 0.7 or divide by 1.4
2 f/stop factor multiply by 0.5 or divide by 2
3 f/stop factor multiply 0.35 or divide by 2.8
4 f/stop factor multiply 0.25 or divide by 4

Lighting ratio: (based on equal power Main and Fill lamps)
2:1 flat lighting Main and Fill equal distance.
3:1 “bread and butter” ratio Main 1 f/stop brighter than fill
5:2 contrastry lighting Main 2 f/stops brighter than fill
9:1 very contrastry dramatic Main 3/fstops brighter than fill

Alan Marcus


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11/18/2008 7:24:35 AM

 
Heidi E. Zimmerman   Thank you all so much for your help, I will defiantly be trying all of this tonight, hopefully something will help. Thank you again.


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11/18/2008 7:26:28 AM

 
Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/4/2005
  As already mentioned above, here are my methods:

1. Move your lights away from the subject (try different distances)

2. Try different settings on your camera (always be in "manual mode" not auto).

3. Flash synchronisation will work on most cameras up to say 250th sec. Try different shutter speeds and different apertures (and make notes as you go).

4. I have strobes myself and generally shoot at ISO 100, 250th sec at f8 (lights are about 8-10 feet from the subject).

5. Pure white white white pics may mean your lights are too close to subject... and/or aperture is too open ... and/or shutter speed is too slow .... and/or ISO is too high.

6. Vary all the above and eventually you will find the right setting for your situation. It has nothing to do with the softboxes. Most strobe lights have built-in dimmer switches. If yours do not then moving the lights away from the subject will have the same effect.


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11/18/2008 8:30:55 AM

 
Bruce A. Dart   Heidi,
All of us talked around the subject, making assumptions. Roy is right. The amount of light has nothing to do with the softboxes but with the strobes or whatever light source is behind them. THAT is where the adjustments are. The softbox, like an umbrella, is a light modifier and changes the quality of the light, not the quantity. Power, distance, and in some cases the size of the room, all impact the light on the subject. In a small room, the light bouncing off a near wall and consequently back onto the subject is what the late Peter Nicastro in his lighting course called the "unseen secondary." We often forget that the light doesn't "stop" at the subject but bounces around. It can add as much as another half an f-stop of light to your subject. In a large room, the light seems to dissipate more -- perhaps because the unseen secondary is no longer present. As with all things photographic...Test! Test! Test!! Good luck.
Bruce


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11/18/2008 9:33:01 AM

 
Robert A. Staub, Jr
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/1/2006
 
 
  headshot
headshot
© Robert A. Staub, Jr
Canon EOS 40D Digi...
 
 
Heidi,

There are a lot of great answers here. . .

I am curious. . .

1) what type of light heads are you using, brand, watt/second, etc. . .

2)how were you shooting before? What settings were you at when you shot through the umbrellas? I assume you had good results with those setting? Your soft boxes should work fine with those same settings, given that all else is the same. . .

Besides changing from umbrella to soft box, what did you change?

If I were you, I would purchase a lightmeter, instead of taking hundreds of test pictures. I have one that I use for every portrait session. The settings do not change much from sitting to sitting. . .I have the Polaris flash meter. It is inexpensive and invaluable. I connect it to my flash head using the PC sync cable that came with the head, hold it on front of my subject facing the flash head, and take a few test readings from the face, shoulders, and chest.

For example:

For children sitting posed, I set the softbox about two feet away from the subjects face at a 45degree angle from center line between the camera and subject, and above their eyes, with the front of the soft box angled down to "point" at the nose. The flash head is set at about 3/4 power, it is a 300 watt/s head.

Camera is set at 100 ISO, shutter speed at 125. The aperature usually comes back between f/11 and f/16. You must be in Manual mode.

For sitting posed adults, the softbox is a little higher and a little further back, therefore the f/stop usually is between f/8 and f/11.

If I use a secondary fill light, then I use the meter to test the light from that flash head, ensuring that it is indeed asking for a stop or two less than the main light or even, depending what effect I want for fill.

Buy a flashmeter, save some time. You have already made some investment in lights and light modifiers, a meter will be very helpful in nailing your settings. Even though I know that using the same setup I will need the same camera settings, it is a nice safety. . .and clients think it looks like I know what I am doing! Also, kids like to pop the flash and see the readings and that can be a kind of ice breaker.

here is an example of a softbox shot the way that I mentioned above.

Take it easy.


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11/18/2008 9:56:29 AM

 
Robert A. Staub, Jr
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/1/2006
  sorry the image did not upload. check out my gallery, there are examples there.


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11/18/2008 10:00:11 AM

 
Devon McCarroll
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2005
  Heidi,
Are these your first strobes? If so, are you using your camera in auto mode? With strobes, you need to use manual settings on your camera, and a flash meter to set your exposures. If your camera is in auto mode, it can't properly react to the light from the strobes. I actually just learned this looking at some Alien Bees info online, as I'm thinking of getting those.
Hope this helps!


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11/19/2008 1:27:32 PM

 
Heidi E. Zimmerman   Thanks everyone, I haven't had a chance to try it yet, still editing a ton of senior photos.

Yes, they are my first set of strobes, I have been using the umbrella's for over two years with out a problem. With my umbrella's I was shooting with Auto (I know my bad), but I had read before getting the strobes that it was best to shoot in manual so that is what I have been doing. I will just have to alter my camera a bit to get it to work properly.

I thank you all again so much and I will be trying everything this weekend.


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11/19/2008 2:46:25 PM

 
Heidi E. Zimmerman   Thanks everyone, I haven't had a chance to try it yet, still editing a ton of senior photos.

Yes, they are my first set of strobes, I have been using the umbrella's for over two years with out a problem. With my umbrella's I was shooting with Auto (I know my bad), but I had read before getting the strobes that it was best to shoot in manual so that is what I have been doing. I will just have to alter my camera a bit to get it to work properly.

I thank you all again so much and I will be trying everything this weekend.


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11/19/2008 2:49:10 PM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Heidi,
I always leave my light heads loose on the light stands (in other words I do not tighten them to the stands).
Why. So as I am shooting I can move from full light to the Dramatic by just reaching over and turning the head around and away from the subject.
for a soft look, I often bounce off the white studio wall as well.
I always teach that when in your studio to use these alturnitive ways instead of resetting your lights.
Over the years it has just proven quicker and just as effective.
I hope this helps,
Debby


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11/20/2008 6:26:23 AM

 
Bruce A. Dart   Heidi and Debby,
I understand the logic of turning the lights, in fact I watched a seminar with Scott Tallyn where he very effectively changed the lighting ratios for different looks -- and for effect he did it with polaroid film as fast as you could expose the pack and pull it out. Obviously, with digital we aren't doing that any more but the point was how easily you could make different looking images. Keeping the lights "loose" on the stands, to me, is a SCARY thought. I would have visions of lights crashing over!! Unless you are photographing a huge number of subjects, there really is no need to do that. I have had friends who, in the process of photographing about 1,000 high school seniors during the summer, only spent 6 minutes with each subject and didn't have time to move the lights around a lot. I often photograph 3-5 student per day on a busy day but have never had a problem in just turning my lights.
Bruce


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11/20/2008 3:12:36 PM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Bruce,
this is just how I teach as I teach on a VERY large scale with never a problem loosing a light head so far.(knock on wood)
and yes I do shoot fast and many per day.
I had a team of four the last 2 1/2 days with one camera and a 3 light kit and 2 sales stations; and we shot 68 @ 5,748.88 with 12 shots for each family 9:00am to as late as 11:30pm.
being loose has never had anything to do with falling over.?
just that the light head turns with a mere touch of the hand.
I answer these questions as"just how I teach and shoot" myself,never as the "only way" to do things.
Thank you,
Debby


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11/20/2008 4:26:25 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  IMO, you guys are all spinning off into the cosmic here. First, Heidi never addressed the question asked initially, about WHAT kind of lights she actually has, i.e., hot lights or strobes.

Second, Heidi seems confused in that her second question refers to not having any control over the softboxes. as if they're an integral part of the light head itself, which would be pretty unusual.

The third thing that concerns me a bit, is suggesting that people shoot without tightening down their lampheads. I really disagree with that one not just for safety reasons but others as well.

For example, most of the people here shoot in confined spaces. Turning a lamphead, hot or strobe, without turning it off runs the chance of having whatever walls you've got reflect back into the scene. Aside from shadows, that poses a new set of color shifting problems depending on the wall colors.

Turning off the lamphead (or turning the lamp head on with or without a ratio established, is the solution and helps you control your lighting. Twisting a lamphead out of the way doesn't solve much. Packs and monolights have a way to "feather" them or turn them off, turn off their slaves, etc., while keeping them facing the scene. While it may be faster to swivel the lamphead out of the way, how long will it take you to reset that same head if you want it back on?

Also the object in photography is to carefully control the lighting not just swat it out of the way. Control to me is using on off switches, dimmers, rheotstats, and devices meant for that purpose rather than leaving a lamp head and modifier blowing in the breeze. Besides, when someone opens a door to the studio on a breezy day and that lamphead blows back to position 1 or toward the camera lens and you don't notice, the next shot gets toasted. IMO Locking down the clamp eliminates variables I already mentioned and helps reduce the cause and effect by people roaming around the set twisting and turning and bumping into stands, tripping over power cables, ad infinitim.
Latah
M.


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11/20/2008 4:54:21 PM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Oh Mark,
You have to consider some things work for others that may not work for you.
I have been shooting 31 years in studio and this has worked very well for me.
We've butted heads before and I stand by your right to your opinion, but I Will stand by mine as well!
I don't feel we got off the subject,Bruce just commented on /why I did that.
My experiance and work speaks for itself.
And this IS a practise I use everyday 6 days a week.Ad teach!
Thank you,
Debby


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11/20/2008 6:26:25 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Thanks for reminding me of, and enunciating, my First Amendment rights Deb, but my comments weren't directed toward you specifically. I think perhaps you're a tad overly sensitive and overwound after being on the road?
Relax will ya? If I direct a comment toward you specifically, you'll know. Honest ;>).
Mark


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11/20/2008 8:25:54 PM

 
Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/4/2005
  I agree with Mark on all his points - they are all valid comments.

If your way suits you, then fine. To me personally, the thought of having loose flash heads makes me shudder. I like them firm enough to hold, no potential sway, and minimal muscle to move them is no big deal.

I assume you will re-set your camera with any movement of the lights (manual mode on camera ... or are you using auto?) Are your lights hot or strobes? Colour of walls/ceiling? How far walls from subject, etc etc etc.

Teaching tricks-of-the-trade is good, but should not be taught before first learning the basics. That would open up a huge can of worms for future students.

And relax a bit... being a teacher does not instantly qualify anybody as being 100% correct every time. I've known teachers of 15 years or more making howlers! I am not saying you are - but keep an open mind which is the first criteria of being a good teacher... and never stop learning.


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11/20/2008 9:40:06 PM

 
Heidi E. Zimmerman   Thanks everyone, I have said a few times, I have brand new soft boxes. I have been using shoot through umbrella's for two years without a problem. I am soaking all of your wisdom in and I will be trying everything right away this weekend. I will keep everyone posted with what worked for me and with what didn't and then the outcome as well. I do appreciate all of your answers.


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11/21/2008 4:38:26 AM

 
Bruce A. Dart   Hi all,
I am constantly amazed at how every photographer has their own way of doing things -- some radically different -- and arriving at nearly the same place. If Debby can get by with having her lights loose on a stand, go for it. But I agree with Mark, advising someone just starting out to do that is, in my opinion, not responsible teaching. In school (many moons ago) I was an athlete and I'm fairly coordinated, but when I am working in the studio I tend to concentrate on my subject and what I'm doing and not necessarily on where I'm going. Consequently, I get tangled up in some things in a small studio. Keeping cords up out of the way is a whole 'nother discussion but I found a really good way to do that as well (thanks to an innovative friend who shared his ideas) While we are talking about credentials here, let me just say that I have been in professional studio photography for 32 years. I teach photography classes at our local university and have done that for at least a couple of decades. I also earned my Photographic Craftsman Degree from the Professional Photographers of America by teaching other professional photographers about posing and lighting for high school seniors, teaching throughout Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. teaching in front of people who know more than you is also a humbling and educational experience. (For my second of 14 programs, the BEST portrait photographer in the U.S. was sitting in the front row!! Duane Suaro had had THE highest scoring prints in the PPA national competition from thousands of prints entered, THREE YEARS IN A ROW.) But back to the question at hand...if Heidi has been shooting THROUGH umbrellas, instead of using them in a more traditional manner, then the light she is used to is, in a manner of speaking, a softbox type of light. A couple of decades ago, Hubert Gentry taught shooting through a white umbrella to get a soft look before softboxes were so popular. Now they have black umbrellas with translucent, shoot through material as well. I am amazed that Heidi has been using this type of light for two years, with a camera set on automatic, and is only now having a problem!! To me, learning lighting with an umbrella or soft box is NOT the way to FIRST LEARN. If is more difficult to see the lighting patterns being created and to truly see whether the light is being used effectively. On the other hand, the soft light with very few shadows will "hide the flaws" to a degree, of light that isn't exactly where it should be. I spent 50 hours in my first Basic Lighting course, working with primarily just a Main light, before we were "allowed" to introduce a Fill light, Hair light, and Background light. Later I studied with a man recently honored by PPA for a lifetime of achievement in teaching photography, Frank Cricchio. Frank used 9 lights in his studio for a one person portrait!! Like many others, my studio is so small I couldn't use that many lights. (Once in a while for more complicated lighting I get up to 5 though. LOL) While you may not learn the lighting of faces as quickly, the softer light will "hide" any mistakes better until you learn. If anyone cares, while I do not have a BP gallery I DO have a web site with lots of galleries at www.photosbydart.com Have a great day everyone. Keep shooting.
Bruce


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11/21/2008 5:54:32 AM

 
Heidi E. Zimmerman   Thanks Bruce so much. With my soft boxes,there is a strobe, with my slave, I don't have a problem using them without the slave on, but one the trigger for the strobe is activated, that is when I get all white. If I don't have it on, just using the soft boxes themselves, I am perfectly fine and my photos are great, it is just having that extra burst of light is what I believe is throwing me off.


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11/21/2008 6:06:58 AM

 
Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/4/2005
  From what you have just said above it sounds like you are using the "model light" to take your pics ... and when the trigger fires the flash you get pure white... totally overexposed. Is this a correct assumption on my part?

If you are using the "model light only" then I also assume you are using slow shutter speeds and wide open apertures (hence this will give you pure white pics if shooting in auto).

Please tell us more on about your camera settings (f number, shutter speed and distance your lights are from the subject, and strength of your lights). Also... are you using 2 softboxes, or one plus a fill light?


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11/21/2008 6:28:53 AM

 
Bruce A. Dart   Hi Heidi,
Been there, done that so to speak. With your camera set to automatic, what I think you are doing, is effectively using the modeling lights to record your image and not the strobes. I made the first portrait I ever did in the studio that way until I learned how to use multiple flash. The flash, once activated, takes over all other aspects of recording an image (well almost all). there are so many exceptions in photography that speakers on the lecture circuit often joke that "always" and "never" mean 80% of the time!! The slave unit triggers the strobe and gives the output you have the strobe set for. Your camera on automatic cannot compensate for that in the short duration of the flash firing. Consequently, you have to set your camera on manual and "read" the light from your strobe -- either with a flash meter or by testing with your digital camera and looking at the histogram. By setting your strobes at one F stop difference in power, you essentially set up a pleasing portrait lighting ratio. (Start there and change it as you learn more about lighting.) A "basic" set up, if you will, for portrait lighting is a "main" light to create shape and form, and a "fill" light to provide overall illumination. Your Fill light (and it can be a reflector as well) softens the shadows and provides overall illumination. It should be essentially shadowless and directionless. That is, you are not creating any lighting pattern with it. From there, additional accent lights can be added for "hair" and "background," and sometimes a "rim-light." You have to watch the physics here. (I flunked it in high school but have to deal with it everyday. LOL) The falloff of light varies in an inverse square proportion, meaning in a short distance it can be twice as much or half as much. Keeping the relationship to F stops makes it easier to understand and use. One stop or half as much light, takes it from the "main" category to an accent, if you will. Since the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflectance (more physics) the accent lights -- because of the angle -- can appear brighter than a light of equal intensity facing the subject. Translation: you have to be careful with accents or you can easily get unflattering light when you don't want it. Add to this the light in a small studio going past your subject, bouncing off a near wall, and bouncing extra light back onto your subject --often as much as an additional half a stop!! This is called the unseen secondary, by the way. If your wall is a different color, you can also quickly get a very unwanted color cast bounced back into your image. Back to your problem. Turn on one light, aim it at a test subject (anything! It is best not to "practice" with your real subject until you are ready.) With the camera set on manual test until you get an nicely exposed image at whatever F stop you want to work with. (See Alan's info). Then set your second light back further at 1 F stop less power. That should get you in the ballpark. Season to taste from there. But you cannot use auto modes on the camera and get the best use from your strobe. Once you master this part, the rest comes with practice and experience. Best wishes.
Bruce


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11/21/2008 6:51:27 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  You know gang, I'm feeling like someone is pulling our collective legs, like Heidi. Seems to me that every lamphead I've ever seen has a manufacturer name on it. Heidi can't even seem to tell us who made the lights she's using let alone what model they are. This not only appears to be operator error, but "operator lack of identification".

Since when have any of us been able to help someone with this kind of a problem without first knowing WHAT kind of lights they're using as we asked early on and never got an answer to? Some 23 responses later, Heidi appears to have strobes.

Maybe she needs to help solve her own problems by locating a manual or instruction sheet and sharing some of that here??? Otherwise, despite the info she's getting here, we're all kind of, well, in the dark and guessing. OTOH, maybe the solution lies in disconnecting and turning off all but one light, hook that one up and test the results. If she still has a problem, we all need to look elsewhere for the solution. Whaddya think?
M.


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11/21/2008 9:36:31 AM

 
Alan N. Marcus   A tip of the hat to Bruce!

By the way, I also have a Photographic Craftsman Degree from the PPA, earned credits from the lecturer circuit and teaching at Winona.

Bruce is spot on when he talks about 3:1 portrait lighting. This is often called the “bread and butter” ratio because it sells best.

A sidebar: Whatever technique works for you is best. One of the keys is to use a technique you can repeat again and again with accuracy and procession. That way you are prepared when you must change venue and work in someone else’s playpen.

Set the main high to simulate afternoon sun. Placement is a variable based on facial features. Beginners should stick to 45° placement. Low placement make the subject appear weird. Low placement is Hollywood’s trick way to generate a monster like Frankenstein or Dracula.

Set the fill at camera height close to an imaginary line drawn camera-to-subject. This is the best fill placement position as we use the fill to soften shadows cast by other lights. In other words, we fill from the cameras prospective.

The fill is set subordinate to the main. The idea is to create and illusion of just one light source. Most agree a portrait that appear to be illuminated by multiple light sources looks weird. The ideal ratio, based on the dynamic range of film and digital sensors is achieved if the fill is set to ˝ power measured at the subject plane, as compared to the intensity of the main. This sets up the 3:1 ratio.

If a light meter is used to ascertain the camera setting (aperture), take the reading with the main lamp off. The reading is taken using reflected meter aimed at the forehead or cheek of subject. Stated another way, the fill is solely used to establish exposure (true only for 3:1 skin tone reading). Assuming the main has been previously placed and adjusted, turn it on and take the picture. Do not re-measure the light.

Why this exposure method works: Meters are calibrated for 18% middle gray (battleship gray). If the reading is taken from a gray card the, the exposure will likely be correct. In this case we meter with both main and fill in service. If the reading is taken from the subject’s skin, the exposure will likely result in the skin tone being rendered too dark (for most folks taste). As a point of fact, it will be rendered too dark by 1 f/stop. Nobody wants an 18% facial tone.

The countermeasure is to take the reading with main off. When turned back on it adds 1f/stop more light, the result is a skin tone rendered a pleasing more natural shade. For the Ansel Adams fans, this method places the skin tone at zone 6 exactly as he recommends in his books.

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


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11/21/2008 9:38:43 AM

 
Robert A. Staub, Jr
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/1/2006
  Well, whether Heidi is pulling our legs or not. . .I thank her. I just started out using studio lights a few months ago, and have gotten some good results(at least the clients think so) using one light. This whole thread has reinforced everything that I have read on lighting, and then some.

Thanks!

P.S. I compete with Life Touch, the "walmart" of school portraits. Any suggestions on how to compete with them ?


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11/21/2008 1:44:11 PM

 
Bruce A. Dart   Robert,
We all learn from one another, regardless of what level we are at the time. there is so much information that we often tend to take things fro granted and occasionally need to be reminded about things we should know!! As to competing with Life Touch, don't try to compete with price. The big outfits can underbid, lose money and come back another year and make it up where most of us don't have deep enough pockets to handle that. You compete with delivering a better product and better service. You keep doing what you are doing to the best of your ability. While it is difficult to swallow, some jobs you are better off NOT having. You have to look for another way to make up the difference in your business volume if you don't get a job like that. Eventually it comes around. When I first heard this advice, it was painful and not the answer I wanted to hear but it's true! Best wishes.
Bruce


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11/22/2008 5:00:18 AM

 
Robert A. Staub, Jr
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/1/2006
  I don't mean to hijack the thread. . .just a quick response to Bruce. . .

thanks for the advice, it is not hard to swallow. . .I just faced the same situation with a Bride and competing against The Pros. . .another national machine that is pricing in the same way as life touch. . .in that case I was able to meet their price, and offer a better product, local personalized service, etc. .

I know I cannot compete with their "army" of shooters on school picture day. The only way to get that type of business is to go to smaller individual schools (like privates), I guess. . .one last question on that. . .when do schools start to think about booking photographers for school pictures?

thanks


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11/22/2008 5:39:07 AM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Robert,
The big thing concerning school is getting them to drop the contract they have at the time,they have to be convinced! So presentation is everything!
Usually they have the next year,(if there are going to be changes)all tied up by April-May of the year before.
and now a days they may have pictures taken once or twice.
The easiest way to get your foot in the door, is to try to do fund rasier dances ect. for the Cheer ,football ect.
this will get yoru product known and your acceptance at the school.
I hope this helps,
Debby


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11/22/2008 7:10:15 AM

 
Bruce A. Dart   Hi all,
Not about lights but business in general. While it is easy to be miffed when you lose a job you feel you should have, it is important to maintain a professional attitude. I have lost a wedding job only to (much later) get business back like family portraits, high school seniors, etc. from the same family. Hang in there and ALWAYS strive to do your best. As good as I think I am sometimes, I always think that the job I do next will be better than the one today. It's a good goal.
Bruce


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11/22/2008 10:07:10 AM

 
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