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Photography QnA: Photography Studio Techniques

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Category: All About Photography : Traditional Film Photography : Photography Studio Techniques

Have questions concerning lighting photography studio technique? All of your studio technique questions can be answered here. For private instruction, take a look at Vik Orenstein's Studio Portrait Lighting online photography course.

Page 1 : 1 -10 of 13 questions

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Photography Question 
Diana Quicksilver

member since: 4/1/2006
  1 .  Online Auction Photos - Lighting
Hello - I'm an experienced Ebay seller, and I usually use natural light for my product (small, table-top) digital photos, but I'm having a hard time wrangling enough light during rainy/cloudy periods (when everything gets dark and blue-ish). I've found a wealth of info on lighting, but no one seems to specify what TYPE of lights will give the best results. I've experimented with household lamps & halogen... but everything I've used provides a very yellow cast. I need advice on brands and wattage and specifics from any who may offer help. Thank you!!

4/1/2006 6:25:49 AM

Brendan Knell
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/17/2005
  If everything is yellowish, try adjusting your white balance. That should help.

4/1/2006 8:34:12 AM

John G. Clifford Jr
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/18/2005
  I've sold hundreds of items on online auctions, and use a simple Nikon 885 3 MP digicam. When there isn't enough light, I use the camera's built-in flash. I photograph the item on a white background (white cardboard, or for bigger items, a folded-over white sheet) from above (usually standing on a chair!), and zoom in to get it tightly framed. If the object is reflective, I'll deliberately move slightly to one side so that I am at an angle, and I never get bothersome reflections.
Hope this helps....

4/1/2006 11:28:49 PM

Steve Parrott
LightAnon.com

member since: 9/4/2004
  It sounds like you need the "Studio In A Box". It is a great item made for taking photos of small items. It is enclosed on all sides but one, with translucent panels. Included are two high power lamps to light the interior. It gives beautiful, even light with a blue or gray background. Costs about $100 and well worth it if you shoot many small items.

4/4/2006 7:41:05 AM

Diana Quicksilver

member since: 4/1/2006
  I TRULY appreciate the all of the suggestions/responses, but I'm looking for specific advice on what type of lighting to use (other than normal household lamps) that will work for a tabletop shooting environment. I shoot a wide range of items from tiny (I've heard about the studio-in-a-box but it's only suitable for the very smallest items)to the size of stereo tuners, big pots & pans, etc. Thanks again all ye photo experts :))

4/4/2006 7:46:49 AM

Steve Parrott
LightAnon.com

member since: 9/4/2004
  Seems you are approaching the problem from the wrong direction. Any light that is strong enough to light the subject is fine. I would use some type of diffuser in front of the light(s) to soften shadows. As a previous poster stated, your problem is the white balance setting in your camera. No matter what kind of lights you have, you will have color casts if your white balance does not match the light output. Keeping the white balance in AUTO will give poor results. You may have to experiment with setting temps yourself in the camera until you arrive at correct color of your subject as taken with your light source. There is no magic type of light that will give you perfect results if the camera white balance setting is not correct.

4/4/2006 8:02:37 AM

Raghav Sahni

member since: 1/27/2006
  Dear Diana Q.
every light has got different temperature and if u use the household lamps or halogen so there temp is about 3400 to 3700 degree celcius this might be the reason for giving u the yellow cast for that u can use the different type of fillters in front of the lens witch can reduce your yellow cast use (80A or 80B fillter for coloured photography)Hope this helps....

4/6/2006 11:00:54 AM

Steve E. Beust

member since: 11/17/2003
  Go to the hardware store and get a simple aluminum light bulb reflector with a clamp. I think they are around 10.00. Then go to a photo shop and tell them you want a color corrected lightbulb for indoor photography. They will certainly know what you need. I think they are also reasonably priced. This should take care of your needs. Hope this helps.

4/11/2006 10:00:56 AM

Diana Quicksilver

member since: 4/1/2006
  Just want to say THANKS to all who helped me solve this! I found the "white balance" on my Sony Digital (thanks Steve P. for pressing the point when I wasn't seeing the forest for the trees)AND am off to buy an aluminum reflector and color correct bulb (thanks Steve B.). I truly appreciate the input from those who actually know what they're doing :))

4/12/2006 6:22:55 AM

Jim Manganella
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/8/2005
  With a decent camera a 20 watt halogen desk lamp will do the job. It's a clean, soft, white light. I've used this for 6 years on eBay auctions. (swrgco)

4/17/2006 1:42:35 PM

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Photography Question 
Audrea Telkamp
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/6/2004
  2 .  10'x20' Backdrop Storage Ideas
I was wondering if anyone has found a way to successfully store a 10x20 hand-painted muslin backdrop in a way to minimize wrinkles. I have even tried rolling mine on a 10'x2" section of PVC but still get wrinkles. Perhaps someone has a neat tip for rolling it up? I have used a wider aperture to minimize their appearance but it would be nice to not have them in the first place. Thanks in advance!

10/26/2005 8:02:22 PM

Liza M. Franco
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/26/2004
  What about trying to roll it around the cardboard tube that is inside rolls of carpet? The carpet store next to our shop just throws them away. It would be larger diameter and may cause less wrinkling.

10/26/2005 9:44:03 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  They also make PVC pipe in a larger diameter than 2 inches.

10/26/2005 10:10:24 PM

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Photography Question 
Barefoot Photography by Tina Doane
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/3/2005
  3 .  Studio Lighting Problem
I am not sure how to word this and have it make sense, but here it goes: I want to shoot my portraits at f/5.6 or f/8. But when I set up my lights for that, anything under f/11 is too bright. I have been shooting at f/11, and the lights are set to f/11 (main) and f/16 fill, but I want the backdrop to blur a little. I know I'm doing something wrong, but cant figure it out. Any suggestions?

6/6/2005 1:55:44 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  The fill shouldn't be brighter by itself than your main, assuming that's what you did. If you want f/5.6, then if there's any crossover with two lights, the main should be f/4-f/4.5 with the fill at f/2.8-f/3.5 - and the result would be f/5.6.
You ought to try one light at f/5.6 and a reflector for fill, instead of another light. See how that looks to you, as a way of starting out. Then if you still want two lights, you have to take in account that depending on the angle, some fill ends up lighting the same areas as your main.

6/6/2005 2:14:23 PM

Jeff Scheerer
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/1/2005
  another method you can try is a neutral density filter to ajust the amount of light your camera recieves. or you can try just putting gels over light that should also cut it by a couple stops and give you more creative control

6/6/2005 5:04:19 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  Gregory is definitely pushing you in the right direction . . . to turn down the lights . . . and the numbers he gave for main and fill look good too!

[Gregory, you've obviously worked with lights some.]

I assume you're using strobes or monolights and that you're able to adjust their power level [???].

Do you have a flash meter? If not, I encourage you to get one. I consider it an essential tool when working with studio strobes/monolights. You don't really need one of the computerized digital readout wonder-meters (which can be quite expensive). For most studio work, a basic flash meter is more than sufficient and a used analog one in excellent condition such as a Gossen Luna Pro F (F = flash meter) won't break the bank.

-- John Lind

6/6/2005 9:58:29 PM

William Koplitz

member since: 2/28/2004
  Inverse square law, just move your lights back.

6/7/2005 11:28:24 AM

Norbert Maile

member since: 7/28/2004
  Just curious, what are you using for lights? If hot lights, what are the wattages and positioning of the lights? Norbert

6/7/2005 9:23:02 PM

Gena A. Tussey
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/26/2005
  I shot at F5.6 for fill, main at F11, shoot at F11 and hair light at F8-8.5. This is the "normal" setting for most studio as in Olan Mills and such. Not to say this is the only way, but I have a nice soft blur up-close and a nice b/g that helps. Also, consider trying an old favorite...take a uv lens and some vasoline or hairgel. Put a rummage sale round sticker in the middle and run very lightly the "gel" over the area not covered by sticker. A careful hand makes a beautiful thing. Then store in a filter container. If you do this you can have a nice illusion with little cost and still shoot with what F stop you are getting. There are really some fun tricks for illusions if you want to know....tenwalker@bellsouth.net
But lighting is always best used in layers and different depths to add and take away. Gregory, is 'da man!!!

6/8/2005 4:37:12 AM

Barefoot Photography by Tina Doane
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/3/2005
  The are 750 watts. I have an umbrella postioned by the camera, I have a soft box off to the right. I have a sekonic 358 flash meter. If I was going to use just one light and a reflector would you suggest an umbrella or a soft box?

6/8/2005 7:00:50 AM

William Koplitz

member since: 2/28/2004
  This depends on what you want the highlight or hot spot in the eye to look like. Soft boxes give you a square or rectangle, umbrella's give you, well, it's kind of weird but looks like the inside of an umbrella. Some photographers build their on lights so they can control the hot spot in the eye. Others don't use artificial lighting but rely on natural lighting and white cards. Many Hollywood types of photographs are shot with 3 axis lighting and a white card positioned right under the chin to bring more light into the eyes - you have to be able to see the color. Photography is a reflection of personal taste, or the desires of your client - there are just no right or wrong answers. The best way to learn is to find an image you really like and try to duplicate it technically.

6/8/2005 8:30:16 AM

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Photography Question 
Jeff Scheerer
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/1/2005
  4 .  Digital Strobe Lighting
I read somewhere a long time ago that if I plug my 1600-volt monolight into a digital camera it will screw up the camera. Is this true?

6/2/2005 10:50:21 PM


BetterPhoto Member
  Jeff,
The reports are coming in that you can fry your camera if you plug the sync cord directly into the camera. You should get a Safe Sync or equivalent.
Charlie

6/2/2005 10:52:20 PM

Jeff Scheerer
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/1/2005
  what is a safe sync? like a jackrabbit

6/2/2005 10:55:10 PM

David King

member since: 9/12/2004
  Jeff, in the "old days" of manual cameras until you put in enough pwer to electrocute yourself or weld the camera parts it really didn't matter. but now with increasingly sensitive electronics in the cameras it is becoming a serious issue. Different strobe use various voltages in their trigger circuits. It has nothing to do with battery size or watt-seconds; it is a function of the capacitor and internal voltage regulation.

Cameras with electronic brains have limited capacity to handle this incoming voltage. Canon is clear that one should not use a trigger voltage higher than 6 volts. So does Olympus. Nikon swears they can handle lots but all of the strobes on their approved list have trigger voltages of 12 volts or less. Hmmmm...

The Safe synch Charlie mentioned is a PC adapter with a buffering voltage regulator in it that will take trigger voltages up to about 400 volts and output only 6 volts or less. THey are good insurance policies costing around $60.00. Other options are radio slaves and even using your pop-up flash to fire the slave unit in the main powerpack or monolight.

David
www.ndavidking.com

6/7/2005 1:38:37 PM

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Photography Question 
Guy S.

member since: 1/14/2005
  5 .  Monolight with Built-in Pocket Wizard?
What would be a good set monolight set that come equipped with built in "pocket wizard"? I'm just starting out a small studio, looking for some advice to get 2-3 monolight set with around 400-600 ws. Thanks in advance.

1/14/2005 7:19:47 PM

  Guy,
I don't know that any lights that have built-in Pocket Wizards as they are a brand of radio remotes. Paul C Buff Corp. makes White Lightning and Alien Bees monolights. I have lots of WLs, and my students have those and ABs ... and I hear nothing but praise for the lights. Pocket Wizard is one brand of radio remote, and Radio Slave by Quantum is another. Both have good reputations.

1/16/2005 6:26:18 PM

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Photography Question 
Crystal Williams

member since: 7/8/2004
  6 .  Light Rings
What type of photography are light rings used for, and what effect do they give?

1/14/2005 7:10:29 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  The regular light rings are used a lot for macro. It gives even lighting for something that's only a few inches away. The stronger ones turn up in fashion ads. They also evenly light the person, with a faint even shadow that outlines them, instead of a shadow that has a direction to one side. They also flatten the person into the background. It smoothes textures and facial features. Even more if it's diffused. It's an easily recognizable look.

1/14/2005 8:59:15 PM

Crystal Williams

member since: 7/8/2004
  Thank you, Gregory. Your picture of the green tomatoes, did you use a light ring for that?

1/15/2005 7:13:47 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  A flash light.

1/15/2005 12:33:08 PM

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Photography Question 
Sarah 

member since: 3/29/2004
  7 .  Studio Portraits - Film, Lab
I have been practicing with studio lighting in my home, and I am going to be taking pictures of a friend's child for his yearbook pictures. I am curious as to what type of film would be best for this situation. I usually use Kodak Max 400. Also, does anyone know of a professional photo lab in Macomb County, MI.? I don't know where to take my pictures to get them developed with a professional look. Thanks

4/12/2004 11:08:26 AM

Raquel S.
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/22/2003
  I tend to favor Kodak Portra professional brand films for portrait work. Portra produces great skin tones that puts the "wow!" in portrait photos. As for processing, I don't know the area. However, if you have a local Ritz superstore you may want to check them out. I loved the one I went to in South Florida - great professional-looking prints at favorable prices. Otherwise, check out your local business phone book for photo labs in your area. Good luck in your search.

4/12/2004 5:11:25 PM

Kristi Seanor

member since: 1/19/2004
  I've used Illford Delta 400 sp film (black and white) on a 1-year-old and loved the results. I used a black backdrop. My setup included a Canon Eos Rebel G, 75-300 IS, and 550 EX speedlite. Good luck.

4/14/2004 5:59:47 PM

BOB CAYLOR
BetterPhoto Member
decade6studio.com

member since: 10/25/2003
  HAVE YOU TRIED NORTH AMERICAN PHOTO IN LIVONIA, MICHGAN? THEIR NUMBER IS 1-800-654-6544 OR THEIR WEBSITE IS WWW.NAPPHOTO.COM. PRICEY BUT EXCELLENT QUALITY

4/20/2004 7:20:40 AM

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Photography Question 
Vamshi P. Haran

member since: 10/21/2003
  8 .  Slide Film in the Studio
I am going to shoot a model for my project. I have planned to shoot her with Fuji Provia reversal film. This is the first time I am taking photos with reversal film. So what are the techiniqes I can use with reversal film in the studio? What are the limitations? And another question: I want to do cross-processing ... What are the steps I have to do for that?

4/1/2004 12:10:42 AM


BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/28/2003
  Hello, Vamshi. If you want to cross-process, you have to cross-process the entire roll. Here's how I do it: Let's say I have Provia 100. I will manually set my camera's ISO at 50. I will shoot as I would normally. When I take the film to the lab, I tell them the settings I used (shot at 50), and then I ask them to process in C-41 chemistry. You will get great results. The colors turn out very saturated. It's a great way get a different look. I have some stuff like that, and people really like it a lot.

4/1/2004 1:00:32 PM

Sreedevi  Kashi

member since: 6/10/2003
  You might also want to use a blue filter over the lens. Provia, I believe, is balanced for daylight, and the studio hot lights need tungsten-balanced film. If you're using strobes, this doesn't matter. Cross-processing, of course, messes a bit with color, but that's obviously the look you're going for ... you just don't want to have to deal with the orange hues on top of it.

4/6/2004 4:22:37 AM

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Photography Question 
Mare Board

member since: 4/22/2002
  9 .  How to Use Studio Lighting/ What Film to Use?
My husband is in a band and they are wanting me to do some "band" shots for their promo package. Our local camera store has a small studio for rent with lights and backdrops that I will be using. I am familiar with studio lighting but have never personally worked with this type equipment before. Looking for tips on the best way to set up this shot with 4 people.
1. What is the best type of 35mm film to use for indoor work of this nature, both color and B&W.
2. Backdrop color: Tips on choosing the backdrop color
3. Any do's or don'ts for this type setup for a user with no indoor lighting experience, basic camera settings (Nikon N2000), distance from subject, etc... is much appreciated.

Thanks!

7/17/2003 7:29:53 AM

Mare Board

member since: 4/22/2002
  As a follow up... obviously, I know that I need a Light meter reading but was just looking for what is typical for this type set up.

7/17/2003 7:32:22 AM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  Mare,
Ooooh . . . studio lighting can fill entire textbooks!

How powerful are the lights? They should have a rating in Watt-Seconds (or Joules, a Watt-Second is a Joule); this is the energy stored by the flash that is dumped to the flash tube. Lights aren't measured by guide numbers; there are too many variables in how light is modified and controlled to make it very meaningful. Reason I ask is this will determine how close or how far to set up the lights. Hopefully, they're about 500 Joule lights, which is a decent power level for on-location work (at least for me).

Wow, if you've never done this before, then one of the more failsafe lighting methods for groupings uses two lights with reflective umbrellas. Each light is placed to your left and right. With 500 Joule lights, I put them about 15 - 18 feet from where the subjects will be, and about 9 - 12 feet to the left and right of where I'd be standing if shooting straight at the center of the grouping. Lights should be elevated to about 8 feet with umbrellas (the light itself). If the grouping is elevated more than about 6 inches (on a dias or stage) then you may have to elevate the lights a bit further. Aim them so that the center of the light reflected from the umbrella hits about waist high slightly left and right of center on the grouping. It is usually difficult to determine this using just the modeling lights; use the umbrella rod as a guide (by looking at the lights from the subject location). Set both at the same power level. Meter and move them as necessary, or change the power level setting. Allow yourself some setup time to work with this. Subject position should be a few feet in front of the background. Watch for unwanted shadows and move forward (or background back) as appropriate; umbrellas should mitigate this.

I try to shoot smaller groupings at f/5.6 using Kodak Portra 160NC. Since this is a band, you may consider a film with a little more contrast and saturation (without being over the top) such as Portra 160VC. However, this presumes that color negative can be used versus a chrome film. For B&W, Plus-X Pan (ISO 125), TMax 100, or one of the Ilford ISO 100 or ISO 125 films should work.

7/18/2003 4:55:59 AM

Maynard  McKillen

member since: 3/5/2003
  Dear Mare:
One approach to promo photos of a band is to have the members stand rather close together, some perhaps sitting on stools, and each holds a prop that suggests which instrument they play. The bass and guitar players may rest the body of their instruments on a low stool and hold/lean on the neck/head, or just wear them, the keyboard player may do something similar with an electronic keyboard, the drummer crosses his/her arms and holds a pair of drumsticks in one hand, and the singer may do something similar with a mic, the hurdy-gurdy player leaves his instrument at home...you get the idea. Compose the photos as head-to-waist (Those low stools that raise up the guitars and keyboard are then out of sight.), and raise some members on posing blocks if necessary. The photo emphasizes the members and minimizes background.
As to background color, you may be dealing with quite an array of color in clothing and hair, so why not use several different backgrounds?
If you do select any darker backgrounds, you might consider placing a hairlight behind the backdrop, up high and pointing down at the backs of their heads. This will rimlight their heads and shoulders, give a shine to their hair (or heads, come to think of it), and prevent the hair from blending in with darker backgrounds.
If you had color gels available to put over some flash heads, you could put some lights down low behind the members, point these up at the backdrop, and add more color to a backdrop. If these backdrop lights are stronger than the lights illuminating the members, you might get rich color on the backdrop.
But maybe some of these lighting ideas are best reserved for the NEXT time you photograph the band. With John's lighting suggestions and my posing ideas, you'll have your hands full!

7/18/2003 7:14:09 AM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  I agree with Maynard that the posing should minimize background content and maximize subject content. Be creative with this aspect of it and have some fun with them. They may come up with some ideas of their own. Watch depth of field with the grouping. f/5.6 shouldn't get you into too much trouble as long as you're not trying to stack the entire band in one behind another; staggered a little should be OK if you watch to keep someone from becoming shadowed by another (unless you want that). If in doubt because of greater grouping depth, stop down to f/8 and adjust/move lights.

I also agree with Maynard's last paragraph . . . keep the lighting relatively simple this time around and use the creativity with the posing. I've seen very complex diagrams of studio setups for special portrait groupings involving softboxes, scrims, reflectors, snoots, additional hair and kicker lights, etc. Doing that requires knowledge and especially experience with the effects various special lighting techniques will create in the photographs. Those are things to gradaully work on understanding and experimenting with if you keep working with studio lighting. A complex lighting setup is not something that one should try for work that will be used by the subjects the first time out though.

7/18/2003 10:53:48 AM

Sreedevi  Kashi

member since: 6/10/2003
  Another tip- if you're really picky about color and you're not using color gels on the band, you'll probably want to find out what the color temperature is of the studio's lights. Most probably they are 3200K which is standard for studio lighting- it's a warmer tone than sunlight, and normal films are balanced for sunlight, so you might want to try a tungsten film. For negative film the Kodak 100T is alright, but I prefer Kodak's Chrome 64T.

I shoot bands a lot too- keeping the band members close together but very staggered in depth can be really intersting- you'll want an aperture setting of 5.6 or 8 if using standard 50mm lens on 35mm camera. I like using some odd piece of furniture that won't argue with the band members vividness- it adds more dimensions if one of them is on it, or if all of them are staggered around it. But what really works is to move yourself around and change the position from where you're seeing the band. You could stand on a ladder, get down on the ground, try it from every angle possible and you might get some interesting shots out of it.

7/23/2003 1:59:12 AM

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Photography Question 
Duncan J. McFarlane

member since: 10/8/2002
  10 .  Object photography
Hi all,
This is my first time and may be a dumb question, but here goes.
I am doing a photography job, which is photographing objects to put into a catalogue. Although I am not using a studio for this I am using a Cobra flash, which is giving me sufficient amount of lighting, however, I am finding that the pictures of the objects are out of focus. I am using a 50mm lens set at f5.6, which is what the flash was indicating I should set it on. Should I set the camera to f22 to improve my focus and adjust the flash level accordingly?
Or should I change the lens altogether? I only have a 28mm and a 70-210 so my options are limited, but I think a 35mm lens may do the job better - is this correct? Obviously I would have to buy one - so can I get away with a 50mm?

Regards

duncan

10/8/2002 1:54:43 PM

Jeff S. Kennedy

member since: 3/4/2002
  It really doesn't matter which lens you use because DOF is relative to image perspective. IOW to get your subject to appear a certain size on film you will adjust your distance from the camera and this will make the DOF the same whether you are using a 50mm, a 35mm, or a 200mm. You need more DOF so your solution is to stop the lens down to f22 as you suggested (and crank up the flash power).

10/8/2002 3:47:11 PM

Tom Darmody

member since: 6/3/2002
  Duncan-

Like Jeff wrote, you need more DOF.
Doing this with 35mm is really tough because of the limited DOF and lack of perspective correction. Because of the small 35mm format, a larger enlargement is needed and a the diffraction caused by the small apature will be very noticeable on the final image. I'd stick with the 50mm prime, you don't want zoom distortion added on top of that.

I use a view camera (4x5)for this type of work. Aside from apature, I can adjust the lens plane to get more of the image in sharp focus (dof), then adjust the film plane to correct the perspective.

I also use hot lights, they are alot easier to work with.

These shots take time and patience, they aren't as easy as they look.

10/8/2002 4:26:51 PM

Duncan J. McFarlane

member since: 10/8/2002
  I have been doing some more tests, although my client is getting a bit frustrated, and have found that increasing the f stop solved the DOF problem, but I hadn't incresed the flash power so I got a couple of films that were underexposed. I have now been increasing the flash power and the results are beginning to look much much better.
Thanks Jeff K and Tom D for your help, I now have much more confidence and have learnt a lot.

Regards

Duncan

10/10/2002 7:42:58 AM

Duncan J. McFarlane

member since: 10/8/2002
  I have been doing some more tests, although my client is getting a bit frustrated, and have found that increasing the f stop solved the DOF problem, but I hadn't incresed the flash power so I got a couple of films that were underexposed. I have now been increasing the flash power and the results are beginning to look much much better.
Thanks Jeff K and Tom D for your help, I now have much more confidence and have learnt a lot.

Regards

Duncan

10/10/2002 7:43:16 AM

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