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Photography QnA: Studio, Still, & Personal Portraiture Photography

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Category: All About Photography : Photographic Field Techniques : Studio, Still, & Personal Portraiture Photography

Read about techniques for personal portraiture photography, tricks for still photography and studio photography techniques here.

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Photography Question 
Stephanie Meyer
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/16/2005
  61 .  Putting Together a Makeshift Studio
I was wondering if I could use regular light bulbs for a very small makeshift indoor studio. I am starting to experiment with studio portraiture but I don't know that much about it, nor do I want to go out and spend the money on photo lights. I shoot mostly outdoors ... any suggestion on this would be great.

11/9/2006 8:28:11 AM

Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/2/2002
  Stephanie,
I just upgraded to studio lights (I'm still waiting for them to arrive actually), but up until then I've been working with a similar situation as you are describing!!
What worked well for me (and is VERY cheap) was to go to a hardware store, and buy those clamp work lights that have a 12" silver reflector dome around them. They were only like $8 or $10 each at my Home Depot. Get DAYLIGHT balanced bulbs (most everyone sells them, Phillips makes one version). A set of 4 is only a few dollars.
I got some 2x4 pieces of wood, set them on top of a dining room chair and tied them with some rope, and clamped the work light to the top. I only used 2 lights, but it was really not enough because the bulbs only come in a max of 100 watts. Going with 3 or 4 would probably be better.

11/9/2006 9:46:37 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Sure. But I suggest you run down to the local hardware store or a Home Depot and get some of those clamp on 10" and 5" reflectors with a bulb socket and cord. They cost about five or six bucks apiece. Remember not to use a bulb in them that's more than the rating listed on the cord, and also adjust the color balance on your camera to work with tungsten lighting, if necessary.

And to practice portrait lighting, unless you've got a really really patient willing subject, get a styrofoam wig holder, which is shaped like a head, put it on a stool in a darkened room and using one light at a time, practice lighting that paying attention to where the shadows move to as you move your light around. Use a less intense light for filling in shadows, say 1/2 the power (like instead of a 100 watt bulb, use a 50 or 40) and dink around with it.

Take it ummmmmmmmmm light. ;>)
Mark

11/9/2006 9:49:36 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Great minds think alike at the same instant Denyse !!!! LOL !! How ya doon toots ???
M.

11/9/2006 9:50:32 AM

Stephanie Meyer
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/16/2005
  Sounds like you two know what your talking about.. thanks I'll be working on lighting this weekend... thanks guys

11/9/2006 9:55:08 AM

Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/2/2002
  Hi Mark- MAN that's freaky!!!! haha.

I've been trying to win a flash meter and backdrops on Ebay so I can have everything ready for the big light arrival later this month. Woo hoo! It's fun that Jess will be getting her same set at the same time.

Best of luck Stephanie, and check back in if you need anything!!

11/9/2006 10:02:09 AM

Janet Detota
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2004
  Hi Denyse,
What kind of lights are you waiting for? There seems to be so many to choose from and I get confused. I want to get some starter ones that don't cost a ton, but don't know which ones to buy.
I got some of those silver Home Depot lights and have been experimenting with them, but can't seem to figure out how to get rid of the shadows. I move them around, but still get shadows! What's the secret?

11/14/2006 4:42:24 AM

Jessica  A. Eiss
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/6/2006
  Hi Denyse and Mark! Yup, I'm waiting too for my Photoflex. I ended up ordering from Canoga Camera, in CA. Their website allowed me to order it over the weekend, but at the same time, a customer came in and had to return a defective one, and now they don't know when it'll be shipped. Photoflex is out apparently. They did have them in stock, but not now.

11/14/2006 4:54:53 AM

Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/2/2002
  Hi Janet,
I went through the same problem of choosing the right set of lights. I took some suggestions from Mark and looked at several sets, then just made a choice! I'm anxiously awaiting them!!

I went with the Photoflex 650 Gemini Soft Box set. Here's the link to it-

http://www.photoflex.com/Photoflex_Products/StarFlash_650_Gemini_LiteDome_Kit_with_Bag/index.html

I ordered from
Photomark
2202 East McDowell Road
Phoenix, AZ, 85006
Tel: 800-777-6627

I talked to Steve there & he was really nice and helpful.

Jessica- from what I've heard (from Mark and from Photomark) the lights are a brand new line, and they're just making them. I was told mine wouldn't ship until mid to late november.

As far as the shadows w/ the home depot lights, well I use an external flash on my camera too when I use them. And I'll tell ya, the shadows are a PAIN in the rear, which is what finally pushed me to get my studio lights. Make sure they're above your subject and angled down and other than that, I really did just keep moving them around. Usually I'd get some small shadows, but they could be fixed in PS. What are you using for backdrops?

11/14/2006 6:20:49 AM

Fritz Roberson

member since: 3/17/2006
  Great timing on this question.
I was just asked to shoot a holiday card for an associates office. They want something fun and funky, so I think experimenting will work here.

If I go the Home Depot style of starter/practice kit, what kind of material should I use to make a "soft box" / diffuser set up?

Thanks!

11/14/2006 8:37:00 AM

Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/2/2002
  I tried, but personally didn't have any luck figuring out how to make a diffuser, so I just went bare bulb!! I kept telling people not to stare directly at the lights! lol.

11/14/2006 9:01:31 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Howdy Fritz: By the time you'd pay for PVC pipe, connectors, the sail cloth for diffusion material, invest your time and have a rig that's reasonably flame retardant and portable, you'd probably be better off to just buy a diffusion panel from an outfit like BHphotovideo.com. I think Bogen makes a set up on spring-loaded PVC frames that just snap together. Chimera makes the best soft boxes I've ever used and their diffusion panels, (different than a softbox of course) are useful, 42" square, and work great. A tad pricey though.

Remember too, if you're building your own softboxes for hot lights (incandescent) you'll need it made from materials that are less prone to scorching and catching fire than a softbox made for strobe/electronic flash.

Personally, I've always found conflagrations in the studio embarassing especially when the client gets toasted with second degree burns from my studio lights. That's why my make-up kit used to have anti-flash and burn creams. .

Here's a good link you might find useful for Bogen Panels. These come two to a set and are pretty useful.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=Search&A=details&Q=&sku=5117&is=REG&addedTroughType=search

Hey Jess, if you think the guys at Canoga camera are stalling, go with the outfit Denyse ordered from or call Photoflex and tell them you're starting to hear they may have some problems. That oughtta get them rolling faster in the right direction. [I can be SUCH a troublemaking problem-solver. LOL !!].

Have a great day gang.
Mark

11/14/2006 9:07:01 AM

Jack Utter

member since: 10/17/2005
  As far as shadows go, the bigger the diffusion panel is, the better, plus you need Fill on the opposite side. You can only use the Key Light and use a Reflector for Fill. There are Low-Key Portraits that would only use 1 light and have a nice dramatic feel to them. The best instructional tapes I've saw for lighting is from the Late Dean Collins, universally known as “The Guru of Lighting”. One of his tapes SHOWS you a set up for doing Portraiture with a Hair Light, Fill Light and the Key Light using only one strobe!! He has a great set-up for outside Portraiture with and w/o a strobe.
A great Diffuser for bare bulbs, or for spreading the light over a wide area, is a Scrim (diffuser panel). As Mark said, there are some really good ones that fold up (and are spring loaded) that would be easier to work with then trying to mess with a home made PVC set-up.
Good Luck….. Jack

11/14/2006 9:55:58 AM

Janet Detota
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2004
  Thanks to you all for the great info!
I was looking at the Photoflex site the other night and thought the digital lights looked good, but are nearly $400. Sounds like I need to look into the diffusion panels to solve the shadow problems. I'm also trying to figure out where to set up a studio in my home. I need to clean out some clutter which is a daunting task! I'll google Dean Collins and see if I can get a hold of one of his tapes. I've done some portraits, but mostly in natural lighting. Please check out http://jlphotography.photosite.com/ and tell me what you think of my efforts so far.

11/14/2006 10:36:20 AM

Fritz Roberson

member since: 3/17/2006
  Thanks for the tips Mark (and all.)
I had just received the new B&H catalog that had a 2 lamp starter kit on sale for less than $300 (I think). I only had about 2 minutes with the catalog before I had to put it down. I'll take a closer look at it tonight to see if it's the same set-up that we're talking about here. I do still like the idea of building some reinforcements though (Denyse's comment about 3 or 4 lights being helpful.). As you can tell, I'm pretty new to this and don't want to invest a fortune until I know if it will stick.

11/14/2006 10:41:12 AM

Jack Utter

member since: 10/17/2005
  Janet,

Sorry for making it sound like ALL you need is a Scrim and all is perfect in the world, my fault. A Scrim works like a Soft-Box. A large enough Scrim can wrap light around (so to speak) a subject, unlike a bare bulb, but you'll still need a Fill light or reflector on the shadow side of the subject to lessen the effects of the shadows caused by the Key (Main) light. Dean is the Lighting Guru, so to even out your Portraiture techniques you should also look up instructional material from Monte Zucker. He could be considered the "Master of Portraiture". He uses a somewhat "simple" (acording to him) approach to all his protraits and they look awesome. Although There are multitudes of really GREAT portrait photographers out there who you could emulate and produce great images, these are my favorites. I hope this helps.

Good Luck, Jack

11/14/2006 11:24:40 AM

Fritz Roberson

member since: 3/17/2006
  I just took a look through the BH photo catalog again. The kit I had remembered is for a flash set-up and looks like it will need some extras to get up and ready. But I did see a couple of porcelain socket kits with stands and umbrellas. For a little over $200. Is there a massive difference between the umbrella kits and the soft boxes for beginners?

Also individual umbrellas (reflective and translucent) are pretty cheap. At $16 to $40 each it seems much better than trying to build something.

I think I have a trip to the neighborhood bookstore in my near future.

11/14/2006 6:03:39 PM

Fritz Roberson

member since: 3/17/2006
  Well, I made it to the bookstore and found a couple of decent lighting books. I visited Marks webpage. (Wow, nice work Mark, you give me something to work towards, and its obvious that you know what you're talking about.) I also (and this is that part where Mark looks at his monitor and shakes his head) received my hot light kit Friday. It'll work ok for the shoot I have this week (and pay for itself too) and I expect to be able to continue to use it.

I've already got my eye on a monoblock with modeling light next. Thanks for the advise and for sharing your experience.

11/19/2006 10:12:39 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Howdy Fritz: There's absolutely nothing wrong starting out with a hot light set-up. I did it when I first started taking portraits using 10" reflectors with clamps and a lamp socket that I bought from a hardware store and 150 watt bulbs. They still sell those things and they still work.
And if they can pay for themselves, even better !!!

Learning lighting techniques and developing your own particular style isn't really all that difficult or unduly complex. It's experimenting and practicing more than anything else, I think. And it sounds like you're on the right track. Remember that experience is the best teacher, at least it is IMO. Keep practicing with whatever light you've got handy, incandescent, daylight or strobe. And keep asking questions Fritz. These are good ways to learn this stuff.
Take it light ;>)
Mark

11/19/2006 12:24:43 PM

Sandi L. Korshnak
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/1/2006
  Hi. I've been doing some reading on lighting. I'm kind of in the same situation as the original poster. I want to try it, but not really sure if that's the way I'm going to go, so I don't want to shell out a lot of cash.
I've decided to make the makeshift lighting suggested here, with 4 lights instead of 2.
As far as backdrops, are the ones that I'm seeing on ebay any good for learning? How big of a backdrop do I need?
I will be doing this in my basement/rec room. The walls are yellow. Should I hang sheets over the walls when I am shooting so I don't pick up color casts from them?
I think that's about it for now. I'm sure I'll have more as I start to build this and experiment.
Thanks,
Sandi

7/5/2007 6:20:03 PM

Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/2/2002
  What are the backdrops you're seeing on ebay? What material?

When I started, I bought muslin from the craft store 120" wide cut to 4 or 5 yards and dyed it with RIT dye. You can do a backdrop this way for about $35-$45 depending on the muslin price. My store has coupons all the time. Now I've gone to real hand painted muslins which are soooo much nicer, but of course more expensive!

I'm not sure about the walls, someone else can probably answer that for you...

7/6/2007 5:00:01 AM

Sandi L. Korshnak
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/1/2006
  The ones on ebay say they are muslin, and are 9x10,10x10 and some are 12x12 ft. Most are going for between 30 and 45 dollars with shipping.

7/6/2007 8:15:50 PM

Respond | Ask Your Own Question
 
Photography Question 
Danette Holley

member since: 10/1/2004
  62 .  Using a Fan to Create Wind
I would like to experiment with using an air fan to mimic the wind (indoors). I would be interested in what some of you more experienced photographers have done. I have a small room fan but am unsure if it is adequate. Any thoughts and information would be appreciated.

11/8/2006 8:10:23 PM

A C
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/6/2004
  I don't know how the fan will work ... but make sure you have adequate lighting to stop the action (with a fast-enough shutter speed) since you'll be working indoors.

11/8/2006 9:07:00 PM

Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  In the studios I've worked, when a fan was used to the effect you describe, it was a large industrial fan (with a 2.5-to-3-foot blade diameter) on a heavy stand. But more important, I think, is that the studio itself be large enough to allow the airflow to dissapate after passing by the subject. That is, if you work in a garage, say, converted to a studio, then the airflow from a large fan might blow by the subject (which is good) and then vortex around the walls and blow back through at a different angle (which might not be so good). My point is that the room will probably have a lot to do with the effectiveness of the fan.

11/9/2006 5:36:16 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  You will also need a lot of flash light to stop the flying hair from blurring.

11/9/2006 6:40:36 AM

timmy mathers

member since: 2/2/2005
  A couple other options are to use either a leaf blower or "shop vac" (vaccum) with the hose on the exhaust. Although the wind effect will not be as large, it will be more "directional" (and somewhat controlable).

Another effect is to use existing/continuous light. The hair, clothing (or whatever that moves) will become blurred - kind of a neat effect.

11/14/2006 6:07:47 AM

Danette Holley

member since: 10/1/2004
  I appreciated the feedback. I already own a shop vac and I like the controlability of it--I mostly want some movement in the hair. Thanks for the idea

11/14/2006 9:23:54 AM

Jagadeesh Dev
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/30/2005
 
 
 
If you shoot film - you'll need to keep everything analog and non-electric...

11/14/2006 12:48:41 PM

Jagadeesh Dev
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/30/2005
 
 
 
If you shoot film - you'll need to keep everything analog and non-electric...

11/14/2006 12:48:57 PM

Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/13/2004
  HAHAHAHA that's hilarious! lol. or if you shoot digital you HAVE to have the readout for instant gratification of the speeds!!!

11/14/2006 2:34:56 PM

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Photography Question 
Chris Gentile

member since: 1/4/2005
  63 .  External Flash Bounce/Diffusion
I use a Nikon SB800 flash unit for weddings. When I have something to bounce the flash off of (ceiling, wall, etc.), I've had very nice results with soft lighting. However, I've had a hard time preventing harsh shadows when I use direct flash. I've been using a Stofen Omni bounce to diffuse the light, but that doesn't seem to do the trick. Everyone seems to use Gary Fong's Light Sphere, but I"ve even heard that doesn't work very well when there's no ceiling to bounce. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks.

9/24/2006 9:04:45 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  The OmniBounce and Lightsphere both depend on having ceilings/walls to bounce light. Without that, both will give softer light on your subject, but the light will still be direct from a relatively small source and so will cause shadows. Same for Lumiquest's diffuser/bouncers. Short of setting up multiple lights, or an assistant holding a large reflector to bounce your flash, I think the most you can do is: (a) mount the flash on a bracket so that shadows are below your subject rather than outlining them, and (b) keep your subjects away from any wall/backdrop where the shadow would fall.

9/25/2006 6:16:52 AM

Ronald Ponkey

member since: 11/18/2004
  I had the same problem and went to my Vivitar 283 set on Yellow with a white diffuser which fits over the flash head. The shadows disappered! The pictures look great...at other times I use a Quantum - bulb flash. By the way I shoot Medium Format and some digital for Photojournalism. I will always shoot film until film is not made any more...I REFUSE TO BE A JC PENNEY KIDDIE KANDID PHOTOGRAPHER! My clients want film, film is superior to digital and the labs tell me most digital jobs require extensive work since the Photographers shoot the wedding wrong. Gary Fong is a joke, he has clients who pay close to a $100,000 for a wedding so he can boast about his techniques to other Photographers who do not have those clients. Since the digital era has started there are good points and horrible points....we use digital mainly for Post Production...I LOVE FILM...IT IS THE BEST!!!!!

9/26/2006 6:05:47 AM

Pamela Hodgdon

member since: 11/2/2004
  I now use Gary Fong spheres for weddings and events with my Nikons SB800 and SB600, I've been so pleased with them that I haven't had to use my bracket. For weddings, I shoot on aperature priority and haven't had to worry about bouncing my flash off walls or ceiling with the spheres. Granted, I've only been shooting weddings for two years now and they are low key affairs for now - but, the spheres free me to concentrate on other things going on. I don't have a problems with flash face and my photoshop editing has been extremely minimal.

9/26/2006 6:59:54 AM

Craig Flamme
BetterPhoto Member
craigflammephotography.com

member since: 11/15/2004
  Just used Gary Fong's Photojournalist (PJ) attachment on a wedding I shot with my business partner last month. Even with high ceilings in the room the PJ attachment worked just wonderfully. It looked like we lit up the whole room with strobes. The client was very happy and said our images were better than any other photographer they interviewed for their wedding. The PJ was also awesome for the ceremony as it was held outside. I highly recommend the PJ!!

9/26/2006 8:52:41 AM

Steve Parrott
LightAnon.com

member since: 9/4/2004
  Good grief Ronald P. .... fine, you love film. The fact that I use a very high end 1Ds digital does not make me a JC PENNEY KIDDIE KANDID PHOTOGRAPHER. I do feel there are way too many people out there with digital point and shoots, or even SLRs that "think" they are photographers, and the results show it. The capture medium is not really the issue. A good photo is the result of the photographer's skill and vision. Digital or film is just mainly a matter of preference. There is a place for film and a place for digital. There is no ONE best for all situations.
Ok.. to answer the original question. I do not care for Gary Fong as a person. He is way too absorbed in all his money and I think is just simply not a very nice person. I have met with him in person briefly, and been to his seminar, and it all just reinforced my opinion. That being said, he has to be doing SOMETHING right... he is a multi millionaire.... and I'm sure NOT. I DO use his Lightsphere and I think it is GREAT. Just be sure to use the newest sphere with the inverted dome that fits on the top. Just shoot with the lid always in place, and you ALWAYS have something to bounce from. Inside or out, the sphere with the lid in place is a self contained "room" to bounce light from. Also be sure and use the "cloud" sphere. The lighting is softer. In vertical photos, rotate the flash head to keep the sphere pointed up. There will still be some shadow, but very, very slight, and very soft. I much prefer it to using a heavy, bulky flash bracket. Even with a bracket you will still have harsh light without some type of diffuser over the flash. Just use the Fong sphere correctly and results are great.
Steve

9/26/2006 8:53:06 AM

Scott 

member since: 3/25/2005
  My daughter was recently married and the photographer used a diffuser called "The Shell." He told me it could be had at B&H Photo. It has been a while, but I remember it being reasonably priced.
I'm still a learner, but the picts he took looked great. Anyone ever use The Shell, and what do you think?
Scott

9/26/2006 12:03:06 PM

Roy A. Meeks
Contact Roy
Roy's Gallery

member since: 10/21/2003
  I use a Nikon D70 and D70s for weddings but I use a JoeDemb diffuser on my SB800 and do not have to be concerned about the ceilings because of the configuration of the reflecter and diffuser. In fact I use it on a bright sunny day as a flash fill. I do not like the shell because it tends to give a harsh shadow to the opposite side and the Gary Fong throws so much light out the back that is wasted unless you have a wall close behind you

9/26/2006 1:18:13 PM

Scott 

member since: 3/25/2005
  Thanks for the response Roy. As I said, I'm a newbie and would like to buy a diffuser. I have read so many articles that I'm totally confused!
For instance you mentioned Joe Demb. I looked at his product and also Lumiquest. Essentially, aren't they the same? Other than simple design differences, I can't see the difference. Am I over-simplyfing it? Did I "miss the boat" on the whole thing?
Anybody, help!

9/27/2006 1:15:56 PM

Larry 

member since: 2/20/2002
  Jon, I tried all kinds of things so that my pics showed a soft light. I also had trouble with red-eye. One day a photographer friend of mine showed me a neat little trick that I've used ever since.
I rubber- band a 3x5 white card to the flash head, point the flash head straight up and VOILA. Problem solved. Minor adjustments such as bending the 3x5 card down a little or clicking the flash head lower (for distance) does the trick. You just learn as you go along.
I get many compliments on my pics from any type of function.

9/28/2006 4:51:49 PM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  Chris, you may want to use a bounce card. Here's a D-I-Y how-to for an SB 600, but you can probably apply it to the SB 800 too:
http://swannman.wordpress.com/2006/05/29/howto-diy-flash-diffuser/

And here's a video laying it out for you:
http://www.abetterbouncecard.com/

Have fun.

9/29/2006 7:42:22 AM

Chris Gentile

member since: 1/4/2005
  This has turned into a nice thread, thanks to everyone for their input. I think I"ll have to look more into Joe Demb's and Gary Fong's equipment and choose betweent the two.
-Chris

10/1/2006 12:19:06 PM

Andrea Hillis

member since: 7/29/2004
  Why chooose, lol, I have both. I have to say for indoors, I absolutely love Gary Fong's LSII Cloud, and use it more than the flip-it, but I do use it as well...depending on conditions.

A.

10/10/2006 5:34:19 AM

Ronald Ponkey

member since: 11/18/2004
  I started in with some digital last November although Medium Format Film with my studio until film is no longer made anymore. But I did purchase an Olympus 20e digital camera for a starter. I have at times not had a lot of luck using the P, A or S modes but then I have always been a Manual Photographer. I tried this week shooting an Engagement on Manual and wow the images looked great...now I think I am starting to go in the right direction for learning Digital.
I cannot wait to learn more...and be a better professional Photographer!

10/10/2006 5:45:05 AM

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Photography Question 
Pamela Hodgdon

member since: 11/2/2004
  64 .  Best Portable Backdrops
I'm starting to do portraits on location. Most of them are done outside, but if I can't shoot outside and have to go into the home, I'll need a backdrop just in case. Any suggestions on the best portable ones out there? What's the best material and color to start out with?

7/26/2006 8:51:01 AM

Buddy Purugganan

member since: 8/31/2002
  Pam, check these Web sites: www.backdropoutlet.com, www.virtualbackgrounds.net and www.photogenicpro.com

7/26/2006 6:30:25 PM

Danielle E. Rutter
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2006
  Pamela: I'd recommend white muslin as your first backdrop - very basic but commonly used color. I think everybody should have white. After that, you can start getting more interesting colors. :)

7/26/2006 6:43:52 PM

Pat Worster
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/21/2004
  You should have a black one and a white one for starters. I have some sample ones that I made from sheets and spray paint in my gallery you could look at.

7/27/2006 8:10:57 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Greetings Pam: Some of the best backgrounds I've had are well-used house painters canvas drop cloths. What I usually do is buy a couple of new ones - heavy-duty commercial variety from Home Depot - and call a couple of painters I know and see if they've got any used ones to trade. The patterns are always random, colorful, they wash well, travel in a small duffel bag, can be cut down, AND you don't spend a lot of money for them ($25-$50 for each blank one) and don't get locked into using one color. AND you can even buy blank ones to make your own with a couple of cans of watercolor tempura paint. That way the paint is washable and you can redo your masterpieces. :>))) Knowhatimeanhuh?
Take it light.
Mark

7/27/2006 11:38:55 AM

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Photography Question 
Jodi A. Birnbaum

member since: 12/13/2005
  65 .  Portrait Photography
I am finally able to buy another flash unit, but I am not sure which is the best to buy for portrait photography. I already have a B800 unit from AlienBees as my main light and am now looking for a fill light. Should I get another B800 and just set the power lower than the main or should I get something completely different such as a soft box, diffuser, or what?

7/6/2006 10:52:44 AM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/4/2004
  Jodi,
You will do just fine with another B800 for a fill. But really, before buying a fill, I would buy a smaller backlight unit. You can do both studio and on-site work with a two-light system. I recommend a main and a backlight, then add your fill later for "the best" - a three light system. I hope this helps. If by chance you have my CDs or the one on Building a home studio, then there are setups in there for the 1, 2 and then 3 light systems - then those using a hair light as well. I hope this helps,
Debby

7/6/2006 10:59:39 AM

Rob Mynhier

member since: 3/16/2006
  Jodi,
Since the AlienBees modeling lights are get-what-you-see (or something like that)the best bet is to have all of your lights the same (all 800;s or all 1600's). Otherwise, you may not necessarily get-what-you-saw.
See the tutorials and helps on the AlienBees website.
Rob

7/10/2006 7:19:43 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  One important thing to have with your lighting, Jodi, is flexibility. That applies in at least a few areas like output, portability and utility. As long as you can adjust the power output down on your lights to produce less than maximum power settings, then you should have no problem getting more powerful lights, say 1000 or even 1600 w/s units. It's always better to have too much power available and not need it than to need it and not have it. That's especially true if you're using modifiers like softboxes and umbrellas. So, the answer to your question is yes, get a more powerful light and just ratio the thing down as you need it.

In addition, you can always use a more powerful light for a fill at say 1/2 or 1/4 power but you can't use a fill
light with a maximum output of say 200 w/s as a main in case your main takes a header and goes kaputzky. Seewhatimean?

In terms of flexibility and portability, you should consider whether you need a studio - type of lighting system to work with you for locations where there isn't any electrical power, i.e., a battery-powered system. Calumet has some battery operated monolights made by Bowens that a rep loaned me to try recently and I have to say they worked pretty well.

While professional grade lighting equipment is pricey, consider it an investment in your photographic future, as a system you can build on rather than have to replace and spend money on many times over. I know nothing about Alien Bees other than some folks have bought them and found they're outgunned and need bigger horsepower. BTW, you can do some terrific portraits using a single light and maybe a reflector card of some kind.

I tend to recommend that photographers starting out purchase professional pack or monolight systems made by outfits like Norman, Speedotron, Elinchrom, Bowens Monolights, either new in kits from places like B&H in New York, or used kits, which can also be very good deals too from outfits like KEH.Com in Atlanta.

There are some other tutorials you might be interested in besides the ones Rob mentioned, including the ones at Photoflex.com and Chimera.com.

Take it light. ;>)
Mark

7/10/2006 9:33:49 AM

Jodi A. Birnbaum

member since: 12/13/2005
  Thank you so much for the advice. I obviously need to do a bit more research before I just jump in and buy something :-) Thanks Mark for all of the resources. It's greatly appreciated for a newbie like me.

7/11/2006 5:55:47 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Glad to help out Jodi. Hollar when new questions may seem perplexing. Someone here should know how to help you out. ;>)
Mark

7/11/2006 8:24:01 PM

Ken Henry

member since: 9/16/2003
  Yes for backlight also. I keep it simple. Front flash in 48" umbrella, White 48" foamcore for fill and a backlight. Both monolights are identical size.

7/25/2006 5:21:16 PM

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Photography Question 
Rohan Cooke

member since: 6/24/2004
  66 .  Still Product Photography
How would shoot cold bottle drinks, and what camera setting would you recommend?

6/26/2006 8:46:54 AM

Jagadeesh Dev
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/30/2005
  This is totally up to you, Rohan. I suggest you try many, many different lighting situations and camera settings. Trial and error, I think, would be best in this situation, as there is no prescribed pre-setting (that I know of) to shoot those products. I will say, though, that I would use very intense lighting as to make the most out of the beads of sweat on the bottle.

Editor's Note: By the way, BetterPhoto now has an Introduction to Product Photography online course.

6/26/2006 9:04:26 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  Make sure you try different settings because I was playing around with my Canon and just noticed they have a setting on there for photographing TVs evidently. I guess a lot of people like photographing TV or they wouldn't have built this setting into the camera...Man those Canon people think of EVERTHING.

6/26/2006 9:14:54 AM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  Cold bottle shots as with many "product shots" are best done with surround lighting (including underneath). Therefore, a light table would be very useful. Alternatively shoot on a glass table covered with a thin cotton drape/tablecloth or similar. Small aperture to catch the glints on bubbles etc (f8 or f11). Some say a torch or thin beam extra light source gives added sparkle, though I personally haven't tried it yet.

6/27/2006 10:08:19 AM

David King

member since: 9/12/2004
 
 
 
Rohan, this can be a fun subject. Here is a quick example I recently shot for a demo to a lighting class of the type of subject you mention. It has the bottle laying on a light table. Under the bottle is blue construction paper with cutouts for the bottle and shapes to allow light to shine through the ice cubes that are spread around the bottle. A large soft box overhead and to frame left provides general light and then about four other smaller lights are brought in to provide the specific specular highlights. Finally, a series of small silver reflectors are positioned to provide light on the gold parts of the label. The "sweat" on the bottle is glycerin. It took about two hours to rig the shot but that included time to talk through each step and show how the concept was built a light at a time. The camera (an older Fuji S2 Digital) was on a studio stand with the arm swung out over the set. Focal distance was about 12 inches with the Nikkor lens zoomed to 59mm. It was lit with a total of about 2400 W/S of strobe power so the lens could be stopped down for depth of field to f38. The composition was designed to leave room for type to be set as for a sample advertisement.

Hopefully this will provide some ideas as to ways you can go with the subject.

David

6/27/2006 10:45:49 PM

  Oliver----I hope you were just kidding about the 'TV' setting! We all know that is the 'time value' setting and it controls the shutter speed. Perhaps you haven't had your Canon very long??? Good luck!

6/28/2006 4:56:14 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  No, Michelle but I'm ready to upgrade to the 1Ds MarkIII when it comes out because I heard it gets direct TV and may even have a Microwave setting...let's see Nikon beat that.

6/28/2006 8:47:53 AM

Jagadeesh Dev
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/30/2005
  See, just another reason why Nikon is better - Canon has to add all those frills to sell the things....

6/28/2006 8:51:49 AM

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Photography Question 
Desiree C. Preckwinkle

member since: 8/20/2005
  67 .  Portrait Studio - One Light, Soft Box?
I was at Wal-Mart today in the studio and noticed that they only use one light and a large diffuser soft box to take the portraits. I am curious how good this works as the pictures looked great on the screen. Also curious if anyone knows what size lens they use for their pictures. I want to set up a small studio in my house, but don't have much money or space and thought I could try the one light method with the diffuser soft box. Thanks,
Desiree

6/19/2006 1:11:57 PM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/4/2004
  Desiree,
This can be done, of course, but you must consider the space they use to work with and what they offer. In most cases, they cannot do a full-length adult, and the portraits do look a bit flat. You can do this if you have enough depth to your room to bring your subject at, the very least, 36 inches from the background. If you are lacking that type of space, then I would suggest a backlight. But by all means, do start your dreams knowing they can develop into perfection as you can afford to grow. Wishing you the best of luck in your ventures, Debby Tabb

6/19/2006 1:22:55 PM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  I have a small studio set-up at home. I have 2 x lights (soft box for each) but mainly use only one softbox and a snoot on the other. I am very happy wiht my portraits, and prefer intentional shadow side lighting with dark out-of-focus backdrop. I don't have space limitations. The snoot (pin point) is mainly for the hair backlight. When I can afford it I will get another light as I think 3 lights will give me better control and effect and will be more complete for other photo options.

6/20/2006 7:32:55 AM

Jennifer Deckert
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/30/2006
  Found a great article on setting up a home studio.
http://www.ehow.com/how_1358_set-photo-studio.html

6/20/2006 10:11:42 AM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/4/2004
  That is a somewhat usefull artical, but you really don't have to make it all that difficult.
every studio I work in these days has baseboards. and 1-2 electrical sockets.
I wrote my Cd on in home studios- Useing my own living room, and did not have a need to block out the fireplace,remove baseboards ect.

I just blocked the windows (easily) and bought some surge protector multible sockets and it worked great.
I do hope this helps,
as for you Roy, that is just as it should be and you'll have that additional light head soon.
a 3 light system is the most desiriable- but it is best to get started and build your dream, clients and equiptment collection.
as you build that client list- you'll get that equiptment you need.
All my best,
Debby

6/20/2006 10:21:06 AM

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Photography Question 
Ewurama Hayford

member since: 12/15/2005
  68 .  What Lens for Baby's Christening?
Hello all,
I will be taking pictures at my sister's baby's christening. I have a Tamron 28-75, 2.8 - nice and fast!! I feel like that will be adequate, but I wonder: Will I benefit from have a longer zoom, like a 70-300?? The priest will let me be reasonably close, but I can't get up on the altar, or move around too much. Also, I'm taking pictures of my 3 sisters - and I'm looking for a photo that crops at the waist, with them filling the frame. My guess is that a length of about 85 will do this for me - am I right?? Thank you.

6/19/2006 5:35:23 AM

  That's a good question. I took some photos inside a church and had to be in the back shooting. The 70-300 zoom I had came in handy, but the flash output wasn't quite able to handle the distance. Until the experts weigh in, my guess is the 28-75mm lens will work well for you.

6/19/2006 6:16:49 AM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  Hi Ewurama,Just my opinion, but I would shoot the longer focal lengths for a couple reasons: 1) It will give you a shallow depth of field so just the baby and priest are in focus ... less distraction from the background. 2) With an infant, the longer focal length - especialy wide open - will give the child a softer look. Hard focus on infants is not appealing. All the best,
Pete

6/19/2006 9:00:02 AM

Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/13/2004
  My question is about how the light will be. Most 70-300 lenses that I see aren't all that fast and you still need a faster shutter speed to keep from blur due to camera shake if you're hand holding. Though, this probably would be a good focal length to not get too close.

Also, what kind of camera do you have? If it's digital, you probably have a slightly longer reach because of the cropping sensor.

Good luck!

6/19/2006 4:56:19 PM

Bill Wassmann

member since: 4/15/2004
  As a basic rule: shoot with the lens you are most comfortable using. The long zoom will need a stronger flash and a tripod or at least a monopod. This can be unwieldy. Lighting conditions and church rules will also have an effect. If you can, scout out the situation beforehand
Bill.

6/20/2006 9:00:07 AM

Ewurama Hayford

member since: 12/15/2005
  thank u all for your answers. its a 3.5 - 5.6, with image stabilization, and I use a rebel xt. the lighing is from chadeliers mostly and kinda "yellowish".
many thanks
e

6/22/2006 8:34:42 PM

Slim Brady 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/1/2006
  lens baby :)

6/23/2006 6:37:10 AM

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Photography Question 
Collette Photography
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/21/2005
  69 .  Large Group Poses
Hi, I'm am doing a photo shoot of a large family reunion. I have to take photos of groups as large as 60 people, and it's on flat ground, and no props except for two chairs that I'm using for the two oldest people in the group. Does anyone have any suggestions on poses for groups this large? Plus, I need some posing ideas as well for groups a little smaller like 25, 22, 15, and so on. Any suggestions would be great!

6/9/2006 3:33:14 PM

Slim Brady 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/1/2006
  Can you find a stairway somewhere? Those are the best and the cheapest. I shoot large groups on the post office front steps on Sundays when they are closed. No green, just old pillars, but I blur them out in the shot with PS. F8 to F11 should get everyone sharp.

6/9/2006 9:31:29 PM

Collette Photography
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/21/2005
  I have to do the shoot in there back yard I dont have an option for that. I just wondered if anyone had any posing ideas that I could use, in this situation. Thanks for the suggestion though!

~Collette~

6/13/2006 11:24:09 AM

Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/14/2005
  Bring a tall ladder. Have people in the back rows stand, and people in front sit on the grass. Stand on the ladder to take the pictures, so you can see more of the group from front-to-back.

Pray for some cloud cover. If it is sunny, don't arrange the group so that they are looking into the sun - they will all be squinting if you do.

Good luck and have fun!

Chris A. Vedros
www.cavphotos.com

6/13/2006 11:58:21 AM

James York

member since: 10/8/2002
  Try to find some folding chairs to take along with you on this shoot. For 60 people you need 10 to 12 chairs. If you are unable to get chairs, have 10 to 12 men/boys to knell on one knee. Place any and all the kids that will be in the photo on the ground in the front if they will stay and the parents don’t mind. All of the tallest guys and girls in the back. Shoot off a ladder or stand on the back of a truck. Shoot off a tripod if you can and don’t look through the lens when you’re pulling the trigger. You need to make eye contact with the group and talk to them. Tell all of the grownups to watch you and stop looking at the kids. It will happen every time; you work and work the kids and as soon as you have them looking at the camera and shoot the shot, some if not all of the parents/adults will be looking at the kids. (Shoot at F11)

6/13/2006 1:50:41 PM

Collette Photography
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/21/2005
  I will be shooting off of the back porch, which is up off the ground and the group will be on the ground, so should that work? Thanks for all of the advice, I was going to put the grandparents in the two folding chairs in the center then a row of couples standing behind that, then in front of that row would be people up on there knees, then in front of that row people sitting on there knees, then in front of that row the kids would be lounging on one arm with there legs off to the side, but is four rows deep to deep? and which row should I be focusing on? Thanks so much for all of your advice!

~Collette~

6/13/2006 2:58:14 PM

Danielle E. Rutter
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2006
  Sounds like you have this thought out pretty well. I'd have to guess that four rows deep is fairly inevitable with 60 people unless you're taking a panoramic. Good luck!!

6/13/2006 3:26:48 PM

Mary E. Heinz
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/23/2005
  Hi, I don't have "from experience"
thoughts but sounds like you have a
good plan...letting them look up to
you sounds good / also maybe except
for the children...let people "filter"
to where they are comfortable/ then
do a change here and there to "edit"
the positions...I don't know if this
would work with a large group but I've
seen one photo of a wedding appeared
to be maybe bride/ groom/ father/
grandmother///just 4-5 people...and
they were in an outdoor patio setting/
bride in "rule of thirds" position
and everyone else was in a chair or
standing behind a chair/ like they
were in a natural conversation...

Also can you place these people in
"seperate" groups/ by different
families...

Go to places/ including BP of course
and type in "search large poses..."
the web is so inspiring....you may
find something you can use or that
will spark your own imagination.

Mary

6/13/2006 9:35:33 PM

Jeanne M. Brown
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/2/2006
  Is there any way you could get up as high as possible ( safely ) and shoot downward over the crowd? It makes a cool angle shot for large groups.

6/14/2006 6:48:38 AM

Roy A. Meeks
Contact Roy
Roy's Gallery

member since: 10/21/2003
  I bought a "Walmart" type ladder that has the platform just below the very top step. Really sturdy and nice to stand on. I photoed a group of 60+ in a backyard last week and it worked great . Roy Meeks
theotherbestman@bellsouth.net

6/14/2006 8:31:07 AM

Mary E. Heinz
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/23/2005
  Hey, what about having them stand in
a "V" formation spaced out a little
and ALL waving/ my previous comment
about surfing the "net" for group
poses...it always a good resource...

6/14/2006 10:04:59 AM

Collette Photography
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/21/2005
  Thanks for all of the suggestions! I could always try and bring a latter with me and set it on the porch to get a higher angle, but Im not sure if I will have the room in my car to bring it!

Also Roy, could you upload some of the pictures that you got of the 60+ people, that way I could maybe get an idea from some of the poses you used and see how they worked!!

As far as being able to separate them into different families, I suppose I would be able to do that, not sure how easy it would be though.

Thanks again for all of the suggestions!

~Collette~

6/14/2006 10:50:17 AM

Joe Jordan

member since: 4/20/2003
  My suggestion echos the 'tall ladder' solution. This is the most expedient way to elevate yourself and 'look down' on the group to ensure that all faces are visible.

6/14/2006 3:19:48 PM

Julie D. Teague

member since: 6/14/2006
 
 
  60 people panoramic
60 people panoramic
I took one background (doesn't matter what color as long as it's not a scenic) and photographed each individual family. Afterwards I went into photoshop and stitched all the families together as if they were standing right next to each other.
 
 
I did a family of 60 people last Christmas. Since I have a large family myself I came up with a fun solution. I set up a background and then photographed each family standing up. Afterwards I went into photoshop and stitched all the families together. I put the family name at the top and then individual names along the bottom. It was a huge hit. This way you can see everyones face and they're all looking at the camera. I've uploaded an example. Hope it all turns out well for you.
Julie

6/14/2006 9:11:40 PM

Collette Photography
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/21/2005
  What an ingenious idea Julie! That is really cool, I may try that. I still have to do it outside, so there will be woods in the background, but I may be able to work it in PS so that the trees blend well together!

Also, I was thinking about doing a panoramic photo before but I dont know where I can get it printed, I use MPix mow for my printing and they dont do panoramic sizes, do you know of a printer that does those sizes?

Thanks everyone for there help and suggestions! Right now Im just praying that it doesnt rain on Sat. when Im supposed to be doing the pictures!!

~Collette~

6/15/2006 11:37:23 AM

Julie D. Teague

member since: 6/14/2006
  I do all my printing with White House Custom Color. You can check them out at whcc.com They do any size you want. The panoramic I did for this family turned out to be 10x30.
Julie

6/15/2006 11:55:17 AM

Ken Henry

member since: 9/16/2003
  STILTS(2"x2") on my tripod and a Ten foot step ladder. It worked.

6/20/2006 4:54:34 PM

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Photography Question 
Linda Buchanan

member since: 4/26/2005
  70 .  Prime Lens for Outdoor Portraits
I am planning to purchase a prime lens for my Canon Rebel XT. I would like one that would perform well for outdoor portraiture. I can spend in the $500 range. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what would be the best lens? Thank you for your help.

6/8/2006 7:33:29 AM

Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/14/2005
  I would recommend the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens. There is a rebate right now that puts it under $300. It is an excellent lens.
Traditionally, portrait lenses are a bit longer, starting around 85mm. I also have the Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens, and it is also a great lens. But with the 1.6x lens crop factor of the Rebel, you have to really back up a ways from your subject to get in more than a headshot.
If you want the flexibility of doing full-length portraits or small groups, I think you would be happier with the 50mm lens.
Chris A. Vedros
www.cavphotos.com

6/8/2006 11:25:10 AM

Linda Buchanan

member since: 4/26/2005
  Thank you for your reply. I will look into that lens. Have a great day.

6/8/2006 11:36:41 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  I second Chris' choice. I love my 50mm 1.4 and use it all the time. It's especially useful indoors or in the shade - plus it has a sturdy feel to it. You can use the leftover money to buy a filter or two for it.

6/8/2006 3:53:18 PM

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