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Category: New Questions

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Photography Question 
Janet Fikar
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/5/2005

Portrait Lighting - Help!

I need your help! I received a very generous Christmas present that included some studio lighting and backdrop system. The problem is that I don’t have a clue how to use it or where to place the lights. While my family is still here from out of town, they want to do a family portrait. I have two Smith-Victor 700-SG 600 Watt Quartz Lights. They have the umbrella attachment with reflective side to them. I have two different backdrops (white and black) and look kind of like a velour blanket. Which backdrop would be best for a family portrait (9 adults and 1 baby)? The only lenses I have are a 28-135mm 3.5-5.6, 18-55mm 3.5 – 5.6, and 75-300mm 4 – 5.6. I also have a Speedlite 430EX but do not have a light meter. I wanted to get a general idea of where to start without making them go through a lot of trial and error. Thank you in advanced for your response!

1/1/2007 9:47:41 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  My suggestion to you is leave the lights and backdrops alone while your family is visiting, take them outside and arrange them against a nice scenic background and using a bit of fill flash, shoot the portrait. After the holiday, get a book or two on studio portrait lighting, read-em and then come back with your questions, preferably one or two at a time. Emergency photographic intervention rarely works well and what you're asking is nearly impossible for us to surmise without being able to visualize where you want to set all this stuff up though I'd guess someone is going to try and that will probably panic and frustrate you more than you already seem to be. Relax Janet. Enjoy the new year and your family's visit.


1/1/2007 9:57:42 AM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Carlton
Carlton's Gallery

member since: 12/13/2005
  Hi Janet,
I would start out with (clock reference) camera at 12:00 (pick the lens that fits your working area in the room) - group at 06:00 - position the backdrop 2-3 foot behind the group (remember that the backdrop & group may also pick up reflective light from the walls/ceiling and cast a tint onto the group) and then set 1st light just slightly behind your right shoulder at 10:00 about 6' high and the other light at 02:00 at 5' high and see where the shadows are. Then start moving stuff until you get the lighting you want. Mark is right and you may end up spending way too much time doing this. I have a couple of books and there are so many configurations that do so many different effects - it is too much to discuss here. Good luck Janet - Happy New Year

1/1/2007 10:47:55 AM

John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
4-Week Short Course: Getting Started in Commercial Photography
4-Week Short Course: Portrait Photography Lighting on Location and in the Studio
  If you have 9 people in your family, including a baby, it will be hard to arrange all these people, let alone the lights. Of course, it is possible that you live somewhere that the outside temperature is about minus 12. In that case, point the lights at a white ceiling and get the family together under the lights. This won’t work perfectly, it may not even work well, but it is quick and even. Don’t mix your strobe with your quartz lights, but you could use it outdoors. Happy New Year!

1/1/2007 12:12:46 PM

Diane Dupuis-Kallos
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/27/2003
  I agree - trying to learn studio lighting by e-mail is probably not gonna work... And posing for portraits is another thing all together.
Once they leave - go sign up for Vik Orenstein's studio lighting course. I loved it and learned so much!!!
If not - the go to the library and take out some books... Or search the internet...
Good luck!

1/1/2007 7:08:07 PM

Garth Wunsch
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/11/2006
  You might find this site useful (I hope the nude female torso doesn't offend you). Click on the "nude" image and you will get to see what lights do in several positions.

Garth Wunsch

1/2/2007 5:50:13 AM


member since: 9/25/2006
  Hi Janet,

I concur with Mark and Diana. Make this group photo the way you know how: outside with some fill. Hey, while you're at it you can do individual portraits too. And little group photos of 2 or 3 people. And tell your family you need 'm back where you are now next year, to do it all again INdoors with this new gear.

1/2/2007 7:36:36 AM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Carlton
Carlton's Gallery

member since: 12/13/2005
  Wow, I really like the iner-active lighting showing the different illuminations of the model with each lighting position.

1/2/2007 7:43:42 AM


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