This weekend I had been trying some setups without success, my ideas just didn’t work the way I wanted them to. So finally I just wanted do get some at least half decent shooting done – five minutes later I had some portraits.
Ok, it wasn’t exactly five minutes, more like ten, but half of that time was spent waiting for my model to change her clothes. I took one test frame to check exposure, waited five minutes and then shot for five minutes. The end result isn’t exactly stellar but since I was a bit annoyed at my previous tries, I just wanted something to upload at the end of the day. Two lights, key light is a LP160 in softbox to camera right and rim light is a YN560 in umbrella to camera left – a very simple and basic portrait setup. What works about it? Well, it’s pretty safe and standard, it will get you results without any unpleasant surprises. The rim light gives the shot more shape and depth, it defines and separates our subject from the background. The key light determines the mood; by moving the key light we can drastically change the feel of the whole shot. Here it’s pretty much straight from the side and a bit up, giving us plenty of shadows. Move the light more to the front, say at a 45 degree angle, and we have a more evenly lit subject with less drama.
What would I have liked to do differently? Moving around that key light would have been one thing worth trying. I didn’t really like the way her clothes were lit, they’re too bright, I would have liked the light to fall off more after hitting her face. In the shot to the left I did move the light a bit higher and tried to use the leading edge of the softbox to get more of a falloff. The result is a bit closer to what I was looking for but I would still have liked to move the light around a bit. The second thing I would have liked to vary was the colour of the rim light. Throwing some CTB gel on it to cool it down and maybe take it down a stop as well would have given that light a completely different feel and I would have liked to see how it would have affected the overall result.
One thing I’ve come to realize lately is how important the subject’s clothes can be for a portrait, perhaps even more so in a minimalistic portrait like this (I would say you have more room to mix and match in an environmental portrait, as long as it fits the scene). In this particular instance I wasn’t a fan of the colour and, given more time, I might have asked my lovely wife (in a very delicate manner) to try something else. The grey part that covers her hair also produces a bit of a highlight and over all I feel like the colours in the frame aren’t cooperating very well.
In the end, what can and can’t be done in five minutes? What you can get is a safe enough portrait that will do the job. It won’t win any awards but it won’t make your subject look bad either. What it won’t get you is the luxury to try some subtle changes of the mood, be it from varying the angle of the light, the colour or the ratios. Perhaps if you have an assistant, some of those things can be accomplished. I’m grooming my daughter to be both my assistant and model eventually but I’m afraid I’ve still got at least ten years to go before I can make a reliable VAL (voice activated light stand) out of her.
That’s all for today, happy shooting until next time.