I felt that the time had come for me to get a new profile picture, one not quite so mysterious as the one I’ve used previously. It just so happened that my wife was out for a few hours so I had the
studio living room to myself.
Almost to myself, our daughter was helping me by repeatedly dragging me away from the set to play with her in the bed. Giving her one of my grids to play with appeased her somewhat and gave me enough time to take a few shots. I’m getting ahead of myself here though, let’s start from the beginning and today I want to try more of a tutorial format, so let me know what you think of that and if you want more posts like this.
The key light is a good place to start when building your exposure; the rest of your lights will depend a lot on the key light since that sets the overall mood for your shot. As such, it’s also a matter of taste. Here I’ve put a LP160 in umbrella, just out of frame to camera right. The umbrella is really close to keep the light as soft as possible but at the same time it’s coming in more from the side than the front, giving me plenty of shadows on the other side of the face. Move the light a bit higher and you’ll get a different angle of the shadows and the light should also find its way to the right eye a bit more. You can also move the light more to the front if you want it to wrap around the whole face more, leaving just a thin shadow at the right edge of the face. It’s up to you, move it around and experiment. I don’t remember what power I was at but it’s not really important anyway since it will vary between every shoot. My best guess would be at 1/4 power though, my key lights hang around there a lot. This is straight out of camera, as shot.
Once you’re happy with your key light it’s time for the rim. A rim light is used to bring out shape, to separate the subject from the background and just make things look cool. It’s a really easy way to elevate a portrait to the next level. That’s not to say that you should always use a rim though, there’s a time and place for everything. However, for this particular type of profile picture, it’s the perfect tool. The thing to remember about rim lights is that you really don’t need a lot of it to get a nice effect. In this shot I’m using a LP160 with a small softbox from camera left. I think the power was around 1/32, certainly no more than 1/16, but again, it’s not really important exactly where it was at. I also put some CTB gel on this light to cool it down and get an additional colour separation from the main light. You can also use CTO gel, if you’re after a warmer look instead.
The third light I added was pretty subtle and it’s a gridded YN560 on the background (which is a grey bed sheet). I mentioned sometime in a recent post that I didn’t feel very confident about lighting backgrounds – that’s the reason this light is so subtle in this shot, I didn’t want to over do it. Next time I’ll step it up a bit and hopefully that approach will help me get more confident about getting the background light right as well. Even though it doesn’t add much here, it still adds a glow around the head, which helps draw the attention in that direction. If you want total control over the background, then a softbox is a much better option than an umbrella for the key light. That way you can keep unwanted spill off the background and light it completely separately.
Those were the three lights I used for this shot but you could also add a fill light if you wanted to control the detail in the shadows. I wanted this shot pretty contrasty with the shadow but it wouldn’t be bad at all to open up the shadows a bit, perhaps it would even be better. For the final shot (at the top) I removed my glasses (physically, not in post, I’m no wizard), cropped it slightly and edited it to get the look and feel I was after. Let me know if any of you are interested in the editing, I’ll send you a lightroom preset with the settings I used so you can have a closer look.
There you have it, a nice and clean profile picture to use on all my different accounts, including the one here at wordpress. Since I had to run back and forth between the camera and set while making sure our residence earth quake didn’t tear down the place, the shoot took a while to complete. However, if you have some other
victim sacrifice fool subject to put in front of the camera, this should be a pretty quick setup to get good results with.
Let me know what you thought of the post format, if it’s something that’s appreciated I’ll try to do more step by step instructions like this.