After having read Gregory Heisler’s new book (see previous post) I just had to shoot some kind of portrait. I wanted to try something a bit different from my normal way of lighting things and was of course hoping for results similar to what I had just seen. Obviously that wasn’t going to happen but when you have a sudden fit of inspiration it feels like you can accomplish anything. I recruited my wife and started settings things up.
The biggest challenge with this shoot was, without a doubt, to somehow turn the very limited space of our living room into a reasonable studio. I know, I’ve shot plenty of portraits in here before but this time was a bit different. First of all I don’t have any longer lenses anymore, just my X100S with a lens that’s slightly wider than your standard normal lens (and considerably wider than traditional portrait lenses). Secondly, I wanted this to be a three-quarter or at least half body portrait.
Above you can see the setup and we’ll soon go into detail about that. First, however, I would like to point out the fact that this is the third portrait in a row where I’ve remembered to take a setup shot…I know you’re impressed. Anyways, lets start with the big light, which actually isn’t the main light in this scenario; two LP160s in a octabox, set to the side and not really aiming at the subject. This light wraps around in a nice, soft way and covers the full length of the subject. Next up is another LP160 with a small softbox and 1/2 CTO gel on it. This light can be considered to be the main light and it’s coming from the same direction as the big light. The difference is that it’s smaller, which means it gives more punch, and it’s aimed so it’s mostly hitting the face. The final light is a YN560 with umbrella (collapsed in the shot above so it doesn’t get in the way), for fill. There was actually a hint of green gel on the fill light, in an attempt to lend the shadows a more interesting tonality.
One of the main problems with shooting in such a tight space is that you get light bouncing everywhere – light tends to do that and it’s difficult to make it do otherwise. I guess that’s one of the reasons most studios are pretty big. I tried to control things a bit by putting up a piece of black foamcoare to block light from hitting the background, at least that made things a bit easier in post. Speaking of which, in the shot above you can see what it looked like as a conversion straight from the raw file.
I’m not entirely happy with this portrait. Part of why is that I know I’ve done better before and part of it is that I’m comparing it to what I’ve just seen in Gregory Heisler’s book. I kind of like the way the two lights from the same direction worked out but I still feel like something is lacking. Hopefully I learned something from trying something new, though I won’t really know for sure until I try it again.