In this posing and lighting video, we’ll go through how to create this standing pose using a large light source. Whether you’re shooting in a studio, in your client’s home or their garage or outdoors, you’ll find tips and tricks here that’ll make your session smoother.
Some of the videos you’ll find here on SPPG I’ve recorded off-the-cuff – no script. Then I go back later – days or even weeks later – and write the accompanying blog post. When I started doing this I tried to listen to the video and make the written post as similar as possible. But then I realized there were things I should have said, points I should have made, that weren’t in the video.
So . . . what you read here may be different than what I say on the video. If it raises questions in your mind by all means ask.
Senior Girl – Seamless Background – Posing and Lighting Video Lesson #2, also talks about creating a standing in-studio portrait of a high school girl. The background is seamless paper. The important difference, in Lesson #2 we use strip softboxes. The strip softboxes are a more precise style of lighting. They keep extraneous light from hitting the background and washing out the deep color of the seamless paper.
In this image, we’re using a big light source – a four foot by six foot Larsen softbox. The background is a painted canvas and in this case, I don’t care if the main light spills onto the background.
Backgrounds with Hotspots – Or Not
If you’re thinking about ordering a painted canvas background or a painted or dyed muslin background, the supplier may offer the background with or without a hotspot.
So what is a hotspot exactly? Look at this formal image of a senior guy. Notice the bright area centered behind him – and then how the light falls off towards the edges. The bright area separates him from the background and the fall-off at the edges keeps your eye centered on him.
Now there are a couple ways you can achieve this. This background is an Old Masters by David Maheu and it does not have a center hotspot. I prefer to add my own hotspot – with a background light – so I have more control over its location.
When I processed the image I increased the darkness of the edges using a vignette action in Photoshop. In the old days, shooting film, I had a big bellows type lens hood on my Mamiya RZ67. You could buy plastic vignette filters that slid into the bellows – to add that vignette on film at the time of the exposure.
The other way to achieve that separation behind your subject is to buy a background with a hotspot painted in. Many of the companies that offer custom painted backgrounds allow you specify how big you want the hotspot and where on the background you want it located.
If you’re planning on doing school photography, or church directories or some other job where you’ll be using the same lighting and the same pose with all your subjects – you might want a painted hotspot. The painted hotspot would save you the hassle of a background light and it would increase the uniformity of your final images. Which can be important in the situations described above.
If I had to choose – between having more control of my background hotspot using a background light – or the ease of a painted hotspot – I’d always go for more control. When the hotspot is a permanent part of the background you’re stuck with it – whether you like or not.
Big Light Sources are More Forgiving
And just the opposite – small light sources are less forgiving.
Take that fancy tactical flashlight you saw advertised on Facebook and do this experiment.
Rotate the end of the flashlight so the beam is as narrow as it goes. Now, without pointing it directly at your wife’s (or husband’s) eyes, try to illuminate their face in a pleasing fashion.
If you move the light even a little (or if you didn’t listen and pointed it right in their eyes and now they’re chasing you down the hall) it’s hard to keep the light pattern pleasing.
Get them calmed down and turn the bezel the other direction so the beam of light is as wide as it goes. Now try to illuminate . . . . . . you know maybe you should just go in the bathroom and shine the light on your own face while you look in the mirror. See how much easier it is to create a pleasing light pattern with the big broad light source?
That’s why I use the four by six Larsen softbox so often: Big forgiving light source.
A four by six Larsen is about $700. You know what else gives a big forgiving light source? A $20 umbrella. Even cheaper? An open garage door – your subject standing a few feet back from the opening. The point is, if you’re looking for a big broad light source – there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
Fill Lights and Light Ratios
If you watch the video – or study the image – you’ll realize there are a few other lights going on here. For starters the fill light.
In case you’re not sure, the fill light is the light – that when added to your main light – allows you to vary the light ratio on your subject.
For example, an image made with your flash mounted on the camera is a one-to-one light ratio (1:1). Both sides of your subject’s face are evenly illuminated. There are no shadows to create roundness and depth. It’s called “flat” lighting.
What if you took the flash off the camera and placed it ninety degrees to one side of your subject? Now that side of your subject’s face would be evenly lit. The opposite side – depending of course on the existing ambient light – would be in shadow.
The difference in the exposure value, from the side that is illuminated by the flash and the side that’s in shadow, is the light ratio. A one-to-one (1:1) light ratio means the exposure value is the same on both sides of the face.
A light ratio of three to one means, there is three times more light illuminating the – main light – side of the face, than the shadow side. It can get confusing because an increase in one f-stop is actually doubling the amount of light.
Is anyone going to dock your pay if you don’t know the difference between a three-to-one and a four-to-one light ratio? Doubt it. In 17 years I’ve never had a customer say, “Oh I really wish you’d used a three-to-one ratio instead of that five-to-one.”
What is important, is knowing you can create roundness and depth in your images by playing around with the light ratio.
So . . . little off track there. In this particular image I’m not using an actual light to create the fill – but a reflector instead. If you watch the video you’ll see an explanation of the three by six silver reflector positioned opposite the main light. That reflector is bouncing the main light as fill – into the shadow side of the face.
Using the modeling light on the Larsen four by six it’s easy to move the reflector panel back and forth. Moving the light closer or farther away from the subject – you can actually see – in real time – how the image will look. It’s a great way to learn how to see light.
Hair and Accent Lights
In this image, I’m using a hair light that’s fixed overhead above the subject, and an accent light to camera left. The hair light is a Photoflex 9 inch by 36-inch strip box with a Photogenic 325 WS Powerlight. The accent light is a Larsen 9 inch by 24-inch strip box with a Photogenic 750 WS Powerlight.
The hair light creates that very slight illumination you can see on the top of her head/hair and it looks great on this kind of soft curly hair. With straight hair, it looks a little more like a blob of white light on the top of the head.
The Photogenic light that powers this hair light does not have a remote. I could have bought one, I just never did. And since the light’s mounted up near the eleven-foot ceiling, I couldn’t easily adjust it for every session. Consequently, I had to create a happy medium power setting. It couldn’t be too bright or it would blow out blonde hair. But a setting that wasn’t too bright for blondes wasn’t bright enough for very dark brown or black hair. In most cases, I could compensate with more light from the accent/kicker light.
The accent light is on a castor based light stand and is typically positioned behind and to one side or the other of the subject. Big Daddy Don Blair called this a “garlic light” – because you only need a little bit.
I rarely meter the accent light. I just leave it at the same setting and move the light in and out and then chimp on the back of the camera to see if I like it.
How About the Pose
How about it. Ninety-nine percent of the time I tell my subject to put their weight on their back foot. Except when I tell them to put their weight on their front foot as in posing and lighting lesson number two. And sometimes I have them put their weight equally on both feet.
All that said, weight on the back foot as a default is a good way to go – and then adjust from there. In this image, she has her weight on her right/back foot. But I also have a block of wood on the floor and she’s resting her left foot on that block of wood. That’s what gives her left leg that little bit of a bend. It also turns her slightly at the waist which makes her hips look smaller.
With her left hand in her pocket and her arm bent it creates a nice open space between her arm and the small of her back. Again to accentuate the smallness of her waist and midsection.
Notice too, how her right arm position somewhat ruins the above effect. Had I told her to pull her right elbow back it would have accentuated her midsection even more. As it is, the right side of her midsection blends together with her right arm making her look wider there.
So That’s A Wrap
I do tend to run on. Between the video and this post, I think we covered this image. But certainly, do not hesitate to ask questions if you have them. That’s what I’m here for. Have an awesome day.