Thursday, 25 August 2011

Portraits using a simple 2 light set up

remember : click an image to view it at full size 

Hi All,
This particular blog entry was going to be about creating panoramas but as I’ve recently purchased a couple of studio lights and I’ve been dabbling with some portrait images I thought I’d show you my results so far. 

Portrait photography is an art form in itself and I’ve always wanted to try it but with studio lights rather than pop-up or off camera flash. I purchased two 160w flash heads, a gold umbrella, a soft box, some gels, barn doors and a diffuser. I appreciate that 160w flash heads aren't the most powerful in the world but bearing in mind that my ‘studio’ is actually my dining room, they’re powerful enough.

I looked around on the internet and found a few tutorials on simple two light set-up’s. I found a few that gave me some good ideas so now I needed a subject. Luckily having a 20 year old daughter means I’m never short of a model so having persuaded her to sit for me I set up the ‘studio’ in accordance with the various tutorials I’d seen. 

The set-up, shown below, comprised 1 flash head firing into a 32” gold umbrella set 45 degrees above the head of the subject and 45 degrees to her left-hand side. I set the slave head up slightly behind her and to her right. The intention was to allow the slave head to illuminate the white background. I attached some barn-doors set with a diffuser to the slave in order to spread the light. Having the barn-doors also allowed me to add some coloured gels for different effects. 

Simple Studio Set Up
I chose to use my Nikon 50mm f1.8 portrait lens which proved to be a good decision but finding the initial settings for the flash heads and the camera proved to be every bit as difficult as I’d imagined. Not having an external light meter meant a lot of trial and error and a lot or patience from my model. I tethered the camera to a laptop using NK Remote which gave me a 17” viewing screen rather than the monitor on the back of the D300s. This made it much easier asses the various adjustments made to the heads and the camera. After about 30 unusable shots I began to get the hang of the settings and I actually started to see some acceptable results appearing on the laptop. 

I finally settled on an exposure of 1/100th second at anywhere between f8 and f16. I used an ISO of 200 which I now realise was too high for this sort of work. The main head was set to half power into the umbrella and the slave was set to tree-quarter power through the diffuser into the background. 

I took 250 shots over a three hour period changing settings and set-up’s throughout. Of the 250 images I took about 75 were usable. This represents a success rate of about 30% which wasn't too bad for a first attempt. 
From the 75 usable shots I selected 18 to work on in Photoshop Three of my favourite images from the session are below and the rest can be found in my gallery or on facebook. 

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