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Old Nov 30, 2008, 11:10 PM   #1
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My daughter has selected me to shoot my grandsons senior photo. She paid a goodly sum to two different portrait studios in Virginia and I have to agree with her the results are way below amateurish. So here I am pleading and begging on bended knee for H-E-L-P!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Please load me down with lots and lots of advice. I hate using a flash and studio lights are not on the Christmas list this year at all. I have two flashes..a Vivitar 285 HV zoom Thyristor and a Vivitar digital slave flash. I plan on making a couple of homemade reflectors with cardboard and crinkled aluminum foil and Monday night I'm going to make some diffusers from milky plastic at work...I may even result to Vaseline on the lens and a stocking over the lens...God I don't wanna do that...So Please hit me with some wisdom...

Dawg on his knees and pleading!!!!!!
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Old Nov 30, 2008, 11:37 PM   #2
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Don't put Vaseline on the lens! :shock: Smear a thin coat on a filter if you want to soften the focus, but not on the lens!!!

And try a few outdoors after your indoor shoot -- under the shade of a tree for soft diffused light (stay out of the sun, but you must know all this already).

I'll bet you'll do just fine, even without advice - you could be giving it to others!
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Old Dec 1, 2008, 2:43 AM   #3
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Hi Dawg,

Here are a few random tips -- something might help.

I believe that the 285 has a slave sensor, and the digital slave can be set to fire on 1st, second, or third flash in this case, you'd want to set it for the 1st flash). If both of these are true, then you can do a classic two light setup and fire the two remote flashes with the on-board flash by using a fully manual lens, forcing the on-board flash to manual mode,full power which doesn't use a preflash. You can even do this while making the on-board flash not show up in the image.

You'll want to diffuse the flashes so they give soft light, setting them up on either side of the camera at about 45 degrees each. If you can set the power of the flash guns, then set one up to be about two stops dimmer (for a 4 to 1 ratio as a starter) than the other.

If you don't want the on-board flash to show, find an exposed piece of developed color film from the end of the roll (the black part, not the orange)and block out the on-board flash's lens with it. The exposed film should block enough visible light to not contribute to the exposure, but allow enough infra-red to pass to fire the optical slaves.

If you can only get one to fire reliably or just want to use one flash, I'd try setting it up diffused at 45 degrees to one side, and from the other side, use a white reflector board for fill. You can vary distances to get the contrast you want. If you only use the digital slave, then you can use
A capable lenses and let the digital slave fire off the preflash. If the remote flash you are using has auto thyristor mode, you will probably be able to use this, setting you ISO and aperture to close to the recommended values as a starting point.

It's easy enough to trial and error the exposure,just remember to keep shutter speeds under 1/180. It shouldn't take too many experimental shots to get it where you want it -- but try all this well ahead of time. A live test subject is best, but you can use inanimate objects if they have some depth.

You can play with the contrast between light sources -- increase the contrast ratio for a more dramatic look, and decrease it for a flatter look.

Perspective is another thing to play with. If your subject has a prominent nose or chin, you can use a longer lens and shoot from farther away to minimize it. Also consider shooting height -- shooting up at the subject makes him look bigger, shooting down does the opposite.

Vaseline on a cheap filter a nylon stretched across the lens will give you that soft "dreamy" look and mask blemishes and such, but as you have found, PP can go a long way for this, and I think that it's always good to start with a sharp shot, and make it what you want. You might want to try taking a series both ways, and then picking which you like better. Take a lot of shots, the film's free. . .

One of the most common mistakes I see is concentrating on framing the subject and forgetting the background. Find your locations ahead of time, based on the background, so you can just move from one to another without having to search for something appropriate in between shooting sessions.

Did I say practice ahead of time?. . . Having your subject wait while you work things out frustrates them and that's probably not a good thing for getting good shots of a happy senior.

I'm not much of a portrait guy, but I've done it (reluctantly)a few times in the past, so take this for what it's worth.
I'm sure that many others might be able to contribute better stuff. . . or at least explain it better.

BTW, I remember some of your people shots, and they were very good. I think that you'll have a lot of fun with this if you are able to set things up and practice some ahead of time.

Scott
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Old Dec 1, 2008, 2:52 AM   #4
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do you have a north facing window?
non direct sunlight will give you the best light as a main light

try a darkish background, watch for highlights

white sheets, table cloths etc can be reflectors
do some test shots in advance

take lots of photos

enjoy the time with the kids and make it fun



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Old Dec 1, 2008, 10:38 AM   #5
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Hi Dawg
We do not do Senior Photos in Austria, but i have seen a while ago some threads, which i found useful for portrait photography.

http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...mp;forum_id=80

and then this one

http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...mp;forum_id=80

Unfortunatley i am not good and do not have experience on portraits, so i ma hoping to get additional info here. too

bye alex

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Old Dec 1, 2008, 10:42 AM   #6
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penolta wrote:
Quote:
Don't put Vaseline on the lens! :shock: Smear a thin coat on a filter if you want to soften the focus, but not on the lens!!!

And try a few outdoors after your indoor shoot -- under the shade of a tree for soft diffused light (stay out of the sun, but you must know all this already).

I'll bet you'll do just fine, even without advice - you could be giving it to others!
The Vaseline was just kidding as I have enough soft filters in PP to take care of that. Outdoors is going to be about half of it and there I'm a little more confident with what I'm going to do. And thanks for the advice...

Dawg
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Old Dec 1, 2008, 10:46 AM   #7
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snostorm wrote:
Quote:
Hi Dawg,

Here are a few random tips -- something might help.

I believe that the 285 has a slave sensor, and the digital slave can be set to fire on 1st, second, or third flash in this case, you'd want to set it for the 1st flash). If both of these are true, then you can do a classic two light setup and fire the two remote flashes with the on-board flash by using a fully manual lens, forcing the on-board flash to manual mode,full power which doesn't use a preflash. You can even do this while making the on-board flash not show up in the image.

You'll want to diffuse the flashes so they give soft light, setting them up on either side of the camera at about 45 degrees each. If you can set the power of the flash guns, then set one up to be about two stops dimmer (for a 4 to 1 ratio as a starter) than the other.

If you don't want the on-board flash to show, find an exposed piece of developed color film from the end of the roll (the black part, not the orange)and block out the on-board flash's lens with it. The exposed film should block enough visible light to not contribute to the exposure, but allow enough infra-red to pass to fire the optical slaves.

If you can only get one to fire reliably or just want to use one flash, I'd try setting it up diffused at 45 degrees to one side, and from the other side, use a white reflector board for fill. You can vary distances to get the contrast you want. If you only use the digital slave, then you can use
A capable lenses and let the digital slave fire off the preflash. If the remote flash you are using has auto thyristor mode, you will probably be able to use this, setting you ISO and aperture to close to the recommended values as a starting point.

It's easy enough to trial and error the exposure,just remember to keep shutter speeds under 1/180. It shouldn't take too many experimental shots to get it where you want it -- but try all this well ahead of time. A live test subject is best, but you can use inanimate objects if they have some depth.

You can play with the contrast between light sources -- increase the contrast ratio for a more dramatic look, and decrease it for a flatter look.

Perspective is another thing to play with. If your subject has a prominent nose or chin, you can use a longer lens and shoot from farther away to minimize it. Also consider shooting height -- shooting up at the subject makes him look bigger, shooting down does the opposite.

Vaseline on a cheap filter a nylon stretched across the lens will give you that soft "dreamy" look and mask blemishes and such, but as you have found, PP can go a long way for this, and I think that it's always good to start with a sharp shot, and make it what you want. You might want to try taking a series both ways, and then picking which you like better. Take a lot of shots, the film's free. . .

One of the most common mistakes I see is concentrating on framing the subject and forgetting the background. Find your locations ahead of time, based on the background, so you can just move from one to another without having to search for something appropriate in between shooting sessions.

Did I say practice ahead of time?. . . Having your subject wait while you work things out frustrates them and that's probably not a good thing for getting good shots of a happy senior.

I'm not much of a portrait guy, but I've done it (reluctantly)a few times in the past, so take this for what it's worth.
I'm sure that many others might be able to contribute better stuff. . . or at least explain it better.

BTW, I remember some of your people shots, and they were very good. I think that you'll have a lot of fun with this if you are able to set things up and practice some ahead of time.

Scott
Scott, all good advice and thanks for taking the time to write it. It is greatly appreciated.

Dawg
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Old Dec 1, 2008, 10:51 AM   #8
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Gumnut wrote:
Quote:
do you have a north facing window?
non direct sunlight will give you the best light as a main light

try a darkish background, watch for highlights

white sheets, table cloths etc can be reflectors
do some test shots in advance

take lots of photos

enjoy the time with the kids and make it fun


No Northern light but I'm in the process of making my own soft boxes and tripods to mount and raise and adjust them. The daughter is providing a professional studio backdrop which she is going to leave with me after the deed is done....Gosh...does that mean I have to do more later???????????? Oh dag-nabit!!! 9 more grandkids to go and counting!

Dawg
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Old Dec 1, 2008, 10:55 AM   #9
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albreca wrote:
Quote:
Hi Dawg
We do not do Senior Photos in Austria, but i have seen a while ago some threads, which i found useful for portrait photography.

http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...mp;forum_id=80

and then this one

http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...mp;forum_id=80

Unfortunatley i am not good and do not have experience on portraits, so i ma hoping to get additional info here. too

bye alex
Thanks Alex, as both of those are good.

Dawg
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Old Dec 1, 2008, 12:43 PM   #10
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Aside from all the technical stuff - try to make it a somewhat entertaining event for your grandson. I am not the right one for the real "formal" shots (now that was to be expected, right :roll::G?) so what I do normally is to take the candid shots, what I am after is that "yeah: that's ...." or "typical!" effect.

I ask kids to perform for me, recite a poem, tell a joke, a sad story, a dream, grimace, whatever. If they are cooperative, I ask them to kinda "freeze" when I say "stop!" etc. - if you want to get a "honest look", try to get their attention, really talk to them, listen, play a bit dumb and let them explain something, until they forget about that silly dSLR watching them.

You can also try to make the kids "play" with the camera... works better for girls, though

Of course this means you'll end up with A LOT of photos, but on good occasions I had something like a 1:10 ratio (i.e. 20 real keepers for 200 shots, which is usually the amount of one "session" at a certain location, including the "fun" shots). Not too shabby if you ask me.

Practise ahead of time is a great advise. Not only for the lighting... It is also a good idea to get a feeling for DOF (frontal portrait, side portrait, ...) at a certain distance and with a certain lens. You should do some tests and know minimal and maximal aperture you need for head and torso shots, i.e. the "working range" (lets say f/2.8-f/6.5 to start with depending on background.

Good luck for this,
Th.
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