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Old May 23, 2010, 8:30 AM   #1
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Default Sun + 2 Flashes + Umbrellas = Outdoor Portrairs

I haven't been on the forum much lately because I've been trying to take my outdoor portraits up a notch by learning more advanced lighting techniques, then applying them in the field.

I used an old sports bag with rollers as the base for my kit. It's just the right length for lightstands and umbrellas. (literally, there's not a half-inch to spare.) It also holds my smaller tripod and head combo, circular flash diffuser, and reflector kit.

In the outside pocket, I pack three flashes: The Pentax AF540FGZ, a Digital Concepts knockoff of the Pentax, and a Bower slave flash, a set of RF flash triggers, cords, brackets, batteries, etc.

After several tries that were less pleasing, I finally began to get some nice results Friday afternoon. On the first shot, backlighting was a very bright sun...the main light was to the model's left and over my shoulder and fill light came from just off her right shoulder. Both lights were fired through shoot-through umbrellas.

On this one, the main light was to the left of the camera and softening the shadows of what is obviously very harsh sun. A hair light was behind and above. Again, both fired through umbrellas.

Sun over model's right shoulder.... main light in front of her and off to her left. Fill was provided by light over my left shoulder.

Biggest problem I had was with inconsistency of the flash triggers....and an occasional inconvenient gust of wind catching umbrellas. I'm trying a few different tricks to make the triggers more efficient, short of having to pay $ 250 for a pair of Pocket Wizards.

Just a couple others I liked from the shoot.

Other than the temperature reaching 91 degrees during the shoot, it was a fun couple of hours, and I definitely learned a few things. 1) Make sure you have someone else there who can grab light stands, check to make sure all lighting is firing, etc. 2) Give yourself plenty of time, especially if you're having to work through new set-ups and gear, etc.

This young lady is one of my Psych students. She knew that it was my first shoot with all the gear and had been told to expect a lot of wasted time while I tried to learn all my equipment. My wife was nice enough to assist with the shoot since the young lady's mom had to work and the girl got a nice photoshoot for free.

I'm looking forward to working more on some of these to bring them to a marketable level.

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Old May 23, 2010, 9:32 AM   #2
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Very nice series Paul.

I think you did a really great job for your first shoot with lighting gear.

You are correct that you really need a second person to help you with all of that gear.
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Old May 23, 2010, 10:15 AM   #3
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Love all except maybe the 4th ( A bit blurred) what was the lens you used?
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Old May 23, 2010, 10:42 AM   #4
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Pros use sandbags on their light stands (I've read a book recently about how a pro did certain pictures). If you look at the light and boom set-up for the TV/movies, they have a ton of BIG sandbags around their stands. Of course, that's all that much more stuff to drag around.

Your results are pretty good. If you are going to offer her some prints, you might think about editing a couple of spots on her nose, she'd probably appreciate the edit.

I appreciate other's work with this type of photography. It makes for lovely, pro-quality portraits. I appreciate it even more because of my playing around with macro, which can be equipment/set-up intensive if you are using flash and add-on things. I've found it a slow occupation, set up - take a picture - change set up - take a picture etc. I get frustrated quickly with that, I can't imagine being able to do something like this. I imagine that it would take an hour to set up, 5 minutes shooting, half hour to adjust things, 5 minutes of shooting etc. Then dragging around a huge camera bag (mine) along with a larger duffle bag of lighting equipment. Then there's the various things that can go on the strobes to provide specific effects and it never seems to end.

Anyone who gets into this type of photography has my greatest admiration!
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Old May 23, 2010, 11:04 AM   #5
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Good stuff Paul. I like #5 ...good combination of back lighting on the hair and soft facial lighting.

If you are getting into portrait photography, you should check out Portrait Professional...I hear it has some great editing capability to fix flaws fairly easily.
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Old May 23, 2010, 12:07 PM   #6
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Hi Paul,

You're a better man than I am -- although I try to be pretty aware of lighting, and have used flash quite a lot (and have collected quite a few units in the process), I'm pretty much a "mount the flash in the shoe or on a bracket" kind of guy. Wireless remote has been a significant convenience, and I have and use a number of small flash mounted modifiers, but nothing with this kind of sophistication. . .and I can't approach your level of results. . .

I read about portrait lighting setups, brollies, stand positioning, lightbox dimensions, radio triggers, etc, and my eyes glaze over. . . and I go back to shooting birds -- and now small critters. There's something about always having the excuse that I had to deal with the lighting I was presented with that seems to appeal to me. . .

Actually, I realize this is a weakness, and I have always admired portrait photography, so I've been slowly acquiring things like a mannequin head and a wig for it at resale shots so I can experiment with lighting at my leisure, without needing to bother a model, but my aim is to work up a very portable system that can give me passable portrait lighting with the minimum setup, size, and additional cost possible. I realize that this will only take me so far. . . but that's alright because I just want to be able to take minimally competent shots on the few occasions that I may get a request from a friend.

My hat's off to you for tackling this very demanding genre, and wanting to do it right. It looks to me like you're getting some very impressive results!

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Old May 23, 2010, 12:50 PM   #7
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Thanks for all the comments, folks.

Chesslanka, I was using the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di LD on the K-7 for all shots. I really like the color rendition on this particular lens

Harriet, before she orders anything, I'm going to have her tell me which ones she want printed, o I can do a final edit. I had cleaned up some problems on cheeks and forehead, butI needed to go furher.

Jelpee, I thought about using Portrait Professional for this shot, but I've found it to be awfully heavy handed for outdoor portraits. Still I did use it on a few of the shots that were not among the ones I posted here.

Scott, I like your idea of getting a mannequin for practice. One of the reasons I decided to go ahead and jump into this type of work is watching the work of a talented group of Arkansas Portrait Photographers on Flickr. Three or four times a year, they have a "meet-up" where 12-15 photographers get together with a like number of models for a day of shooting and sharing ideas. I thought it sounded like a great way to improve technique, plus have a lot of fun. But, I wanted to get a bit of a head start before I went to my first meet-up (in early June), so I wouldn't waste the time of the models while I was learning to use my equipment.

By using some of my advanced students as models, and giving them a free photo shoot, they know going in that the shoot is a learning experience for me as well and not to expect professional speed in changes, etc.

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Old May 23, 2010, 2:12 PM   #8
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Really nice work Paul!
I'm a long way from being a portrait photographer so, I really shouldn't be the one to critique you photos. But, (here we go anyway) This is just an observation from the perspective of my monitor so, it may look better on some others OK? on the first, It looks a shade light overall. (again may be my monitor) I like the tonal quality and pose.
#2. I like everything except the harsh sunlight on her face, and maybe a touch of skin tone. A little to much of an orange tint?
#3. Love the pose and composition. skin tone a bit too pink and the highlights are too harsh.
#4. A touch too pink.
#5. Perfect.
#6. Close to perfect, good lighting, just a very slight pink across the bridge of her nose and cheek bones. (a little sun burn?)
#7. Same as 6 plus a tad harsh on the right side of her face.
#8. is my favorite pose and nearly perfect overall. I think stopping down 1 stop would have it nailed.
These are in no way meant to be putting down your work Paul, in fact if others disagree with what I'm seeing, it will help me adjust my monitor!

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Old May 24, 2010, 5:57 AM   #9
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I really like #3 - except for the 'panda eye' given by the harsh light you were dealing with there. If that had been filled then that would be the star of the show for me.

I really liked #s 6 & 8 too.

Good job !
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Old May 24, 2010, 1:37 PM   #10
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really like nr3, because of the eyes
and the last for the pose.

People aren't my strong suite, but really like'm all

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