Monday, September 28, 2009

High Key Portraits

I've been doing a bit of reading on studio lighting. In particular, a few things that got me excited were Snapify's series of One Light Portraits, as well as the numerous great articles on (especially from Nick Wheeler). So, I decided to get my feet wet by attempting a high key portrait.

Unfortunately I don't have a studio, or even a space that could pass for one (e.g. garage, basement). I do have a very small dining room, though. My setup is shown below.

What I've got is a piece of matte finish bristol board, affixed to a Swiffer via sticky tack (bear with me now). It's roughly positioned above and at about 45 degrees to the subject. This serves as a reflector for my key light. I've got my speedlight sitting on the table, aimed at the bristol board. I've also got a white post-it-note stuck to the speedlight to give a little bit of fill. The camera is at the other end of the table, at the same height as the subject. I used a telephoto lens (70-90mm) to get a nice close up and to exclude much of the background. Unfortunately, I think the small space places a limit on the size of object which can be photographed. Here's what the results look like.

Aside from cropping, neither of these photos have been edited.

I ended up playing around quite a bit. Placing the flash at various distances from the reflector, and adjusting the flash zoom to change the contrast of the key light. Using other types of reflectors for the key light (a pizza pan, handheld mirror). After viewing the results up close, I can see that I didn't get the fill light quite right (notice the nose and eyelash shadows on the left side of the face.) As the setup picture shows, the flash is placed more or less directly in front of the subject. Combine this with way too small of a reflector (the post-it-note), and we get a wholly unsuitable fill. I should have moved the table (and flash) off to the left a bit, and used a larger reflector. I could even have widened the flash zoom, aimed the flash more towards the subject, and put a diffuser in front of it (perhaps a white quick-dry athletic shirt, or a couple of dryer sheets).

I'll definitely be doing some more experimentation with this in the future.

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