Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lighting for the Vintage look without a beauty dish; part one.

To begin, I need to give credit where credit is due. The catalyst that sparked this fun photo session was Jim Talkington images and his great blog Pro Photo Life blog. I studied his techniques for lighting these particular images, and then went from there.

Here are the subtle differences between Jim Talkingtons’ lighting setup and mine.

Making the vintage portrait….

First of all, Jim used several studio sized flash units, one of which had a beauty dish reflector attached. I did not use a beauty dish nor did I use several large strobe units. I used one Alien Bees studio sized flash with a softbox, and a couple of Nikon SB-28's for hairlighting and the background lighting.

There are some way cool DIY tutorials online if you wish to make your own beauty dish; here, here, and here , but mine was not finished at the time of the shoot. I decided to go with three flashes instead, as Jim Talkington did, but in a slightly different fashion.

Jim spoke of the old flash equipment that photographers would have used at the time that his vintage portrait would have been taken, way back in the day. He emulated this effect using a beauty dish to remove any shadows in the models face in his images. He is a very smart man as well as an incredible photographer.

I added a softbox onto the AlienBees monolight flash head for the models main light. This gave it the overall softness that I was seeking, but it failed to remove all of the shadows on her face that the (vintage) harsh and powerful flashes would have removed. Instead of getting “little to no” shadow, I got a half lit/half dark face. A simple white bounce reflector was placed opposite the softbox, and aimed at the dark half of the models face. This helped light the darker side of her face without overpowering my directional mainlight.

Next I moved on to light up the background, and I used a “snooted and griddedNikon SB-28 with one of my remote triggers to do that. As for the setting of this flash: I just “let er rip”, and then I powered it up and down until I could see a nice gradual fall off of light between the center of the flashes spot and the edges of the fall off. I kept shooting and adjusting until I liked both the size of the spot, and the intensity of the spot.

Behind the model is a flash stand with the above mentioned SB-28 flash on it. It was aimed directly at the background (seamless paper). I also put a blue gel on this flash, and only for the color images. It seemed to add a bit of pop as well as some separation between the model and the seamless paper background in the images. I placed her in the scene as to hide the gear behind her.

Lastly, for even more separation and depth I burned her from behind with another SB-28 flash. This one is low, pointing up and at the camera lens. It took some adjusting to get it close, and then it was only a matter of personal taste. I did not use a grid on this flash as I wanted the light from it to strike her all over, but not penetrate too deeply towards her front side.

Lighting for the “secretary images” will follow….

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