Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Recent photo shoot, and a hard lighting lesson learned.

A big thank you goes out to a big family. I was recently asked to photograph these four generational images that you can see in this post. What an opportunity! For the first set of images I gathered the entire group into a local cemetery, and then I got to work. I liked this little bridge with the little white rails, and I was pleased to see it covered with all of the fallen leaves. This would become location number one.

I stood on the back of a pick up truck in order to get as high as I could. I did this on account of the sheer number of participants involved, and also because of how many rows of people I would soon have. My sister grouped the folks together and I made sure that I could see them all through the lens. After that, I made sure that the strobes could in fact light them all, and then I fired away.

I set up three separate strobe units, all of which were Nikon SB28's with pocket wizards as remote triggers. These two pieces of gear seem to work flawless, time after time.

I mentioned at the beginning that I learned a lesson, and here it is.

I knew that if I shot this crowd with a bare bulb set up then the resulting shadows would be intense and hard. I set up two Nikon SB28 strobes, high on stands, and at a 45 degree angle towards each other, and I put on some barn doors just to control any unwanted light spillage. My mistake was that I assumed that by simply adding a third strobe (also with a bare bulb, and centered between the two other lights) that third strobe would help eliminate any over intense shadowing.

What happened was that I got three sets of hard and rather bold shadows! I had umbrellas with me, at the shoot, and I should have used them as diffusion material. Well, I knew as I set up that this might be a problem and thought that I had it covered with the third strobe unit. I was so wrong. Next time, I will add some diffusion!

Without knowing how hard the shadows actually were, I packed everyone up and set out for the second location. By packing up and heading out, I lost the chance to re-shoot the images using some diffusion. I spent hours softening up shadows, and/or removing shadows completely. Do not leave a shoot with out viewing your images at full size. Now I know this.

The second location that we shot at was just down the road at a local middle school. The trees were in full fall color, and all sorts of hardwoods were available for placing the family in front of and/or beside. For this part of the day, I simply bounced the warm afternoon sun right at the clients with a California Sun Bounce.

The California Sun Bounce that I used was a large unit, perhaps four or five feet long, and it lit the entire crowd. My sister worked her magic with the California Sun Bounce as I shot away. The shadows were not as hard nor as intense this time, and the only problem with this series was a white balance issue.

I knew that the white balance would not be perfect because the sun was coming in through the trees, and all of the fall leaves. They had a yellowish tint to them, and the leaves overhead acted like a yellow diffusion sun tent. The clients looked like they had just fallen into a load of cheesy doodles.

As for editing this series of images, I did something a little bit differently. With a fast white balance adjustment in Lightroom, I was fairly accurate. The white balance look was not where I wanted it though, as I stated they were all sort of yellowish and cheesy looking, even after a correct white balance adjustment. So, I added a blue cooling photo filter in Photoshop CS3 and then “WHAMMO”, it was a done deal!

The opposite end of the warmish yellow/orange color spectrum is blue, so I just gave using the filter a shot. I put the blue cooling filter on to a new layer and set it at about 70 percent opacity before flattening the final image.