Self Portrait – Strobist Style

9 07 2010

Right, so the strobist obsession continues. After splashing out for Joe McNally‘s two books earlier this week, I was bitten by this photo-flash malarkey once more and had to give it a go. Lacking a beautiful model however, meant that it was up to myself to not only dial in all the numbers and figures, but to also look nonchalant and well, poncey. I succeeded in at least one of these aims.

It was a fairly simple set up, as you can see below:

So two flashes, two diffusers (one coloured), a small GorillaPod and one lighting stand. Hardly an overly elaborate set-up. But to be honest, without Mr.McNally’s tips, this would’ve been a lot more daunting that I thought it would be.

But  to be honest the storbes aren’t really the hard part here – the background is. I needed to use the available light to my advantage (you can see it to the back of the scene in the windows). So I had to work that in. So firstly expose using Aperture Mode, with matrix-metering. That gave me this:

Which is fair enough to an extent. In the camera’s brain, this is a well exposed picture apparently. But lets be honest, it’s a bit shite. I mean it’s equally dark and bright at the same time. Look out the windows – pure white. Never a good thing in a photograph, really. So then you stick it in manual and take it down a stop or two until it starts looking a bit better – in the window area only. So you should get this (well, if you live in my house and have the camera pointing in the same direction, at least):

Right, technically awful, but nicer lighting in the window area – especially on the table. I mean that’sa nice table. Poifect.

Then you just bring in the lights. One behind the model (well, hello) and the other above them seems to be a fairly standard affair, according to good ol’ Joe. The one behind lights up the background and gives a nice outline, the other obviously just lights up the face. The background light had a CTO diffuser on it, just to warm things up a bit. The lights practically do everything themselves in iTTL (intelligent Through The Lens), but I felt I needed to adjust them slightly (+3 in the back and -1 on the face).

I’m not saying these are perfect portraits (far from it – lookit the highlights on the white appliances for a start), but given that I was manual focusing, aiming, pressing a timer release, legging it around the table like a rabbit jogging through marshmallow, I think I did okay.

G’wan then. One more prat-shot:

….Oh and get The Hot Shoe Diaries. If you like any of this stuff it’ll change your view on the whole malarkey. It’s inspiring and informative and great fun too. It’ll be helping me along my way here for a long time!





FAT – Fringe Festival Photoshoot

1 06 2010

You know the deal by now, click the image to see it larger

Having been contacted by the lovely people behind FAT, my first photoshoot was arranged. The bag was packed, two strobes in tow and my new umbrella set-up was taken along too. I was very excirreh.

Turned out the photoshoot was in a bathroom, so the umbrella was abandoned as it was far too big to fit into the room itself when open, without obstructing someone within the shot. So I was shooting with two bare flashes, hidden within the scenes. I took a reading of the room, getting a nice scene and as per David Hobby’s Strobist advice, I underexposed two stops (I actually brought it down a little more later) and adjusted the flashes to below 1/10 power each (because they were direct and not being dispersed by the umbrella). There was a little bit of flying by the pants going on here – tweaking on up and one down as need depended. Small spaces are a nightmare to shoot in – too much bouncing light and the cluttered room drew odd shadows all over the place. 90% of the time the flashes were pointed directly up, hoping to eliminate these shadows and give a nice, even spread of light.

Thankfully the girls and boy knew exactly what they wanted, and almost how they wanted it, so I was left with the simple task of shooting beautiful people, who were not camera shy. I needed to give minimal instructions – “watch your positioning” and “faces towards me” was about as difficult as it got – these guys knew how to work a camera. Took a load off my mind, I was worried about directing strangers, being bossy to them in their own home. But I got lucky first time out.

The show is an interesting concept; it looks at the fascination with image in today’s world and the importance placed upon glamour – even in things that are not necessarily that beautiful. Don’t take my word for it – especially given my ability to get the wrong end of the stick and appalling grasp of the English language. Check it out yourself (link will be added when available!)

I toyed with the images in Photoshop afterwards, but nothing too strenuous – high pass filters, gaussian blurs, fiddling with curves and colour balances. Here are some quick examples:

Here I selected the pants of Stephen, both bras on show and the lips’ of the ladies. Each got a selection of their own and an adjustment with the colour balance tool. The pants  became quite garish and needed the saturation to be pulled down and a small bit of dodging and burning to get them looking somewhat realistic. The yellow bra was changed  from a pale purple, and Im quite happy that it comes across believable enough. Think the yellow is needed too – the primary colours really make this image ‘pop’!

The lips are a little bit overdone, but I think that’s part of the point! Again, this was just a colour balance tweak.

The whites of everyone’s eyes (everyone except Oonagh’s – whose you can’t see anyway) have been boosted. I took this idea from a book of wartime photography I was given. I  didn’t realise this was an after effect, but in retrospect, who the hell has eyes naturally that white?! I first utilized this in the Faithless edits, but i think I’ve come to use it to  better effect here.

This one is a little bit more constrained. The main edit here was brightening up the foreground. The flashes (yes, I know, you can see one on the bath there…) were all aimed high, resulting in lovely tones up top, but a very shaded lower part of the image. A quick selection and curves adjustment got it up to something a little better, without taking the focus away from the main character in this scene. Think this one came out nicely exposed, the outside window is still clean and not burned-out and the faces are all well lit!

Lovely floor too, innit?

And finally there was the headshots.

This came out best:

It was desaturated using the colour balance method, her face was selected inverted and then the rest of the scene was subject to a gaussian blur of 3.7 pixels. Her eyes were  selected and given a smart sharpen and the lipstick was made darker with a small bit of burning.

Unsurprisingly, it’s already been a hit over on flickr (modest, me? yeah, I know). Less than 60 after being  uploaded it had been favourited. As had quite a few of this shoot. Beautiful people in revealing clothes will do wonders for your flickr stats. I’m up to 300 views in less than an  hour after this batch was put up.

As always there’s more over on my Flickr

Oh, and there’s still more editing to be done – 700 shots from yesterday and I’ve only gotten around to addressing about half so far, so stay tuned!