Annoyed - Bad results in the studio

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by hoffy, Apr 15, 2011.

  1. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    Howdy all,

    First a bit of a confession. The only time I have ever shot in my home studio (small 3 light monoblock setup, in my garage) it has been digital.

    Last weekend, I decided to finish off a roll of Delta 100 (in my Koni-Omega) in the studio. I have just developed the film and I have to admit I am rather disappointed by the negs. They are of a bit of a horrible density and to me, they lack any contrast what so ever. Sure, I haven't printed them, but to me they don't even look like they are worth the hassle (out of focus as well.....grrr). To measure exposure, I used a light meter and set the camera accordingly (ironically, I started doing this with the digi burner and got much better results then shoot and chimp!), but they look too mid toned. The light setup I tried was a Paramount setup with two lights at the back and each side with small bowl type reflectors and a third light with a soft box mounted higher and dead in front. (if you check my flickr stream in my signature , you will see some of the digi shots using this setup, you will just need to scroll down a bit.)

    Can anyone give me any starter tips for black and white in the studio? How should I meter? Should I over expose? If so, how much? What would be the best film to start with?

    As for out of focus...yes, I know its technique, but I simply cannot get used to using a range finder in this kind of environment. I feel a case of GAS.

    Out in the field and even with incident flash, I like the way I have progressed. I would have thought studio would have been OK, considering I am in control of everything...sigh
     
  2. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    If you dont have a flash meter you will have to do some math, its all about gn and distance. You need test shots to verify set up. I've never heard of the "paramount" set up, I am very familiar with "rembrandt" and "butterfly" types of lighting. I used to use a 4 light set up, main light beside camera, fill 45deg to one side and same distance as main, hair light and background light. You can also set main and fill 45deg to subject either side, hair light and background light.Main and fill lights are just that, hair light for a slight halo effect and background light seperates subject from the background.
     
  3. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member

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    Are you using tungsten lights or flash?
     
  4. David William White

    David William White Member

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    Before jumping to conclusions, maybe make a proper contact sheet (i.e. reaching max black through the film rebate, 2 1/2) and see what they look like. They might be bang on & with sufficient contrast where they need to be -- but different from your preconceptions. You'll be able to tell if they are printable or if they are underexposed or underdeveloped from this standard way of making contacts.

    I don't know how you meter, but with a key, fill, and backdrop light, I use a flash meter, and measure each lamp in turn, setting the ratio I'm after, and not the whole mess together.
     
  5. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Yes, but with that total control comes the need for total awareness and responsibility. You can control every detail in the studio...and if you are not controlling every detail for a specific reason, and not really knowing why you are doing each and every little thing, and how the things you do will affect the outcome, you can get terrible results (and you likely will). So, once you learn to control light and pay attention to detail, the studio is actually much easier than shooting in natural light. But before then, results can be way, way, way worse.

    There are a few things I noticed. First, you use a broadlight/paramount/butterfly/whatever setup, which is pretty much the least contrasty of the main positions of studio lights (Rembrandt, broadlight, sidelight, rim/backlight, toplight). Then, you modified that with a softbox. Also, if I read it right, there were two bare bulb flashes pointed in the direction of the camera from behind the subject, possibly blasting right into your lens. All three of these steps add up to a low contrast picture, especially the bare bulbs leaking straight into the lens.

    You can learn about the technical details of cameras, film, or whatever. But 90 percent of getting what you want in the studio is being able to control light to achieve the desired effect. If photographers spent 90 percent of their time and energy learning about light instead of focusing on cameras and developing and lenses, then 90 percent of problems would be eliminated IMHO.

    There are probably some great books on lighting in your local library, or a college class nearby. My suggestion is to go for the "old school," "boring," "non-flashy" old books with a lot of words. :D IME they tend to be well written and not based on gimmicks, technology, or certain styles, while many newer lighting books are aimed at the impatient, rule-of-thumb-based, chimping digital crowd, and are not solid enough in the BASICS, or written for a very literate or intelligent audience. This is a broad generalization, of course. Look through all the books. I just think you will have better luck reading one that is a bit older and rooted in basics, as opposed to one with 50 lighting diagrams and fancy full-page glossies.

    As for metering, it's not complicated. You set the camera to the exposure you get by metering the main light. Then set up all other lights to fall into place depending on how you want them to relate to the main light.

    Also, looking at your photos shot with digital, it is a flat lighting, aside from the highlights from the backlights. As such, it should look mostly gray on the negative, with a few dark areas where the highlights are.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 15, 2011
  6. Leigh Youdale

    Leigh Youdale Member

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    Firstly, Delta is known to be a bit 'finicky' about exposure. Maybe FP4+ or HP5+ would give you a bit more latitude. Unless you're looking for very large print sizes then ISO400 film should be OK.
    Second, I looked at your Flickr shots and they're nice, so nothing basically wrong with that lighting setup - did you used the same one! If you didn't, go back to what you know worked while you sort out any other issues.
    The Koni has a leaf shutter, so no issues with curtain lag. However, it does have M and X settings for flash. Was it set on X sync? Makes a big difference. Was the shutter speed set at the camera manual's recommended speed for flash sync? Not all leaf shutters sync at every speeds - I don't know about the Koni but maybe it only syncs at one or two speeds like some other cameras.
    You mention using a meter, but is it a flash meter, and did you take the reading at the position of the subject? If not, the exposure indicated is going to be way off. A reflectance or incident meter of conventional type won't cut it. Sorry if I'm pointing out the obvious and you've covered all those bases but you didn't give any real detail about the metering or the flash sync settings you used, and I think that's most likely where the problem lies.

    Oops! I've assumed you're using flash, having referred to 'monobloc'. If you're using tungsten studio lighting then most of what I've written is irrelevant!
     
  7. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    I know the first time I used my Koni in the studio w/90mm "normal" I got a bit of parallax.

    I was trying to do head & shoulders with the 90mm ;(

    This was a long time ago.

    The problem with the 180mm is it doesn't really allow for closer focus.
    I know this doesn't address your film issues but just a headsup for you to remember.
    The Koni is a great camera for reportage/street but maybe not the best for studio.
     
  8. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    Thanks for some really good pointers thus far!

    OK, the lights are monoblock strobes, they are all exactly the same, 300W Guide number 55 - Generic Chinese ones (Fotogen if anyone cares- http://cgi.ebay.com.au/Fotogen-Stud..._Photographic_Accessories&hash=item588d92a6f1), but they seem to do the trick and I haven't had a problem using the pixel activator with these.

    As for the light meter - just a standard old Minolta IV flash meter, used in the 'Cord' position (with sync cord attached, of course :wink: ). I individually metered the rear lights at between F8 and F11. The front light was metered at just over F5.6. This was the exact setup that is shown on my flickr page.

    The camera was set to F5.6 @ 1/125th. With the K-O, I was lead to believe that it should sync at any speed, but I could be wrong. I just set the shutter at this speed, more so out of habit. Oh and yes, the lens is set to the X flash setting.

    Just looking at the negs again, the decenty is pretty much uniform all the way. I am now starting to think that it indeed might be flare from the back lights. I know when I was using the digi, the first few shots did show a little flare, which meant a slight adjust of the setup and all was good. It was from that final setup that I went to the Film. That being said, the lens hood on the digi is much better then the built in hood on the K-O 90MM. Could it be something as simple as that?

    And yes, bruce, I would have to agree. I don't think the K-O is the best tool for the studio. I have to admit, I have troubles with the range finder in such an environment. I am in the process of deciding what MF camera I want to go to. At this stage, I am looking at Bronica SQ-Ai's.

    I do think, though, that next time I might be better off loading up a 35mm camera with the film I want to use, take notes and bracket away.

    I might see if I can scan them in, even just keeping them in the sleeves on the bed and display later.

    Cheers
     
  9. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    What you can do (and I advise it) if you are using strong backlight for rim aimed at the camera,

    use a longer lens, move back if you have the room and flag the camera.

    With a telephoto you can shoot through/between the flags positioned closer to your subject. This will increase contrast and cut down on any flare.

    If you're not understanding ask away because it's tough to explain.
     
  10. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    No, I do understand. In all honesty, the 90mm was probably a bit too short. It would have been better with the longer lens, but I would have run out of room

    I probably need to make some decent flagging screens. Might have to find some sheets of cardboard or 3mm mdf and paint them matt black on one side and possibly white on the other.
     
  11. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    It is definitely easier to catch flare, and harder to isolate it, with a wider lens IME. I shot something once on 8x10 with a 240 lens (a bit wide), and caught a bit of flare on the top left corner of the frame coming from a backlight. I reshot with a 360 lens (more or less normal) and it want away.

    Does your lens have a hood?

    Attaching grids to the backlights would probably help you to isolate their beams. Though the light in the case I mentioned was gridded.
     
  12. Ottrdaemmerung

    Ottrdaemmerung Member

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    It looks to me that your problem is that you're over-lighting your subject, and the choice of clothing (all light colors) doesn't help.

    Your key light - the light that illuminates your subject's face - should be the brightest light and thus the higher f-number. Yours, as you said, is around f/8 to f/11.
    Your fill light - the light that fills in shadows and gives dimensionality to your subject - should be weaker, by usually a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio to the main light. You said yours was set to f/5.6.

    Thus, your fill lights are both brighter than your main, which is why the white quilted hood on your subject is starting to blow out. Notice how the inside of the hood around her face is nearly glowing from the fill lights? That shouldn't be happening. Try switching the power levels so that your main is at f/5.6 and your fills are f/8 to f/11, and you might see a little more contrast. If some of the girl's clothing was darker, it would "eat" (absorb) some of the excess light and would help bring up contrast. You haven't posted your film pictures, just the digitals, so that's what I'm basing my judgements on. :smile:
     
  13. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    There is no fill light in the OP's shot – only a main light. And the main light is not always the brightest light; case in point. Take the same situation outside, in natural light. You are shooting the front of your subject, but the sun is pointing at your subject's back. Is the sun the brightest light? Absolutely. Is it the main light? No, it is not; the main light is whatever is illuminating the main part of the subject that will be visible in the shot – probably light bouncing off of the surrounding environment and from the sky. If you wanted to expose for the front of your subject, would you meter the sun with an incident meter? No, you would meter the main light, which is reflected from the surroundings.

    As for what "should" be happening, that will vary; it is up to the shooter. And lights from behind are very often used like the OP tried to use them, even if in this case it may not have been the most effective implementation of this technique.

    Doling out rules to follow in all situations is not going to help people learn about the fundamentals of light so that they can make their own decisions. It is going to get them stuck into pre-made boxes without the ability to think independently.
     
  14. Leigh Youdale

    Leigh Youdale Member

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    I didn't mind the lighting setup at all - thought it was nice and anyway, rules are meant to be broken!
    I recently did a week-long portrait workshop with a well-known pro in Sydney. He was using his Hasselblad with a 150mm lens, a good lens hood and a waist level finder - on a tripod, and it was superb.

    I was using my Rolleiflex which was once the camera of choice for studio work but the longer lens on the Hassy was brilliant. I agree - 90mm on a 6x7 is borderline. I don't have a Tele Rolleiflex (135mm) - only the standard 2.8/80mm and a 4.0/55mm WA, but I think a normal tele 150mm on a Hasselblad or Bronica 6x6 would require less backing up than a 180mm on the KO? If there was a 135 for the KO it might suit better.
    Since you're leaning towards the Bronica you might find this review interesting <http://photo.net/equipment/bronica/sq-ai>
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 16, 2011
  15. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    I think it's all to do with personal choice. The lighting setup was something I saw on a youtube channel (can't remember who now, I think it may have been snapfactory, for those who care about these things) and was something I thought I would try. I do agree that the back lights were probably a bit strong and yes they have blown out highlights. In the end, though, my wife liked them and that's what really matters! :wink:

    And thanks for the link Leigh. I have been toying up with systems for a few weeks now. I had thought of going the hassleblad route, but in reality, it is beyond my reach and probably always will be, once you factor in the prices of lenses! I have also been toying with the GS-1 or the ETRS, but the 6x6 format seems that bit more flexible

    Cheers for all your input.