Tina Barney techniques of shooting "spontaneous" portraits with a 4x5

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by pjm1289, Mar 21, 2008.

  1. pjm1289

    pjm1289 Member

    Messages:
    21
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2006
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Hi there,

    Has anyone seen "Tina Barney: Social Studies" on the Sundance Channel a few weeks ago? The documentary had some footage of her photo shoots for her most recent book, "The Europeans."

    Using a 4x5 and strobes, she is able to shoot as if using a 35mm of medium format camera. I've only been shooting 4x5 (also with electronic strobe) for a few months now but I am still perplexed to understand how she does this. If I'm not mistaken, doesn't the sitter have to stay completely still or the focus will be off?

    Thanks for your help,
    Paolo
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    17,922
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    If you've got enough light, you can stop down to f:22 or smaller, and that's a good amount of DOF for 4x5" portraits without any need for subjects to remain absolutely still.

    When DOF is razor thin, say for available light portraits with 8x10" or larger around f:5.6, I use a string between the tripod and the subject to keep the eyes in focus, and it's very reliable.
     
  3. darr

    darr Member

    Messages:
    182
    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2005
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I did watch the show, but if I remember correctly, Tina's Linhof was tripod mounted, she had an assistant adjust her camera/lenses, and her subjects were posed. That is not exactly how I shoot with a 35 mm. :smile:
     
  4. cotdt

    cotdt Member

    Messages:
    171
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2008
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    4x5 can be used as a point and shoot even without the flash. you can use ISO400 film and shoot it wide open. under the sun you can even shoot at f/22 handheld with higher ISO film and rangefinder.
     
  5. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Member

    Messages:
    2,718
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2004
    Location:
    Vegas/myster
    Shooter:
    ULarge Format
    Dave Goldfarb's string method above is the tried and true one used by portrait photographers for the past hundred years or so...frees one from jumping under the cloth and allows you to engage the subject, eye to eye...as a child I remember a home portrait photographer reaching to my nose with the string with a big grin on his face and then POW he got me in the same big grin! It was a keeper, Mom still has that portrait-me in my cute suit with the little lamb on front...and I am now 61 years of old age.
     
  6. pjm1289

    pjm1289 Member

    Messages:
    21
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2006
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Ah okay, I've been a big fan of shallow depth of field but I can see myself sacrificing that for shapr images and spotaneity.

    I just Google-d the string technique and I will definitely try it.

    And yes, I remember the tripod too but I think they moved a bit. I don't quite remember but I am going to try her technique next week (without the assistant of course...)
     
  7. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

    Messages:
    3,894
    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2003
    Location:
    Middle Engla
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Considering press photographers once used 5x4 and rattled off 6 shots in a couple of minutes without breaking into a sweat suggests that it is possible. In fact it should be easier today using electronic flash since one is freed from changing bulbs and only has to rattle a fresh film into use in a Grafmatic back.
     
  8. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

    Messages:
    861
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2006
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Craig McDean uses an 8x10 and a 4x5 to shoot fashion models. Usually studio set-ups with strobes. Basically, the strobe speed is your shutter speed. All the shutter on the lens does is control the ratio of flash to ambient in your exposure. So the fast (short time) of the strobe firing freezes the subject. If the subject moved a great deal, then you could get ghosting, or fuzzy edges.

    Just because a 4x5 lens has an f22 setting, doesn't mean you need to use it. However, some people are easier to work with than others. When you find a possibly more difficult subject, then use a setting giving greater DOF. When you have someone better at taking direction, then open up that aperture. Just as an example, I have done many shots at f8.0 or f11.0, instructing the talent to only move along the plane of focus, one example here. That shot was with a two light set-up, ambient room (studio) light, and f8.0 on a 135mm lens (Fuji Astia 100F Quickload); shutter speed was 1/8 second to allow the room lighting to burn in more.

    To set-up a shot like that, you can either draw a line upon which the talent can move, or you can give them reference points along the sides of where they are standing (outside camera lens view. If you want to do headshots, then have your talent (subject) sit in a chair to keep the distance better controlled. If you use swing on the camera at set-up, then you can have your talent align or more along a line at an angle to the camera.

    Then you can stand behind the camera, or like I prefer to one side of the camera. What I prefer is interacting with the talent, and when a stance is to my liking I will trip the shutter. Then another Quickload (or Readyload) and the next shot can happen at a short interval. While the pace is still slower than with rollfilm cameras, it can go quickly if you have an assistant to handle the film packets. I find that the relaxed pace makes for a unique interaction that brings out something different in the final image. While I have tried this technique with regular people, I have far better results with actors, actresses, and models; all of whom take directions well and somewhat understand what I am trying to achieve.

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat Photography
     
  9. frotog

    frotog Member

    Messages:
    751
    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2007
    Location:
    third stone
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Here's a picture I shot on 4x5 (kodak 400nc). I used 14 individual metz 60 series strobes and about 3,000 watts of hotlights. The picture was made during magic hour which warranted an exposure of 1/400th of a second. I actually had to power the metz's down inorder to achieve a shorter exposure. If I was as loaded as Ms. Barney I'd probably replace them with a 10k broncolor set-up...but that wouldn't be as much fun now would it?
     

    Attached Files:

    • bmx.jpg
      bmx.jpg
      File size:
      276.7 KB
      Views:
      81
  10. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    17,922
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Cool shot. I bet the Metz strobes probably stopped the bicycle in midair more easily than a Broncolor setup would, unless you could do it with lots of heads at low power to keep the flash duration short (like Lois Greenfield does with her dancers in midair).
     
  11. frotog

    frotog Member

    Messages:
    751
    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2007
    Location:
    third stone
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Thanks. Re: flash duration - I do recall that pricier strobe heads like profoto, elinchrom and broncolor are capable of operating near full power with very short flash burst duration times....like 1/1000 of a second and possibly less. The metz 60's probably kick out around 350 watt/sec's each at full power but at duration times of 1/200 of a second (which is plenty fast for candid portraiture at f5.6-f8). For this shot they were set at quarter power which brings the burst duration down to 1/750th.