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  1. #1

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    Indoor portraits for the first time.

    Hello!

    In the short 3 years I've been taking photos, it's been all landscapes and natural light. I'm wanting to expand my horizons, so a buddy and I are going to try our hand at some portraits of friends and family.

    I'm just looking for some beginner advice on lighting and background set up, ect. I want to take very basic black and white photos against a white background.

    Thanks for any advice, as always.

    Mark

  2. #2
    omaha's Avatar
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    Got a budget in mind? Do you already have a lighting setup?

    My "starting point" setup generally is one umbrella as a key light (roughly 45 degrees to the subject). I'll set that to f11 or so. Then a fill light more or less opposite of the key light, set to maybe f5.6 or f8. There's no limit to how much experimenting you can do by varying the lighting angles and lighting ratios of a basic two-light setup.

    If you have a third light, make that a hair light...up and behind the subject.

    If you have a fourth light, put it behind the subjects and use it to throw light on the background.

    If you are on a really tight budget, you can still do great stuff with a single light. Adding a reflector for the fill light will improve your control/results.

    Good luck and have fun!
    I shoot digital when I have to (most of those shots end up here) and film (occasionally one of those shots ends up here) when I want to.

  3. #3
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    I think some of the best indoor portraits are taken with the subject next to a window using natural light. You can then use a white sheet or card to reflect some light into the other half of the face. However, if you want a white background you will need to light it as such, but grey backgrounds can look really good.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  4. #4
    frank's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cliveh View Post
    I think some of the best indoor portraits are taken with the subject next to a window using natural light. You can then use a white sheet or card to reflect some light into the other half of the face. However, if you want a white background you will need to light it as such, but grey backgrounds can look really good.
    Start like this. Window light is usually beautiful. And free. Studio lights, backdrop, and stands will set you back $1000.
    My blog / photo website: http://frankfoto.jimdo.com/

  5. #5
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Window portraits are great and the setup is cheap as others have said. But what makes them visually great?

    1- A large light source. This gives a soft effect on the subject. The equivalent to this in studio lighting is a big soft box. The larger the source and the closer it is to your subject the softer the look. A beauty dish is nice too but considerably smaller so the effect is harder. As you get down to 6-10" reflectors with snoots or honeycombs you get into Hurrel's territory.

    2- Direction. When shooting window portraits you are working roughly perpendicular to the light path. Having direction in the lighting, a difference right to left, makes more believable/interesting portraits IMO. You can use a reflector on the off side to fill/control this effect.

    Ok, so next.

    If you want your background pure white think over-exposure even if the back ground is white. With an incident flash meter at the background I'd set the lighting to be 2 stops brighter than the reading at the subject. This makes a perfect white with no detail. The opposite if you use a black background and want black.

    With the white background 2 over you need good separation between subject and background. Controlling this distance will control the aura. Too close and the subject gets fuzzy around the edges. To find where too close starts, meter behind the subject's head pointing at the background, that reading should be equal to the measurement at the subjects nose pointing at the camera.
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by omaha View Post
    Got a budget in mind? Do you already have a lighting setup?

    My "starting point" setup generally is one umbrella as a key light (roughly 45 degrees to the subject). I'll set that to f11 or so. Then a fill light more or less opposite of the key light, set to maybe f5.6 or f8. There's no limit to how much experimenting you can do by varying the lighting angles and lighting ratios of a basic two-light setup.

    If you have a third light, make that a hair light...up and behind the subject.

    If you have a fourth light, put it behind the subjects and use it to throw light on the background.

    If you are on a really tight budget, you can still do great stuff with a single light. Adding a reflector for the fill light will improve your control/results.

    Good luck and have fun!
    Thanks for advice. My budget is low, like maybe a couple hundred max. The cheapest I can do it!

  7. #7

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    Interestingly, I came across this article on npr today, and these portraits of the madmen characters are precisely the style i'd like to do! http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2...l-of-footnotes

  8. #8
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mporter012 View Post
    Interestingly, I came across this article on npr today, and these portraits of the madmen characters are precisely the style i'd like to do! http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2...l-of-footnotes
    Ok.

    Subject against the background.

    Very large/wide rectangular light source directly above the center line.

    If you look at the catch light in the eyes it gives away the shape.

    The lack of hard shadows means the light is large and close to the subject.

    The lack of right left contrast across the face shows that its close to or on the centerline.

    The shadows under the chin show that the light is above but not far above.
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by markbarendt View Post
    Ok.

    Subject against the background.

    Very large/wide rectangular light source directly above the center line.

    If you look at the catch light in the eyes it gives away the shape.

    The lack of hard shadows means the light is large and close to the subject.

    The lack of right left contrast across the face shows that its close to or on the centerline.

    The shadows under the chin show that the light is above but not far above.
    Always great responses Mark, thanks!

  10. #10
    MattKing's Avatar
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    Interestingly enough, I looked at the "Mad Men" portraits and immediately thought: "mug shots".

    The lighting, subject position and camera position really tend to flatten the subjects. There is very little three dimensional modeling. That may be something you want.

    The appearance of the fairly hard shadow immediately adjacent to the subjects' heads may appeal to you, or may irritate you. That is up to you.

    The two factors together may be more suited to people who already photograph well (TV stars) than some others.
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

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