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  1. #1

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    high-key portraits

    For a school assignment I am supposed to create a high key portrait, I've had two shoots but the results aren't great. I printed on grade 4 to keep the background white with proper detail in the face. (The black iris in the eye shouldn't become gray) But faces look really hard on grade 4,...
    I would much prefer a grade 1 to 1.5 look with a white background and black being black. Any suggestions on how to achieve this would be great.

    [COLOR=Navy]
    Some specifics:
    -The background was lith with two softboxes close to the wall. (softboxes to prevent 'hotspots' on the wall.)
    -I can use a max of three lights with flash and up to six with 500W constant light (B&W). I used 3 flash lights but can only change the intesety of the light with all three at once, not individuel)
    -To get a soft look, without apparent shades, on the model I flashed thruw a white umbrella (not sure wheter this is whise) located just above the camera and as close the model as possible.
    -No softbox on the model because I had to move it too far away to get a good contrast ratio with the wall (I supose the wall should be around two stops brighter than the measured exposure to get a white background and not yet 'embrasing' the model with the light from the back.) A softbox far away gives the same hard light a close direct light would give.[/COLOR]

    I could nearly write an essay on one picture.. hmm, sorry for all the text..

    cheers!
    Quinten

  2. #2
    Ole
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    Forget about keeping the background lighter than the subject. Use an all-white set, overexpose by 2 stops, pull development 1 stop. If necessary, fill in the pupils with ink...
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by jdef
    Quinten,

    a classic high key image is composed primarily of light tones, which are keyed by a few, well placed dark/black tones. So, essentially you want to spread the high values over a wider range, and eliminate/reduce the low values. To do this, you can create a lighting scheme that covers 1- 2 stops, and then expand through development. The lightest values attract the eye first, so you don't want your background lighter than your subject. Separate your subject from the background by making the background slightly darker, otherwise you'll get into a backlight/silhouette situation that kills the high key aesthetic. High key images are all about luminosity, and the subject should seem most luminescent. think alabaster on cream. Good luck.

    Jay
    This sounds very logic and I am sure it is right but when I do so I get a gray background. It would indeed look best when the white parts on the model give the same reading as the background. Though it doesn't seem to work this way. Maybe I should overexpose the model as well...? one stop overexposure of the model and three of the wall? But that would conflict with what you wrote. Well not incase white is 2 stops more than middle gray on my film/dev. hmm?

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ole
    Forget about keeping the background lighter than the subject. Use an all-white set, overexpose by 2 stops, pull development 1 stop. If necessary, fill in the pupils with ink...
    Ahh the easy way, actually I used a black tie as well just to make it a bit harder on myselves... And indeed a really white wall would help it used to be white some years ago so probably it's a bit brownish white now. (I supose you mean a background with the all white set?), trouble is many students at the academy are a bit easy on the materials so specially the white background rolls didn't live long, we now have to do it with a wall... But I will sure give this 2 stops a try the result might surprise me.

    And the pull develpment is to reduce the highlight intensety right? I actually pushed my previous rolls to get the background whiter. (about 15% longer with xtol)

    cheers!

  5. #5
    Ole
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    The background can be any colour you like, as long as it's white(ish). Same with the subject, but "pale" makes it a lot easier. Clothing the same - white is good - black has no place in a high-key set.

    Overexposure brings most of the exposure up on the shoulder (well - I used FP4 in Ilfosol-S, which doesn't really have a shoulder, but it makes it easier to think of it that way), and pulling the development gives you a better chance at printing it.

    If you really, really know your materials, use the Mortenson method: One big light immediately above the camea. Spot meter from forehead, opn up two steps from reading. Develop +20%. I've tried that repeatedly, and made it work once...
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  6. #6
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    I've just finished reading Mortensen's book on lighting, and what he would suggest is to slightly underexpose and develop the hell out of the negative. In other words meter caucasian and place that value on Zone IV-V instead of VI. The develop it for a half hour or more. The shadows will dump, sure, but you'll stretch those highlights out over a long shoulder. You'll need to keep your lighting ratio at no more than 1:1.5 and he would suggest putting the light on axis(IOW right next to it) with the camera and lens, allowing the maximum modeling of the face. A second light on the background will keep it light.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ole
    The background can be any colour you like, as long as it's white(ish). Same with the subject, but "pale" makes it a lot easier. Clothing the same - white is good - black has no place in a high-key set.

    Overexposure brings most of the exposure up on the shoulder (well - I used FP4 in Ilfosol-S, which doesn't really have a shoulder, but it makes it easier to think of it that way), and pulling the development gives you a better chance at printing it.

    If you really, really know your materials, use the Mortenson method: One big light immediately above the camea. Spot meter from forehead, opn up two steps from reading. Develop +20%. I've tried that repeatedly, and made it work once...
    I just want to feel nostalgic like I used to.


    http://www.clayharmon.net - turnip extraordinaire

  7. #7

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    Hi there,

    Read 6 of Mortensen's books, 1 point is missing:

    The only model light was 5 feet in front of the model, he was using the inverse square light falloff rule to get the 3D modeling.

    Meter the high TONE on the face and use the meter reading as exposure (zone V) AND bracket by 1 stop both ways. Semi-stand develope in D-76 to N+3. This should leave room for highlights and raise the shadows to have detail. This will expand the high tones for maximum seperation WITHOUT pushing them onto the shoulder of the film. Once you have the set-up, don't change it.

    Mortensen started with the lamp touching the lens at 5 feet, then move the camera back to 7 then 10 feet BUT only move the light sideways out of the frame, not more than 15* off the center line. With the camera farther away than the lamp it will 'see' farther around the model leaving a 'shadow line' around the model. The farther back the camera the more distinct the shadow line.

    Have fun with it, good luck finding his books.

  8. #8

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    Don't forget that he specifies specific films and compensating developers. High contrast is not what he is suggesting.

    Quote Originally Posted by clay
    I've just finished reading Mortensen's book on lighting, and what he would suggest is to slightly underexpose and develop the hell out of the negative. In other words meter caucasian and place that value on Zone IV-V instead of VI. The develop it for a half hour or more. The shadows will dump, sure, but you'll stretch those highlights out over a long shoulder. You'll need to keep your lighting ratio at no more than 1:1.5 and he would suggest putting the light on axis(IOW right next to it) with the camera and lens, allowing the maximum modeling of the face. A second light on the background will keep it light.
    art is about managing compromise

  9. #9
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    The Avedon "beauty light" of the 1950's is much the same -- big and overhead and overexposed.

    Try checking our http://www.streetstudio.com/ for a modern variation (http://homepage.mac.com/clayenos/str...dio/ramiriqui/ is (C) 2006), Clay's "love ya baby light" is apparently a big old studio fresnel hotlamp refitted for strobe, and I hear that some other portrait/fashion shooters (Testino?) also use similar kit.

    "What Would Zeus Do?"
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  10. #10

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    You need to overexpose the background about 1/2 to 1 stop. Move the light(s) closer to get the exposure right and develope normally. Shade the lens well and do not let any light spill onto the glass.

    Blacks have no place in a high key portrait except for small areas such as eye pupils. A fair skin model with light hair will work best. There is no decent way to turn a darkish complected sitter with dark into a decent high key shot.



 

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