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  1. #1
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    The one-light portrait setup

    At the end of the month I'll be in Banff for work, and during that time, I will have to make some headshots portraits of a dozen people. The big thing is obviously how to light for it because we won't have the opportunity to shoot them in natural light. It doesn't need to be Hollywood glamour; but it shouldn't be stark flash in your face, because we're going to use these photos for a little bit of PR afterwards. I'm travelling by plane, and so not really eager to rent a strobe with a softbox. So here's what I thought I would do:

    Using 35mm 400 film, I would use my Sunpak 383 (GN at 100 iso of 130) and a large sheet of foam core (that I'll get over there) held on a stand. I would use the foamcore sheet as a giant bounce card, and take the portrait with a 50mm lens to be close enough.

    I will rent a flash meter this week (and for Banff as well) and start making tests, but I was wondering if anyone else had a similar experience and advices as well. I'm not sure yet of where to position the foam core: I thought that I could put it a bit behind and above me, and use the swivel head of my Sunpak to turn the light towards it, leaving the flash on the camera (one less stand needed). I will leave the camera on a tripod, in order not to fuddle with the setup.

    The other option I was thinking was to put the foamcore sheet horizontally between me and the subject, as an adjustable ceiling, and bounce the flash at 45 degrees.
    Using film since before it was hip.


    "One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11

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  2. #2
    jstraw's Avatar
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    If I didn't have a softbox, I'd be looking for a means to hang a white cloth, such as a bed sheet and shooting the sunpak through it to improvise a softbox. The Sunpack would be several feet back from the cloth for such a thing. If I was going to use that sheet of foam core for anything, I'd use it to bounce fill back onto the shadow side of the face. If you have a dslr and don't mind chimping, you could suss out this kind of setup in a short time with a flash meter. It's all about the relative positions of the subject, light source, diffuser and bounce.
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  3. #3
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    The flash bounced off the foamcore, fairly close to the subject, will give you something decent, but can you get the flash off the camera, so you can use a longer lens and have a little more flexibility with the lighting? Bogen makes a nice portable stand that collapses quite small and won't add too much to your baggage. You may be able to rig something with the flash and the card on a single stand using an articulated arm, or you could just use an umbrella with an adjustable mount for the flash that has a hole for attaching an umbrella (this would be the easiest to set up).

    If you have no background light, be sure the subject is far enough from the background that it can just go dark and so you don't have an uncontrolled shadow from the subject on the background.

    Whatever you do, shoot tests before you get there.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
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  4. #4
    jstraw's Avatar
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    I have that little bogen light stand in my ultra-portable kit. The kit is that stand, a very cheap umbrella, a mount that goes atop the stand that screws onto it, has a pivot joint in the middle and a hot shoe with a pc connector. I put my Canon 550EX on the shoe and connect it via pc connection with a long, coiled pc extionsion cable that has male on one end and female on the other. I power the flash with my Quantum battery.
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  5. #5
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    That's probably very much like what I would use.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  6. #6
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David A. Goldfarb View Post
    The flash bounced off the foamcore, fairly close to the subject, will give you something decent, but can you get the flash off the camera, so you can use a longer lens and have a little more flexibility with the lighting? Bogen makes a nice portable stand that collapses quite small and won't add too much to your baggage. You may be able to rig something with the flash and the card on a single stand using an articulated arm, or you could just use an umbrella with an adjustable mount for the flash that has a hole for attaching an umbrella (this would be the easiest to set up).

    If you have no background light, be sure the subject is far enough from the background that it can just go dark and so you don't have an uncontrolled shadow from the subject on the background.

    Whatever you do, shoot tests before you get there.
    Of course, I forgot that the only distance that matters here is light to subject, not subject-to-camera! I have a long PC chord that I can use just for that matter, so that's indeed a good idea.

    Do you have a model number for the Bogen stand? I'd like to see what it looks like. I'll have a look at the umbrella kits at my rental place as well.
    Using film since before it was hip.


    "One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11

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  7. #7
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jstraw View Post
    If I didn't have a softbox, I'd be looking for a means to hang a white cloth, such as a bed sheet and shooting the sunpak through it to improvise a softbox. The Sunpack would be several feet back from the cloth for such a thing. If I was going to use that sheet of foam core for anything, I'd use it to bounce fill back onto the shadow side of the face. If you have a dslr and don't mind chimping, you could suss out this kind of setup in a short time with a flash meter. It's all about the relative positions of the subject, light source, diffuser and bounce.
    Good point; I was hoping that the diffusion would be enough to fill the shadows, but again only experience can tell. Would you just hang the cloth vertically or try to put it at an angle?
    Using film since before it was hip.


    "One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11

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  8. #8
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mhv View Post
    Do you have a model number for the Bogen stand? I'd like to see what it looks like. I'll have a look at the umbrella kits at my rental place as well.
    I think that's Bogen/Manfrotto 3373
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
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  9. #9
    jstraw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mhv View Post
    Good point; I was hoping that the diffusion would be enough to fill the shadows, but again only experience can tell. Would you just hang the cloth vertically or try to put it at an angle?
    I'd be happy if I could find a good way to hang it vertically. Let's not get greedy!
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  10. #10
    bjorke's Avatar
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    One light is always best.
    It has always been there.

    "What Would Zeus Do?"
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