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Thread: portrait lighting help

  1. #1
    Member Hamish McHaggis's Avatar
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    portrait lighting help

    So my wife (who generally does not like having her photo taken, and is quite uncomfortable in front of a camera) surprised me recently by asking me to take some maternity shots of her (she's 30 weeks). To my shame I told her I would need a dedicated flash - and got the green light to buy one This shows that she's serious! Now that I have an SB-600 I have to deliver...and I am totally new to portrait photography. I'm thinking I'd like to aim for mono shots with a dark to black background, but don't know if this is a realistic goal. I have a D300, so the flash will work off-camera. I'm also thinking I should be trying for a mix of natural light (from a window) and flash, but that is as far as I have got with planning. I have a Nikon 18-200 3.5-5.6 GED, and a 50mm 1.8 D prime.
    Any tips would be appreciated! Also, any suggestions for an "object" that I could use for practice that approximates human skin tones?
    Hopefully I can post some pics later - if my wife approves them, that is
    cheers,
    Colin
    Colin
    Here to learn; please critique and/or rework my images

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hamish McHaggis View Post
    So my wife (who generally does not like having her photo taken, and is quite uncomfortable in front of a camera) surprised me recently by asking me to take some maternity shots of her (she's 30 weeks). To my shame I told her I would need a dedicated flash - and got the green light to buy one This shows that she's serious! Now that I have an SB-600 I have to deliver...and I am totally new to portrait photography. I'm thinking I'd like to aim for mono shots with a dark to black background, but don't know if this is a realistic goal. I have a D300, so the flash will work off-camera. I'm also thinking I should be trying for a mix of natural light (from a window) and flash, but that is as far as I have got with planning. I have a Nikon 18-200 3.5-5.6 GED, and a 50mm 1.8 D prime.
    Any tips would be appreciated! Also, any suggestions for an "object" that I could use for practice that approximates human skin tones?
    Hopefully I can post some pics later - if my wife approves them, that is
    cheers,
    Colin
    Try using the 50mm wide open, then at f2.8, and see how you like the focus on her face/body.
    Use the SB600 using bounce flash on the ceiling and with soft window light coming from a window on one side. Try to angle the flash 45 degress then try straight up to see which bounce lighting is best. Use a thin silk screen like fabric to soften the harsh light coming from the window opening. If you have a light coloured wall, that will do as a good backdrop.
    Cheers and happy shooting!
    "The greatest camera in the world is the one you hold in your hands when shit happens." ©2007 Raoul Isidro

  3. #3
    Moderately Underexposed I @ M's Avatar
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    Hamish, the first thing I would suggest you do is to download 2 optional picture controls for your camera and experiment with them for the best skin tones.

    I prefer the colours that are produced with the D2Xs Mode 1 picture control setting ---- http://www.nikonimglib.com/opc/d2x/i....en#os-windows --- and the portrait picture control added as an extra will suit the scene better --- http://nikonasia-en.custhelp.com/cgi...i=&p_topview=1

    Your 50mm lens will probably be your friend for 3/4 body shots and if you don't have access to a range of diffusers or light modifiers I would suggest a rapid learning curve of off camera flash bounced of walls or ceilings to create the right shadow or contrast areas that appeal to yourself and your good lady. A cheap radio trigger and running the flash in purely manual mode rather than TTL will probably give you better results from the start. Just remember the basics that your shutter speed will control the amount of ambient light that the camera 'sees' and the aperture size and flash power will determine your final 'subject' exposure.
    If you are wanting some mono images, try to 'think' mono with your background colour choices rather than just shoot in colour and convert later.
    Andrew
    Nikon, Fuji, Nikkor, Sigma, Tamron, Tokina and too many other bits and pieces to list.



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    You should have told her that you needed a 70-200 2.8 VRII to do the job

    But seriously great advice so far. One thing to add might be to pick up a cheap reflector ($30 or so) which can help if you need to fill some shadows that might come about by using just one flash. This is less of an issue if you are using natural light as well in order that you have 2 light sources (as suggested above).

    This is less of an issue

  5. #5
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    Hamish McHaggis's Avatar
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    Thank you Raoul, Andrew and Tony - that is a heap of good advice and will give me a head start
    cheers,
    Colin

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    I wouldnt even use the flash

    Id use natural light (maybe even outdoors on an overcast day ??), the 50 and a silver reflector. Some tin foil wrapped over a large piece of ... well anything rigid and not too heavy to hold really. Find an assistant for your reflector if you can. it will make life easy.
    Hi Im Darren

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  7. #7
    Other side of the hill ...
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigdazzler View Post
    Id use natural light (maybe even outdoors on an overcast day ??), the 50 and a silver reflector. Some tin foil wrapped over a large piece of ... well anything rigid and not too heavy to hold really. Find an assistant for your reflector if you can. it will make life easy.
    Speaking of reflectors, I like those fold-up car windscreen reflectors that are used to keep the heat out of the car in summer; not the ones with cartoons on, of course. Folds into a laptop size bundle and unfolds quickly. Cheap as chips, too! In my case dirt cheap (I stole my wife's from her car!)
    Waz
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    D700 | D7000 | Nikkor AF-S 18-55 DX 1:3.5-5.6G | Nikkor AF-S 55-300 DX 1:4.5-5.6 G ED | Nikkor AF 50 f/1.8D | Optex OPM2930 tripod/monopod | Enthusiasm ...
    My Flickr images ...

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    There are lots of make do solutions for reflectors ... hell a couple of weeks ago I forgot my 5-in-1 on a shoot in the city and ended up taking a piece of white cardboard carton out of the dumpster .. the model freaked .... but I gotta say proper reflectors work much better, and forgetting them on a shoot will be something that you will only do once.

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    if u already have a tripod u could always get an umbrella and umbrella holder off ebay for just around $40 or something and could trigger the flash onboard and get already fantastic images i reckon. converting the images to B/W is optional after!

    one thing i love working with flash, the kit lens is a superb performer!

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    Just recently posted some maternity (see link) Used off camera flash. Have a look at them and see if they help you. Rim light, silouette, softlighting etc.

    http://www.ausphotography.net.au/for...ad.php?t=62649

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