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Thread: Portrait strobist setup - setup & some tips.

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    Portrait strobist setup - setup & some tips.

    Last night I had a corporate function to photograph including 100 couple shots as they came through the door, plus group shots, presentations and atmosphere shots. I'm pleased to say the whole night went flawlessly and all the gear I used proved bulletproof.

    Below is a setup shot (taken on my phone, sorry about the quality). At the back is a black 3x6m backdrop on backdrop stands, at the front a pair of light stands with metal brackets and a 43" shoot-through umbrella on each. The backdrop was far too long so I folded about 750mm back under then ran yellow gaffer tape around the whole lot to remove the tripping hazard. I also put a tape 'triangle' around the bottom of the light stands to provide a visual barrier, and as the room had low light during the function tied a safety vest to each one a so they were a bit easier to see. You can also see a black bag on each of the backdrop and light sands, this is a sandbag (available from camping stores) to weight the stands and add further stability. Sand is messy so I put a large piece of firewood in each. The function had a masquerade theme, hence the mask hanging from the backdrop (at the request of the organiser).

    The gear used for the photographs was my trusty Nikon D700 (+ grip) and Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8. An SB-900 Nikon strobe was used each side, with the Nikon diffuser fitted, and were fired using Paul C. Buff CyberSync triggers.

    In the interests of minimising the visual impact of the setup I tried a couple of shots (using the band as subjects) without the umbrellas, but this resulted in overly harsh lighting and big shadows. I confirmed with the organiser that the umbrellas were ok to use and fitted them, the results were substantially better.

    EDIT: I also left the diffusers on the strobes. The master, Joe McNally, says this helps improve the light quality so I took his word for it!

    Camera settings used for the whole night were:
    Shutter - 1/160
    Aperture - f/5
    ISO - 800
    Strobes - 24mm zoom, 1/8 -1/3 power

    My initial aperture was f/5.6, but the first couple of shots were a touch dark. There was no time to pull the stands down, increase the flash power by 1/3-stop and put them back up, so I just opened the aperture up a bit.

    An aperture of f/4 would offer a nice DOF, but I was after focus accuracy turning that many people through, not to mention needing sufficient DOF for group shots. I would have liked to have used f/6.3, but this would have meant increasing the flash power, I didn't want to chew through the batteries too quick, or sacrifice recycle time. This is also the reason for the high ISO, but grain isn't a problem on the D700 at this setting so I was happy to use it.

    There is quite a lot to read there, but I hope it helps someone. Any questions? Post them up below.

    Setup shot.



    Portrait, no umbrellas.



    Portrait, shoot-through umbrellas.


    Obviously I cannot post pictures of people at the function, but these guys were happy for me to post them on the 'net.
    Last edited by BLWNHR; 24-07-2011 at 9:10pm.
    Adam.


    AGSPhotos.com

    Using Nikon & PS CS5.

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    for my on location shoots for smaller clients, I couple the flashes with battery packs from Yongnuo to extend its life to more than double - thus able to increase the flash output/intensity and be more flexible with my aperture etc. Check it out, theyre quite cheap on their ebay site.

    apart from that, I cant really fault it, textbook 2 light - 45 degrees facing inwards and downwards above the subject for even flat lighting

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    Moderately Underexposed I @ M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BLWNHR View Post
    There was no time to pull the stands down, increase the flash power by 1/3-stop and put them back up, so I just opened the aperture up a bit.


    Any questions? Post them up below.
    Why don't you give into temptation and buy pocket wizards that let you increase / decrease your flash exposure compensation from the camera body in order to keep your preferred aperture?
    Andrew
    Nikon, Fuji, Nikkor, Sigma, Tamron, Tokina and too many other bits and pieces to list.



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    This is really useful, thanks for posting Adam.
    Canon DSLRs & lenses | Fuji X series & lenses | Ricoh GR


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    Quote Originally Posted by I @ M View Post
    Why don't you give into temptation and buy pocket wizards that let you increase / decrease your flash exposure compensation from the camera body in order to keep your preferred aperture?
    I only do one of these functions every 12 months or so, I also do car feature shoots (about 6 per year). For cars I know the flash setting I need to use, so it's set and forget. This makes it hard to justify the cost (double), plus several pro's I deal with have experienced crippling RF interference problems with the PW's.

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    Cool, I was confused why diffuser and umbrella
    Darren
    Gear : Nikon Goodness
    Website : http://www.peakactionimages.com
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    Constructive Critique of my images always appreciated

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    Moderately Underexposed I @ M's Avatar
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    Fair enough Adam, if you are only doing the occasional shoot like this it is hard to justify the expense but having the ability to shoot both fully manually or in TTL is a bonus and very handy at times.
    Interference with the pocket wizards is something I have only heard about because of a few things.
    #People running the US units at the frequency they are.
    #Canon users with the Canon speedlight interference issues
    #Multiple pocket wizard using photographers at the one venue and not setting their triggers / receivers correctly.
    If only shooting and manually setting flashes the good old Yongnuo RF602 triggers and receivers do a sterling job at a bargain basement price and are what we have used in the past for similar shoots as yours.
    Certainly with well lit and well exposed images that you have presented here , 800 ISO is not high especially with the D700 and is the preferred setting for me with flash use as well which leads me to the next question.
    You said that you would have been happier with a 1/3 stop slower aperture but ran out of time to adjust the lights. Why then, if you really wanted that extra stop down, didn't you go with it and then increase the ISO by 1/3 stop? I reckon you would have never seen the difference between them and 800 ISO with the way you had your lights set correctly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by I @ M View Post
    Fair enough Adam, if you are only doing the occasional shoot like this it is hard to justify the expense but having the ability to shoot both fully manually or in TTL is a bonus and very handy at times.
    Interference with the pocket wizards is something I have only heard about because of a few things.
    #People running the US units at the frequency they are.
    #Canon users with the Canon speedlight interference issues
    #Multiple pocket wizard using photographers at the one venue and not setting their triggers / receivers correctly.
    If only shooting and manually setting flashes the good old Yongnuo RF602 triggers and receivers do a sterling job at a bargain basement price and are what we have used in the past for similar shoots as yours.
    Certainly with well lit and well exposed images that you have presented here , 800 ISO is not high especially with the D700 and is the preferred setting for me with flash use as well which leads me to the next question.
    You said that you would have been happier with a 1/3 stop slower aperture but ran out of time to adjust the lights. Why then, if you really wanted that extra stop down, didn't you go with it and then increase the ISO by 1/3 stop? I reckon you would have never seen the difference between them and 800 ISO with the way you had your lights set correctly.
    It is handy, but I can use CLS if I need TTL (particularly indoor).

    These guys were using locally sourced units, so I don't know if they were US or EU frequency, but they were Canon users.

    There are a lot of people that are happy with the YRF602, but I hadn't had any hands-on with them, I was impressed with the CyberSync's when I saw them with being used by another 'tog so that's what I got.

    You're right, I could have bumped the ISO, but there is a psychological barrier I can't get past about using anything other than full ISO stops. I think it goes back to the tests a few years ago where they showed the 1/3, 2/3 stops were interpolated (software amplification) rather than true stops resulting in more noise. It probably isn't an issue any more, but it's just something I've always avoided.

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    Quote Originally Posted by I @ M View Post
    Why don't you give into temptation and buy pocket wizards that let you increase / decrease your flash exposure compensation from the camera body in order to keep your preferred aperture?
    Should be trying out some Pixel Kings shortly, they are CLS/i-TTL compatible, can adjust power on groups and support up to 1/8000s sync - and a lot cheaper than PW. I want to see how reliable they are though ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by I @ M View Post
    Why don't you give into temptation and buy pocket wizards that let you increase / decrease your flash exposure compensation from the camera body in order to keep your preferred aperture?
    +1

    I got the new Mini TT1 & Flex TT5's along with the AC3 zone controller for my sb-900's and the Powerst4 for my Elinchrom Ranger lights, basically 6 stop adjustment from the camera and on different zones too, so key and fill and background if req all from the camera, with fast sync speed well above the 1/250 standard max sync speed. Worth the $$ and easy to use.

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    Moderately Underexposed I @ M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crankinhaus View Post
    Should be trying out some Pixel Kings shortly, they are CLS/i-TTL compatible, can adjust power on groups and support up to 1/8000s sync - and a lot cheaper than PW. I want to see how reliable they are though ...
    They will be interesting but ---- I dunno where you are going to buy them from "shortly" or even how much cheaper they will be.
    It seems that the Canon versions will be the first to be released with the Nikon following in the future. If they have hit the market they must have all sold out because their point of sale (e$ay) is not showing any stock of them.

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