Building the set for portraits... a "how to" for new photographers

May 26, 2018

 

Light.... and the absence of it. Essentially light is our paint and the camera lens is our brush. We use big brushes and small brushes that gather a lot or a little light and we use them to paint our subject. It all starts with a foundation of knowledge and the more knowledge we add the better we are at creating with our lenses. 

I lead with that because I build each portrait session the same way - with layers on a foundation. My foundation is the image of the background, no lighting turned on, and with the most prominent feature (building, car, sky with clouds, whatever it may be) in neutral exposure. I then continue to make adjustments to turn down the light on the background (I am building my backdrop this way) until I get it how I like it. Once I have my backdrop (Usually takes 2-5 exposures) I move in the subject; in this case Dr. Brady Harris of Life Cool Springs. 

The artificial light - With my subject in position I start with my key light as if I were in studio; in this case it was a Profoto B1X with a 2'x4' soft box. Profoto is nice because you can take your first shot in TTL mode and then switch to manual to make changes. So, in the above image I took the first image and it came out a little too bright for my style. I dropped it down two stops on the B1X and began shooting a series of 10 or so images guiding the subject through subtle face movements and smile changes in each frame. Once I have a group of images I will review one or two for clarity and focal point ensuring the eyes are like glass marbles. I continue to do this throughout the session.

Adding lights- I noticed all the light was falling off by the time it reached his feet and decided to add another light. You can also just turn up the power on the key light but you will compromise the upper portion of the image. I adjust the light on the feet until it is barely noticeable but so that it has matching shadows and it appears to be just one light on the subject.

Adding a third light - In this image I used some light off of an adjacent building as accent light on the side of his face, but you could use a reflector or another strobe. Once all the layers were built in with the light I liked I took 20-30 images that thought were of good enough quality and called it a wrap.

The equipment - I shoot using a Canon 5DMKIV with a 24-70 Lens usually. Our lights are Profoto B1X and A1; we use the B1X as the primary and the A1 as key lights or on camera during events. Please feel free to comment, ask questions or contact us for a private workshop. We love helping folks who are new to photography. (615) 281-9427 

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