Photo Notes

April 30, 2014

Notes From the Lighting Workshop

Filed under: Indianapolis,Lighting Technique,Photographic Education,Portraits — John Siskin @ 12:22 pm

Please check out my on-line classes at BetterPhoto: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio and Getting Started in Commercial Photography, take a look at my site for workshops in Indianapolis and check out my books:

The Lighting Workshop happened last weekend and it went very well. We spent all day discussing and working with strobes. Since the class size was small I was able to be very responsive to the specific interests of each participant. We set up the strobes to see how the tools work in specific situations as well as discussing the basics of how light works. If you understand the basics of a light: size, color, position and power, you can understand what a light will do. We did a lot of shots so that we could see the effect. Of course the shots were for demonstration so we concentrated on the lighting. In this shot I’m the model, which is not my best talent. I used a light panel with a white cotton broad cloth cover. These are great light modifiers. I wanted to use a hard light in the shot so I set up a strobe with a snoot to the right of the camera. I like snoots more than grid spots because the light spreads more than with grids as you pull the snoots back from the subject. This shot shows the set-up.

The light panel gives a smooth gradation across most of the face. The snoot defines the other side of the face. One of the first things I wanted to demonstrate was how to use a colored gel to change the color of the light. I usually use warm gels, but I wanted to make a change here so I added a CTB gel, which is a blue. The CTB gel is from Rosco and is designed to make a tungsten light act like daylight. The shot below shows how the shot looked at first: not great. The light on my face is a little dark while there is probably too much light from the snoot. It burns out the left side of my face.

In the next shot I made some adjustments. The light on my face is a little brighter, which helps. Also I’ve positioned the light panel just a little more in front of my face; this make the light cover more of my face. The snoot is positioned to keep the light on just the side of my face. This is accomplished by moving the snoot a little more toward the center of the shot. The light from the snoot is still too bright. You’ll notice that since the light panel is still situated pretty far to the side of my face as  there is little or know reflection in my glasses. The further the light panels comes toward the camera position the more reflection there will be in my glasses.

In the last shot I added a 1-stop neutral density filter to the blue gel. This reduced the light on the left side of my face nicely. The light panel is a little closer to the camera position so there is a little more reflection in my glasses. When you use a large light modifier, which makes soft light, the reflection (specular highlight) is larger and less bright, relative to the rest of the light. So the reflection is as strong as a reflection from a small hard light. This works well in this shot. The same thing applies to the catch lights in the eyes, which have a nice size and brightness in this shot.

You can see the two gels on the version of the shot below. They’re held onto the snoot by a very small spring clamp.

I hope you’ll consider taking one of my workshops. The next one is the continuing Portfolio Workshop on June 2. You can find more information on the workshop page of my site. You can also find the books on my site, and I hope you’ll check them out. I’ll be speaking about micro (not macro but micro) photography on June 5 at the Photo Venture Camera Club here in Indianapolis. Finally please don’t forget my classes at BetterPhoto, you can take them anywhere!
An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio

Getting Started in Commercial Photography

Here are a couple more shots from the workshop. Thanks Bill!


April 10, 2014

Strobe Lighting Workshop! April 27th

Filed under: Commercial Photography,Indianapolis,Lighting Technique — John Siskin @ 2:57 pm

If you’re close to Indiana this will be a great workshop, if not you can take an online class with me at BetterPhoto.com. The shots this week are demonstration images and diagrams from my classes and books.

It’s sometimes useful to remember that we don’t actually photograph things or people or places; we photograph the light reflected off people or things or paces. For instance if you take a picture of someone under a blue light that person will be blue, also you can’t take a picture without light. So, in a very real sense all photography is painting with light. Like painting a photographer can choose to make a straight recording of a subject, but also like painting, a photographer can choose to manipulate and interpret the subject. I think that manipulation is part of want makes an image a photograph rather than a snap shot. Manipulating the light is one way the photographer can change an image, and it’s a powerful way to manipulate an image. Creating light can allow you to build a shot that isn’t part of the world and to take a shot where the light is wrong or just insufficient.

A house painter uses a different tool kit than a portrait painter. I don’t think portrait painters ever use rollers! Of course there are different tools for creating different kinds of light for photographs. You might use a dedicated flash to open up the shadows in an outdoor portrait, but if you try to do a studio portrait with the same flash you’ll be disappointed with the results. A good artist, with any medium, knows how each tool will affect the picture. This workshop is designed to give you greater confidence and ability with the tools of lighting.

Strobes are fantastic tools for lighting still pictures. You can get a dedicated strobe that will do a good job shooting 500 pictures at an event powered by just a few batteries. You can carry the thing in a pocket. When a movie crew shows up there is at least one truck entirely full of lights; a movie light with the same power as a good strobe is hard for one person to lift. There is only one problem with strobe lights: the photographer can’t see the light that will make the picture. The light is only on for 1/1000th of a second while the shutter is open. So to make good shots with these lights we have to be able to predict, pre-visualize, what our strobes will do. That’s what this workshop is about.

Automatic or dedicated strobes are good tools when you need to get a good exposure quickly, say if your shooting a wedding or other event, but automation doesn’t give you complete control over the light. It’s more like painting by numbers that painting with light. In addition to a light we need the right tools to modify the light: to get quality light rather than just quantity light. It’s a big problem for photographers to choose good tools. The manufacturers of the gear want to sell you more things rather than help you make better pictures, so they don’t always give you enough information. So one goal of this workshop is to help you decide what tools would be best for you. My studio is a kind of test kitchen for light modifiers. You’ll be able to see the light that different tools make. Other goals are to learn how to use several lights together and how to use strobe with ambient light.


Strobe Lighting! April 27th
This workshop will take place on Sunday the 27th of April. We’ll meet at my studio: 971 North Delaware, Unit B, Indianapolis. We’ll be starting at 10:00 am, and we’ll be working together all day. The cost will be $225. There are only three spaces left. You can sign up for either workshop at the workshop page on my site: http://www.siskinphoto.com/Workshop.html, or give me a call (317) 473-0406.

If you control the light in your picture you are doing so much more to build the image than when you just record the light. Finding light is good, but building light is fabulous. The idea is to understand how to control and create light to build your own vision.

 

I post on this blog mostly to promote my classes at BetterPhoto and my books. I’m lucky enough to have students from around the world. If you’re interested in taking one of these classes here are the links:

An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio

Getting Started in Commercial Photography

And here are the books:

I’ll mention a couple of more resources that might interest you on my website: my magazine page has two-dozen of my articles on subjects from lighting to lens building that appeared in such magazines as Shutterbug, Photo Techniques and View Camera. Check it out at: http://www.siskinphoto.com/magazinearticles.php. And if you like to build some of your own equipment you can check out the projects here: http://www.siskinphoto.com/cameraeqp.php. You can check out my page at facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JohnSiskinPhotographer. Or my website: www.siskinphoto.com and of course you can probably find traces of me at places like LinkedIn, Behance (www.behance.net/siskin), Flicker and even Twitter (twitter.com/JohnSiskin).
Thanks for your attention!

John
john@siskinphoto.com
www.siskinphoto.com

March 20, 2014

New Classes!

Filed under: Indianapolis,Lighting Technique,Marketing — John Siskin @ 3:30 pm

Please check out my on-line classes at BetterPhoto: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio and Getting Started in Commercial Photography and my books:

When I’m not shooting, and who can shoot all the time, I’m marketing. Frankly I’d rather be shooting, but If I don’t let people know about my photography I won’t be doing much shooting. I just made a couple of pdf files that I’m hosting on my site. I can send people a link to these files, like this http://www.siskinphoto.com/acontractor.pdf and this http://www.siskinphoto.com/aportrait.pdf. I’m using these with e-mail and with facebook, and they seem to be working. I really need to redo my website, but I’m not quite ready to get into that project. If you’d like to get mailings from me about classes I teach or my photographic services please send me an e-mail: john@siskinphoto.com. I’ve added a few shots to this entry that might make it into the next pdf file.

I’m offering some classes here at my studio that I hope you’ll want to take. The first is the Portfolio Workshop. This is an ongoing group that gets together to discuss each others’ work and give encouragement. Here’s some information from the website: “Since portfolios are the tools photographers use to present their vision it’s really important to know how people perceive your work. In many ways it’s like a resume: it’s a detailed introduction for a person in fine arts or commercial art.” Come join us it’ only $20 per meeting. The next meeting is April 7 at my studio. Check out www.siskinphoto.com/Workshop.html to sign up.

I’m also offering a Lighting Workshop on April 27. Here’s some information about that class: The cost will be $225. There are only going to be 5 participants, so you can get a real hands on experience! We’re going over these topics:
How to use strobes.
Kinds of light.
What different light modifiers do to the light and why.
Using different kinds to lights together.
Balancing the light from different strobes.
You can sign up at the workshop page on my website: www.siskinphoto.com/Workshop.html. And I hope to see you on the 27th. Since this is such a small class it’ll fill up soon.

Of course, if you can’t come to Indianapolis you can still get my books or take my classes. And I hope you will!
Books:
Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographer

Photographing Architecture

My Classes at BetterPhoto.com:

An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio

Getting Started in Commercial Photography

 

February 20, 2014

The Norman Tri-Lite and Me

Filed under: Lighting Technique,Photographic Equipment,Portraits — John Siskin @ 2:23 pm

Please check out my on-line classes at BetterPhoto: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio and Getting Started in Commercial Photography and my books:

So I wanted to post a few samples made with the Norman Tri-Lite I just got. Unfortunately the only person I’ve had around the studio to inflict portraits on is myself. So I’m posting selfies. As you may remember the Tri-Lite is a sort of slide projector that uses a strobe for a light source. I’ve experimented with this before with a home built projector (http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=742 and http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=804) but the Tri-Lite is a brighter and more reliable tool. Norman doesn’t make the Tri-Lite anymore but you can find them at eBay. You need a Norman power Pack to power the Tri-Lite, it won’t plug into the wall. All the Tri-Lites I’ve seen work with the Norman 900 series power packs, but I understand some were built that use other Norman packs. If you want more information download the instructions for the Tri-Lite here. I used a simple cucoloris made out of cine foil for the shot. I put a picture of the Tri-Lite and the cucoloris below.


I used a bare bulb Norman 200B behind my head to make a rim light and to bounce off the light panel on my right side. You can see the set-up below. I covered the 200B with a Rosco CTO to give warmth to the background and the rim lite. On some of the shots I used a second 200B behind the light panel to give me a large light source. You can see the set-up and the bare bulb 200B with the CTO filter below.

So here’s the selfies with the Tri-Lite

Here’s a couple where I missed my head with the Tri Lite. It’s really tricky to do selfies with a light source that really needs to be aimed carefully.


I wanted to update you on a few things happening here at my studio: first I’m continuing to offer the Portfolio Workshop. For more information on this and my other workshops please take a look at the workshop page on my site. You can also find information about the Matting & Framing Workshop for Photographers at the site. This is going to be a very small class, so if you’re in Indianapolis sign up now. You can also rent my studio, and get the chance to work with Normans! Call 317.473.0406 or e-mail to reserve time for a shoot or a private workshop. If you can’t get to Indianapolis you can take one of my BetterPhoto classes:
An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
Getting Started in Commercial Photography.

February 2, 2014

Norman Strobes

Filed under: Lighting Technique,Photographic Equipment — John Siskin @ 3:06 pm

Please check out my on-line classes at BetterPhoto: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio and Getting Started in Commercial Photography and the books:

I often write about lights and lighting in this blog. I think that learning how to manipulate light is perhaps the most important skill a photographer can acquire. If you can’t manipulate light your photography is mostly about what you see, rather than making pictures of what you imagine. There are many ways to put your imaginings into your photographs, but light might be the most powerful tool to do this sort of creation. In order to create photographs with light you need to learn to visualize your images and you need tools to create those images.

This month I want to say some things about my tools. I have a lot of lights; I think I’m up to twenty strobes. Most of them are from a company called Norman. Over the years I’ve said a few uncomplimentary things about Norman, and, in fact, I think I’ve had a bit of an inferiority complex about my Normans. Well it’s time to stop this and say a few nice things about Normans. Now before I start I have to say that Norman made some bad products, some of which, like the P4000D, I owned. Norman also made some products, like the P2000D, that worked reliably but were not great designs.

The occasion for this change is my new Norman Tri-lite. This is a sort of strobe slide projector, which only Norman made. It will project actual 35mm slides and cucoloris. If you’re interested you can check out the instructions: http://normanlights.com/manuals/tl2000manual.pdf. There are no new Tri-lites, and they aren’t common on eBay, but you can find them. I expect to receive the Tri-lite in a few days, of course I’ll put up some images in the future. I really appreciate the great number of unusual products Norman has made over the years. Of course there are things like barn doors and grid spots, but there are also a very wide variety of reflectors and even two different snoots for most of their strobe heads. Norman even made an optical spot, usually only found on movie sets, another very unusual product.

I have two Norman systems: the 900 series, these are studio strobes that use power packs, and the 200Bs that are both battery and ac units, and I like them both. Norman has made a couple of other systems, and even mono-lights, but I haven’t much experience with any of them. The 900 series is the most powerful system Norman makes. When I shot large format film I used the most powerful powerpack they made, but now I use the 1200/1250 watt-second packs. I recently got an M1200 powerpack. It’s the first Norman pack I’ve had with really variable output. The reason I’m getting a lot of Norman equipment now is that it’s really cheap used. I think I paid about $65 for the M1200. Keep in mind that in order to work with a studio strobe you have to have a powerpack and a matching head; you can’t just plug the heads into the wall. If you’d like a lot more information about strobes take my class: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

 

The Norman 200Bs are a little harder to recommend. They’re really flexible units, and well suited for digital work. The only problem is that there are no new 200Bs, they haven’t been made in something like twenty years. That’s a long time for gear that get’s used on location. So you have to question the reliability of any 200B. This is why I have so many 200Bs (7 heads, 5 dc powerpacks, 2 ac powerpacks) if something breaks I have more. Of course Norman has come out with updated systems, both the 200C and the 400B, but there are a lot of other things I would check out before investing in one of these Norman systems. Let me tell you some good things about the 200Bs: first they recycle extremely quickly, from zero to full power in about one second. There are both battery powered and ac powerpacks, which adds to the flexibility of the strobes. The battery units run on twelve volts so you can run them off a car or even a car battery; there are cheap lead/acid batteries, about $30, that will run a 200B. There is a fine group of accessories: snoot, reflectors, glass dome reflectors, grid spots and so on. There are even sore reflectors with modeling lights. So I’m going to try to keep my 200Bs as long as I can. By the way, the pictures with this blog entry are all made with Norman 200Bs in the lighting mix.

So, if you want a larger and better toolkit to light your photos you might want to check out used Norman gear. Check out this link for more information: http://normanlights.com/owners_manuals.asp. And stay away from P4000D!

I wanted to update you on a few things happening here at my studio: first I’m continuing to offer the Portfolio Workshop. For more information on this and my other workshops please take a look at the workshop page on my site. You can also find information about the Matting & Framing Workshop for Photographers at the site. This is going to be a very small class, so if you’re in Indianapolis sign up now. You can also rent my studio, and get the chance to work with Normans! Call 317.473.0406 or e-mail to reserve time for a shoot or a private workshop. If you can’t get to Indianapolis you can take one of my BetterPhoto classes:
An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
Getting Started in Commercial Photography.

October 30, 2013

Studio Open House!

 

To start I just want to remind you about the classes: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio and Getting Started in Commercial Photography and the books:

 

I’m going to be having an opening for my studio on Friday November 1. The address is 971 North Delaware Street, Suite B, here in Indianapolis. Please come by if you can. I’ll be showing photographs of buildings in my studio and at the building in front: Re/Max Metro. The text for this blog entry is from recent correspondence and the photos are from a job for BMW Contractors. Thanks for your attention!


A couple of things about rim light, first most of your shots won’t work. Positioning the light is very critical, and even when you have an assistant, most of the time the light or the model won’t be in the right place. I much prefer the snoot as a tool for rim light. Norman has a wider “stovepipe” snoot that I prefer to the smaller ones like the Alien Bee. What I do most of the time to get rim light is put a bare bulb strobe, no reflector at all behind directly behind the subject. This works more often. This will put light on the background so sometimes I put a gel on the back of the light to change the color of the background. The position and power of the light both affect the outcome, so you have to experiment. I like to avoid discussing things in terms or ratios for several reasons: the most important is that ratios stop people from paying attention to the results. I set up my shots with a tethered computer so that I can evaluate the shot better. The bare bulb allows for more movement in the subject, but you have to keep the subject between you and the light. You can also use a large reflector on the side to bring some of the light to the front.


I really like to use at least one very large light modifier, usually a light panel, for a portrait. It creates a very soft gradation.

I don’t like the term “natural light.” It is a value term, and it often gives the idea that ambient or found light is generally or always better than light you design and create. This isn’t true. Many people have no idea how to make good light, but that is no reason to think that found light must be better. Photography comes from the Greek and means “write with light” if you can’t design good light are you writing with light or copying light?


You need to look at several things when you examine light. The first is the color. Often people don’t notice how warm or cool a light source is. The color of a subject will shift with the light, but because our eyes compensate for color, we don’t always notice.


The transition from light to shadow is a function of the size of a light source. So if you have light from the sky coming into a room you get a large light source, very long transition from light to dark. You need a big light source, at least as big as a window, to reproduce this light. Hard light makes very short transitions, which look like sunlight especially if you add warm filtration to the light.


Watch a person’s eyes in prints or when you are shooting. You can often see the reflection of the light source there. A small reflection come from a hard light, a bigger reflection is a large light source. The large reflection won’t be as bright. The eyes can also tell you about the placement and direction of light sources.


Balancing light is the essential trick with strobes, to evaluate and change our images by searching for the right levels on our lights and our exposures. With the histogram and the proof image on camera or in the computer we have better tools for creating the right exposure than any meter could give us, but it does take repeated testing. If you use a hand-held meter you will get an answer, but very often it will be profoundly wrong.


In addition to the new image stabilization equipment, there are some standard suggestions about holding the camera more effectively. Cradle the lens in your left hand, thumb pointing away from your body. The left hand supports the lens and the camera. The right hand guides the camera and controls the camera. Relax your body and breath out half way when you shoot. Lean against a tree or a wall. You might also consider a mono-pod or a chainpod to help stabilize your camera.

I hope people are interested in these posts, but I really don’t know. If you want to leave a comment you have to log in. I’m sorry about that, but I was getting a huge amount of spam posts, so I had to change to registration. If you’d like you can send me an e-mail with your comments, john@siskinphoto.com. Also please remember the classes and the books!

An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
Getting Started in Commercial Photography.

 

October 1, 2013

Bike Shot in the Studio

I’ve been working on the studio, no surprise there. I’m finally happy with the current situation, while there’s more to do, it doesn’t have to be done now. I’ve moved in the lights: 20 or so strobes, another half-dozen quartz lights and an armful of projectors. I think I have 10 tripods, not sure how that happened. Booms and light stands, umbrellas, soft boxes and light panels, and all the things that come from a life spent in photography. Of course the important thing now is to get the studio busy. That means shooting, and I just got a couple of new customers! I also want to rent out the studio and offer classes here. What I want to do in this blog is to show you the studio at work, shooting and teaching. Ginny Taylor-Rosner brought a few of her advanced student from Ivy Tech in for a motorcycle shoot. This entry has a lot of large shots; I hope you will follow it to the end. Here’s the studio plan:

It’s easy to get large subjects into this studio, as you can see. I used a gray muslin on the back wall and black plastic muslin on the floor, so the set was really inexpensive.

The first thing I did was pull down white seamless along the side walls. I installed seamless holders on the side walls so that I could use them for very large reflectors with white paper, and so I could pull down black paper to reduce bounce light. It worked really well in this shot. In the shot marked Side Lights I only have the lights that are on the side seamless on, not the light on the front seamless. The light on camera left was placed at the front of the seamless to rake across the paper. This creates a very big light source. On camera right I place a light set at 750 watt-second at the back of the seamless. It spread across the side seamless and onto the diagonal seamless.

I put another roll of seamless on a pair of seamless stands on a diagonal in front of the bike. Once again I used a strobe raking across the seamless to give me a big light source. This light was set at only 400 watt-seconds. You can see what this light added in the image marked Front Light. This image has the all three of the large light sources. It’s important to have barn doors on the lights when you are bouncing light off seamless paper. The barn doors keep the light from spilling directly onto the bike and the background. I had to use cine-foil, black aluminum foil, in addition to the barn doors, for the front light because of spill light.

Only the light on the diagonal seamless.

I made some small changes in the position of the lights that rake across the paper. It’s much easier to move the lights than it is to move the bike or the paper. We also moved in a gobo (large black light panel) at the back of the bike to make the light on the saddlebag more even. Then I put a bare bulb light set at 200 watt-seconds, covered with a pale lavender gel, behind the bike. This added the highlight below the bike and put a little color into the background. If I’d used a darker background we could have added more drama with this light. This shot is marked Last Light.

Added a small strobe behind the bike. Bare bulb with a gel.

In this shot, Final Set-Up, you can see the position of most lights in the set. I added the light panel in front of the bile late in the shoot. It helps to open up the tire and to even some of the reflection on the front of the bike.

I was a little concerned about the density of the engine and the high light from the light behind the bike, so I made a couple of bracketed exposures. I used these captures to give me a little more control over these areas by using them as layers in Photoshop. I did a few other quick touch-up to make my Final Image.

Thanks for visiting the studio here in the blog. If you’re in Indianapolis give me a call and come by 317.473.0406. If you need to rent a studio I’m ready. Special price for October: $275 for the day! I hope to have classes available in the next few weeks. If you need a private session let me know as well. The Portfolio Class is meeting on TUESDAY OCTOBER 15. This class will help you present your work. There’s more information, and a sign-up link here. I hope to see you soon!

 

Here are a couple more images from the shoot!

Shot by Terry Pitman

Don’t forget about the classes at BetterPhoto and my books!
: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
Getting Started in Commercial Photography

 

August 4, 2013

Using the Studio!

Filed under: Indianapolis,Lighting Technique,New Studio! — John Siskin @ 1:00 pm

I’m back a little quicker this time around. I’ll just remind you about the classes: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio and Getting Started in Commercial Photography and the books:

 

 

Three different one light set ups in the new studio. Taken with my phone.

Things at the studio are progressing nicely. I had a group over from the Irvington Photo Club. I gave them a chance to play with a couple one light set-ups. I’ve included a couple of shots of the set-ups I took with the phone. I also did some consulting with a couple of other students that wanted to work with portrait set-ups. So a couple of people have seen what’s going on at the North Delaware Studio. I am still taking suggestions for studio names.

 

One soft box 3X3 foot. Positioned above and in front of the subject.

I can’t say anything is finished. The bathroom is going to be rebuilt, which is a really great thing. I’m going to be building a couple of offices at one end of the space, another nice up grade. I brought in some industrial shelves and put them at the back of the studio. I’ll enclose them in a few days. This will give me a place for lights and cameras. I’ll store the light stands in trashcans, probably at the back of the studio.

 

The goal is to have a large empty space. The whole studio is about 24X60 feet. When I’ve finished the shooting space should be 24X40, or close to that. There’s a roll up garage door at one end of the studio, which is really useful.

 

A set-up with a snoot.

I did three set-ups for the Irvington Photo club. The first one is a 3X3 foot soft box placed in front and above the subject. This is an easy light to set up. It gives you soft shadows under the nose and chin, which gives some shape to the face. The second one was a hard light set-up using just a snoot. This gives dramatic light, but the position of the light is really important. Finally I did a set-up with three light panels. This is a set-up I use frequently because it provides such nice soft light. I wrote about this light design in this article: www.siskinphoto.com/magazine/zpdf/Portrait.pdf.

 

I used the light panels the next day, with two

I did a one light set-up with two light panels.

students, and I added a bare bulb light behind the subject. In this case the bare bulb light, as well as the light from the umbrella, bounces off the reflector. In addition you get rim light and hair light from the bare bulb. So both lights are doing a lot of work in this set-up. One more thing: the bare bulb light puts light on the background. I put a warm gel (Rosco full CTO) over the back of the bare bulb light, so the light going forward had a daylight balance, but the light on the background was a tungsten balance.

 

I hope people are interested in these posts, but

With the light panels and the bare bulb

I really don’t know. If you want to leave a comment you have to log in. I’m sorry about that, but I was getting a huge amount of spam posts, so I had to change to registration. If you’d like you can send me an e-mail with your comments, john@siskinphoto.com. Also please remember the classes and the books!
An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
Getting Started in Commercial Photography.

 

July 24, 2013

Comparing Lights

Filed under: Lighting Technique,Photographic Education,Photographic Equipment — John Siskin @ 4:47 pm

It’s been a few weeks since I caught up with the blog. There has just been a lot going on. I’ve been trying to get the studio open. I’ve got a new client, and, oh yeah, my wife and I bought a house. I’m cheating this time around because most of this entry is an answer to one of the students in my class: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting . I hope you’ll take this class or one of my others: Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio and Getting Started in Commercial Photography. I have to remind you about the books as well.

 

Anyway, this is a picture of the studio today. My goal is a big empty space, and well it’s big and empty right now. I’ve got utilities, which is important. I also have business insurance. I got insurance from a local broker because it was quick. I’ll be reevaluating my insurance in the next few months. I still need to do an equipment list. The most important thing is to have liability, and that’s covered. The rest of the pictures in this entry are taken with at least one projected light source, which I’ll mention again below.

The problem with the built in strobe on your camera (you can call it a flash if you must) is that it’s right on top of the lens. There are few situations in which your world is lit by a light right over your eyes: miners’ helmets do this and a few flashlights. Still nobody ever said it was good light, just convenient. And because it’s easy to do the camera manufactures put it into your camera. I think the only thing it is good for is flash fill, and there are a lot better ways to do flash fill.

It’s extremely difficult to understand how lighting gear compares across brands and types. I’m going to try to explain why. First I’ll mention how light is used, and what you might want to compare. There are three types of light: hard light, soft light and projected light. The first two are covered extensively in my Introduction to Photographic Lighting class, but I need to mention a couple of things. Projected light isn’t in the class for good reasons. But I will say a few things about it here. Also I’m going to try and attach some projected light shots. Hard light is light from a small source. It acts like direct sunlight: hard shadows and a lot of sparkle. You create this by using direct flash with out diffusers. Because you aren’t using anything to make the light into a larger softer source you can often get by with a strobe that doesn’t have much power, like the built in strobe. You can make very interesting and dramatic light with hard light, but the position of the light is critical. Position is the big problem with the built in strobe. When you make the light source bigger, with a light panel, soft box or umbrella, you’ve lit the subject from more angles, which makes soft light. This softens shadows and makes a smoother transition from light to shadow. An overcast day is soft light: light comes from the entire sky and there are few shadows. Large light modifiers inevitably absorb a lot of your light. In addition they leak light into places you don’t need lit. As a consequence you’ll need more powerful strobes to make very soft light. You should remember that it is the size of the light source that is important, not the type of light modifier. So a 60-inch umbrella will always be softer than a 30-inch umbrella at the same distance from the same subject. A large umbrella and a large soft box give similar light if they have similar surface area. Of course you can have a light is softer or harder depending on the size and the distance from the subject.

Projected light uses a lens to focus the light, or an image, onto the subject. A simple source for projected light is a slide projector. This article shows how projected light can be used in a shot. There have been very few strobes made that created projected light; one of the few was the Tri-Lite by Norman. I have done some experiments with using strobe for projected light you can see them at my blog: here and here.  Projected light can light very small details, but it does require considerable attention to detail.

You should understand from this that creating good soft light requires considerable power, and the more tools (light modifiers) you can work with the better. Large modifiers, like umbrellas and soft boxes, will fit many different units. Small modifiers, like barn doors and snoots, are usually designed for a specific strobe.

So the next thing to consider is where does the electricity that makes the light come from? If you are using mono-lights then you’ll be using AC power: wall current. The full-power recycling time on your strobes will stay the same all day and all night. If you go where you can’t plug in there are batteries, or you can use a generator. While generators are heavy, you can refill them quickly, which is important for big shoots. Battery strobes are obviously necessary for events, like weddings. They can also be very helpful for architectural lighting because you can hide them and you don’t need power cords. Recycling times depends on how fresh the batteries are, and what kind you use. Manufacturers often lie about recycling times; which makes it tough to compare this critical feature. The basic problem is that batteries put a low limit on the number of shots you can make without more batteries, usually around 200 full power shots. Also extra batteries add weight. There are mono-lights available that have much more power than battery powered units. If you have special needs for battery powered units you might check Lumedyne strobes. They make gear that can be customized in interesting ways.

There are basically three methods for controlling exposure with a strobe. The first is manual, and if you have time to set-up the lights, this is undoubtedly your best choice. You need to use your eyes to design the light, to perfect it for each subject. If you depend on formulas or auto systems you can easily get a perfect exposure, the right amount of light, but the light may have the wrong placement and balance. The human eye/brain is much better at designing light to fit a subject than any meter. An important goal of my classes is to help you to visualize good light for different subjects. Mono-lights are manual lights. The problem with manual lighting is that it takes time to get it right. The second system is a strobe with a built in meter. These do not use the camera meter; they just specify the aperture the camera should use. They are quicker to use than a manual strobe. Actually these are pretty good and cheap. I use this sort of equipment when I need to shoot an event. The classic Vivitar 283 has this sort of automation, so do a lot of Metz units. I’m using Sunpak 120J units that controls light this way. I’m not sure who makes these strobes currently. Finally there are dedicated strobes that meter through the camera. These are very accurate at creating the right amount of light, although, as noted above, that doesn’t mean the light will be designed well. These units are expensive, considering the amount of power they provide: $550 for a Canon 600EX. Several units can be used together, and still metered by the camera. All of this makes these units very good for weddings and other events. You can use them for other types of lighting, but I don’t think they are the best choice.

I want to talk about the problem with discussing power. You can check out this article, although it isn’t my favorite. Basically a strobe with a built in reflector like a Canon 600EX or a LumoPro can be compared with another strobe with a built in reflector pretty accurately. However mono-lights and studio strobes take a large number of different accessories, even different heads, so you can’t do an accurate comparison between them or between mono-lights or studio strobes and strobes with built in reflectors. Some of the manufacturers of various strobes will inflate their numbers. The article describes how to determine a guide number and what watt-seconds are.

I just now mentioned studio strobes. Basically these do what a mono-light unit does, but you have to plug the head into a separate pack and then plug the pack into the wall. These are not battery packs: the unit still needs to be plugged into the wall. The packs create the high power spark for the strobe heads. Usually several heads will plug into one pack. These can be very economical to buy used. I have Norman 900 series strobe units, some of which, I’ve used for more than thirty years. Keep in mind that strobes can last quite a long time, so if can make sense to invest in good equipment. We’ll probably still need lights to design better pictures in another thirty years.

I hope people are interested in these posts, but I really don’t know. If you want to leave a comment you have to log in. I’m sorry about that, but I was getting a huge amount of spam posts, so I had to change to registration. If you’d like you can send me an e-mail with your comments, john@siskinphoto.com. Also please remember the classes and the books!
An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
Getting Started in Commercial Photography.

March 13, 2013

Candlelight Home Tour #2

I hope you’ll check out my books: Photographing Architecture and Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting. I hope you’ll get copies, if you haven’t already. Of course you know that one reason for this blog is introduce the books and get you to consider one of my classes at BetterPhoto.com: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio, Getting Started in Commercial Photography


This week I shot another home for the Candle Light Tour of Indianapolis’ Old North Side. This is also a fabulous home, but why would anybody put a home on a tour that wasn’t fabulous? The interior of this home is very different from the last home, more of an Italian flare, and less of a period piece.

I knew that there would be less time to do this shoot, which reduces what can be done. It’s hard to set up to light a room, do the shot and clean up in two hours, which was all the time I had. In this case I did one very difficult shot that included several rooms and a simple shot of the kitchen. And I did leave the house in the required two hours.

This is the final version of the dining room shot. The exposure was 1/30th of a second at f11
and an ISO of 400. Six strobes were used.

This is the first shot. As you can see the dining room opens onto two other rooms, one with a piano and another room on the right. To add difficulty both these rooms open onto other rooms. The room on the right opens onto a stairway and the music room open onto a front parlor, at least that’s what I think it is. Because I knew I had very little time I brought less lighting gear, just three Norman LH2 heads, three power packs (the 200B units) and a pair of Sunpak 120J strobes. Of course I also brought the camera, and a bag of assorted stands, tripod and umbrellas.

I set up the camera at the far end of the dining room, so that I could see into all the rooms I mentioned. The first light was a 200B placed at the opposite corner of the dining room. I used the 60-inch umbrella on this light to give a softer look to the light in the dining room. I also held a Sunpak 120J in my outstretched arm above the camera to help light the dining room. The Sunpak 120J strobes have about half the power of a Norman 200B, but they do have simple automation and can be set to much lower power settings then the 200B. One nice thing is that the two strobes use the same strobe tubes and can use the same accessories. I placed a shoe cover over this 120J; it was a quick way to modify the light.

 

In the room on the right I set up another Norman 200B. I used a 30-inch shoot through umbrella because it threw light in every direction. Even so my original placement of the light, to the left of the door, didn’t work because the light was visible in the shot. So I placed the light to the right of the door. Perhaps it would be easier to say nearer the camera? Anyway this hid the strobe. This light also gave enough light to show the stairway. The strobe was set to full power. I used a 1/4 CTO filter to give warmth to this light and add separation from the dining room.


Now the biggest problem is the room with the piano. At first I thought the slave wasn’t working because the room stayed so dark. The problem was that room was really dark. The walls are medium gray and the piano is black, so you can see this might be a challenge. I started bouncing light off a white satin umbrella, but wasn’t happy with the shot until I took the umbrella off and used light directly from the strobe onto the room. Even after this I had to lighten this area a little in post-production. By the way this light had a 1/8-CTO filter for the same reasons as I mentioned above.

So that brings us to the front parlor. If you’ve been keeping track you’ll know that the only light I have left is a Sunpak 120J. So I put that on a stand. I used it bare bulb, no reflector at all. I though it would help the separation between the front parlor and the music room. I think it did help. No filter on this light.

If I had more lights I would have used a second more powerful light in the music room, maybe my Calumet 750 Travelite. I would have had lights on either side of the music room. At the time I would have used two lights with umbrellas for the front parlor, but now I’m not sure it would be better. The bare bulb was good, and it didn’t show in the mirror. Did I mention the large mirror in the front parlor? I’m sorry there’s no diagram for this shot, but the diagram was becoming as complex as the shot.

Here’s the shot with the lights turned off. I think lighting makes the picture. Most of the post-production was dodging and burning. I also adjusted the perspective a little and removed a few things at the edges. You can see the image without these fixes below.

I had a few minutes left so I dragged the 60-inch umbrella into the kitchen. I liked this kitchen because it fit into the overall design of the house so well. As people who have taken my class: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting will certainly know kitchens can be a challenge to shoot.

The strobe, with the large umbrella is on the left side of the camera if you’re looking into the shot. I used the full 200 watt-seconds with this light and a 1/4-CTO filter to warm up this side of the shot. I used a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second to keep the windows bright. The view out the windows wasn’t very interesting. I had to adjust the angle of the chandelier in the picture several times to remove reflections. As before I did a little dodging and burning, as well as fixing the perspective. I also warmed up the shot a bit; I like warm kitchen shots. I think the lighting really helped the shot; below is a version without my light.


« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress