Earlier this year, I met a very talented budding actress by the name of Victoria Walcott who needed some headshots.
Available light–Portraiture in available light requires an awareness of locations and times. Generally speaking available light portraits have to be very static because light levels tend to be Â so low. With today’s DSLR’s low light ability, a fast lens and some practice can give pleasing results. ISO 200 1/40 sec @ f 2.8 100 mm macro 2. 8 lens.Â See the catchlight in Victoria’s eyes where the main light is a large window on the left.
I tend to pack a lot of gear when I work. I may not use them all, but I sure like to have them at my disposal even if it means they are in my trunk.
Force of habit from working at the newspaper. I never knew what assignment I would draw, so I had all kinds of stuff in my trunk.
For this particular shoot, I kept it simple.
Needless to say, picking a good location can save you the hassle of bringing in lots of lighting equipment.
This is what I had to work with:
- A large window facing north
- My grey muslin backdrop
- 1 lightstand with reflector secured by a clamp.
- 1 shoot-through umbrella with Canon 580EX Speedlite triggered by off-camera sync cord
If you plan to shoot with available light, consider what lens you have, the shutter speed you can hand hold and if your camera’s noise level at high ISO is acceptable.
Consider having your subject sit or lay down. It might help them relax especially if it’s your first time working with them.
Once you’re sure you have something you like, don’t stop there. That’s when should push on and try something different or even outrageous.
You’re all set up.
You might as well indulge yourself and experiment.
Even if those attempts are failures, you will learn something valuable.
Consider the tones and color when you set up not just what your subject is wearing.
Even the chair they’re on are potential distractions.
I draped my grey muslin over a very low coffee table and voilÃ¡, I had a flat surface for Victoria to lie on.
Jewelry is a tough call.
If in doubt, shoot some with the bling-bling and do some without.
When you’re photographing women, make sure their nails are nicely manicured or else, be prepared to choose poses that hide the nails.
Fully lit face–See a closeup of Victoria’s eye for the tell-tale crescent shape catchlight from the fill flash shot thru’ the top half of the umbrella.
Once I had a workable exposure, I made some quick pictures to see if 1/40 sec was within my ability to hand hold.
Later, when I was satisfied that I had a picture that I liked for sure, I set my flash on the floor to shoot through the top half of my umbrella by partially removing only the top black fabric.
This light modification was to see if my subject will look better with some shadow or no shadow on her face.
This is the part where you fine-tune a picture according to your taste–sort of like adding salt to taste.
In the tighter cropped picture, I didn’t use any fill from the front at all.
I used a silvered reflector behind Victoria.
The shiny reflector kicked back enough light to give me the much needed separation from Victoria hair’s and the background.
Some people might like the main picture without the fill, some might prefer the one with the flash filling the shadows from the front.
I also a did a few others with Victoria in a different outfit.
Finally I converted another image from the same session into black and white.
Without changing the setup, I had Victoria move her long beautiful hair over her right shoulder so that her face was partially in shadow from the windows on the left.
I wanted to get a different feel by using the flash shooting thru’ the umbrella as my main light.
Essentially this variation changed the ratio of light striking her face– the window light on the left is more of a hair light or a rim light.
Which do you prefer? I’d love to hear from you.