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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Kids & Family Talk
Thread started 13 Dec 2016 (Tuesday) 20:20
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first, cheap, portrait session for date night

 
jamsomito
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Joined Apr 2016
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Dec 13, 2016 20:20 |  #1

Some quick background first. My wife and I have 2 kids, one 2.5 years old and the other 4 weeks. We were a little tired and stressed with just the first and now things have changed significantly again. There's no marital issues or anything like that, I like to think we have a great little family, but we are definitely feeling like we need some "us" time lately. My wife had an awesome idea about a year ago - she made me a book of 20 date night ideas, randomized in envelopes. A few had a $5-20 bill in with it to cover the evening if needed. We'd block off a free night every other week that couldn't be moved and open one of the envelopes and have fun. We both really looked forward to these and it was great for our marriage. Ideas included home-made ice cream with an old black and white movie, DIY Chopped competition, indoor minigolf course, board game and wine by the fire, and marshmallow / PVC blow gun war, among others. It was awesome up until they ran out. Now that we have kid #2, we're finding it even more important to carve out some time for each other so we're bringing it back. Except this time it wasn't a gift to me, so we're splitting the ideas 50/50.

ANYWAY, one of my ideas was to do a fun portrait session with just the two of us. I got the idea from this Tony Northrup video: https://www.youtube.co​m/watch?v=Hgj39jkGhiE (external link). I ran it by my wife and she was surprisingly on board for it; she is usually not one for modelling anything. I'm lucky if I get any candids of her solo. She doesn't mind the camera, especially if the shot is of a group or of her and the kids, etc. But she's quickly self conscious and not confident in herself or her features. I really wish she would work on these traits because I personally find her beautiful, and I would selfishly love to have some good portraits of her (not to mention work on my skills as an amateur photographer). This session will be centered around fun - a quick trip to home depot for setup stuff, and a quick trip to goodwill for cheap/fun outfit ideas. Budget needs to be on-the-cheap, about $50 give or take, all-in. So considering all of this, I am humbly asking for help in 3 areas:

1) gear / technique. I have never done a "studio" shoot before. I have a Canon 70D with 10-18, 17-55 f/2.8, 50 f/1.8 II (non-STM), and 70-200 f/2.8 (mk1). I have an old Speedlite 420EX flash I got as a hand-me-down, but other than fooling around with it, I really have no clue how to use it best. I have a tripod and a gorilla pod, but no way to attach the flash to either if I can run it in slave mode (don't even know if it can do that, only used it on the hot shoe before). I guess I have an old 20D I could mount on a tripod, then mount the flash on that camera, assuming it works as a slave from my camera somehow. So what settings should I start with or aim for? Positioning? Maybe I'm asking for too much, but any tips would be appreciated. Or, maybe the tip is to skip the flash in favor of some kind of cheap ring-light or something.

2) setup. I'm getting some stuff at home depot to set up a makeshift "studio" in my house somewhere. We have a pretty long basement so I'm thinking that's where we'll go, but there's really no good backdrop anywhere, so I might need to get a cheap sheet of something for that (faux brick, or corrugated plastic like in the video). I've also been thinking about picking up one of those cheap aluminum can shop lights; I have a 100W equivalent LED I can put in there for some good light output, and if needed I could drape a white sheet in front of it somehow to diffuse it a bit. Any suggestions on cheap stuff to use for both the "set" and the lighting would be appreciated. Remember I'm trying to keep it super cheap, and the budget also includes props like whatever costume stuff we get at the thrift store too. Also, I really only have a few hours for this after the kids go to bed. I can easily make some structures out of 2x4's I have in the garage to clamp a light to or something, but it can't take all day to make / tear down either. I also currently have this cheap color changing LED flood light if you think it would be worth anything: https://www.amazon.com (external link) ...oh_aui_detailpage_o​00_s00

3) posing / portraiture. Yikes. I usually shy away from people photography so I have absolutely NO clue here, other than to make her feel comfortable and natural, and priority 1 is staying within her comfort zone.

I know my camera like the back of my hand, but pretty much nothing about flash photography and portraits. I'd really like this to go well in the hopes she may do it again with me, and so I come away with a few keepers from the night. Many thanks in advance to whomever would like to help me out!




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jamsomito
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Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Dec 14, 2016 07:55 |  #2

So I guess the TL;DR would be: I need some help with a make-shift studio session for a first-timer. Any tips or resources you can share would be appreciated.




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atsilverstein
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NYC Metro
Dec 14, 2016 08:19 |  #3

TBH you need at least know how to avoid unflattering images. Do not use the wide lens on her. Use the 70-200 for close ups and the 50 for wider shots. Do not show her anything that doesn't look really nice. She is already self conscious she doesn't need to see her face in an in-between expression. Does she regularly wear makeup? The last thing you want to do is show her a headshot with no makeup and without editing her skin. Even a model with flawless skin and makeup, because of the lighting, the sharpness of the lens, and the resolution, you will still see pores and imperfections. Try to catch her in a real moment, have her relaxed, get her to laugh and genuinely smile. Maybe try complimenting her although that might not work depending on how she takes it. She needs to feel beautiful. Honestly a professional salon styling and make up artist will make her feel pampered but I know you have a budget in mind. Good luck.


It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
- William Ernest Henley

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atsilverstein
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Dec 14, 2016 08:22 |  #4

Do you have a large window? Natural diffused light through a window can be very beautiful. Also, people have used blankets as backdrops.


It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
- William Ernest Henley

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jamsomito
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Post has been edited over 1 year ago by jamsomito.
Dec 14, 2016 08:52 |  #5

Thanks very much for the thoughts.

She does regularly wear varying levels of makeup. Good point, I'll see if she can spend some of my setup time getting ready as if we're going out somewhere.

We do have some good windows, but we need to do the session after the kids go to bed, so it'll have to be all artificial light. That's why I brought up the flash and little LED light I have. I might try to pick up some shop lights or something if I can find them for cheap.

Do you have any resources on editing I could look into? I've not done much with editing faces other than teeth whitening and making the eyes pop a bit.




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jamsomito
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Dec 14, 2016 09:01 |  #6

Also, I'm on a crop body, if it makes a difference. 50mm still seems fairly long when I use it - would you instead recommend ~32mm on my 17-55 f/2.8 (50mm equiv)? Otherwise I'll just stick with the 70-200; the room is about 30' long, so distancing the camera physically isn't a big deal.




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atsilverstein
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Dec 14, 2016 09:18 |  #7

Stick with the 70-200 if you have the space for it, and the 17-55 for wider shots and completely eliminate the wide lens you have.


There are tons of free tutorials on YouTube. The best thing I learned so far was using selective masks to soften the skin.


It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
- William Ernest Henley

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jamsomito
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Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Post has been last edited over 1 year ago by jamsomito. 3 edits done in total.
Dec 14, 2016 22:06 |  #8

Ok, so I figured I had better get some practice instead of jumping in cold. Glad I did... I really need to work on lighting. Any thoughts on the below?

I used my 70-200 @ about 135mm from roughly 8-10ft away, f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/100s. I used the on-board flash to trigger my speedlite, which was maybe 4ft away, at about my 1 o'clock on the right (camera left). Not quite 45 degrees from the camera, more straight on. I originally had it more to the side, but shadows were really harsh, and the glasses didn't help. I'm thinking I need to pick up some kind of umbrella or at least a piece of cloth or paper to diffuse the light a bit more. I had my little LED flood light on behind me as a kicker, but it wasn't powerful enough, even on white, to show up at all when using the speedlite. I could try positioning this differently too, it was about 4ft below my head pointing upwards.

Obviously editing myself is going to be much different than my wife... I adjusted white and black levels, brought down glare from my cue-ball, and did my typical eye edits (iris and whites). I also bumped mid tone contrast a bit to add some slight grit, but not too much or it made the shadows even more harsh.

Also, excuse the unkempt "model" here...

IMAGE: https://c8.staticflickr.com/6/5559/31537592471_c8786381b2_b.jpg
[IMAGE'S LINK: https://flic.kr/p/Q3Sp​uk] (external link)IMG_2614 (external link) by J Horton (external link), on Flickr

This one was pretty much the same, but I played around with the colors and saturation a bit. Literally played with them (lowered oranges, reds, magentas and bumped saturation up slightly). WB looked ok to me straight from the camera.

IMAGE: https://c7.staticflickr.com/1/627/31280866350_ff3db605b8_b.jpg
[IMAGE'S LINK: https://flic.kr/p/PEbB​KU] (external link)IMG_2600 (external link) by J Horton (external link), on Flickr



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ksbal
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Post has been last edited 11 months ago by ksbal. 2 edits done in total.
Dec 20, 2016 17:08 as a reply to jamsomito's post |  #9

I apologize, but my work blocks photos... have you considered bouncing the flash? if shadows are harsh, and you have a white wall/ceiling then bouncing is your friend. You can have the flash on camera this way, on a tripod, and still get good light.

If you don't have a white wall/ceiling, then get a big piece of foam core board and use that.

Read up here:
Black foamy thingy (external link)

example of bare flash, on camera, no foamy thing, using a side / ceiling:


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YN622 English User Guide/Manual by Clive
https://drive.google.c​om ...Ig0gMMzZFaDVlZ1VNTE​0/view (external link)

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jamsomito
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Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Dec 20, 2016 18:02 |  #10

You're not missing much in the pics above, just my ugly mug. But yes, the biggest issue is harsh light from direct flash. Great shot you posted there.

Thanks for the tips. I don't have a single white wall in the house, though we do have some true gray walls that actually work great for white balancing some misc family shots in the living room. All of my ceilings are white though, so there's that.

I've thought about trying bouncing, I'll give it a try next time I have a free evening. I also have a couple ideas for softening the light, but they're all very Jerry-rigged.

I'm finding while I know something about exposure, I really don't know much about light...




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ksbal
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Post has been edited 11 months ago by ksbal.
Dec 20, 2016 19:06 as a reply to jamsomito's post |  #11

Ah.. now I can see them, not bad for bare flash, really.

The above is a grey ceiling that is specular (I think it is an aluminum drop ceiling) and a blue wall.. of course I shoot a grey card as well.
And you can bounce off anything, use white foam board, or even a white sheet, painters tape it to the wall and give it a try. The black foamy thingy helps to keep direct light off your subject, that whole sight is a wealth of lighting information, and really nice on tips for natural light.

Another easy tip.. nose of the subject towards the main light source for more flattering lighting. In my case I bounced camera left, and had him turned at a 45 or so camera left.


YN622 English User Guide/Manual by Clive
https://drive.google.c​om ...Ig0gMMzZFaDVlZ1VNTE​0/view (external link)

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bobbyz
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Bay Area, CA
Dec 25, 2016 09:27 |  #12

Nothing complicated, one light camera axis above camera. Reflector underneath. Over-expose a little. No need for pp. Done.


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