my "how I shot this" thread (constant updates)

Discussion in 'Portrait' started by Lisandra, May 10, 2015.

  1. Lisandra

    Lisandra TalkEmount Veteran

    Jan 28, 2015
    **this will be continuously updated with new photo/photos every week so please at least check back weekly***

    Well ive been asked to open up a thread about my work a couple of times now, and since the most common question i hear is "what was your setup/how did you shoot that?" I figured ill mix the 2 and post some work and how i shot it. Somr people are so extremely secretive about such things, and frankly i dont get it. Ill go so far as to tell you what i paid for setup and where to get it.

    First things first: you can do it. A lot of people that ask me shy away halfway through the explanation. Maybe you think the setup is too expensive... its not ( it can be, but these days there are options ). Maybe you think you dont have the technical understanding for it, and that maybe true, but sometimes you need to shoot it now and understand it later. Point is, try it out, fail miserably if you have to, dust it off and retry.

    Without further ado, hered the first entry of the week:


    A little info first, this is from an aerial dance company called Vertika Do Ar and theyve been a client of mine for about 3 years now. An hour of pure calestenics is nothing compared to 5 minutes on that thing.
    Camera wise this was shot with the a7 and the minolta 80-200 f2.8 HS and the LAEA4. Settings were

    ISO 200
    1/80 at 110mm

    If all you have is a 50mm then all you have is a 50 so use that, but personally i like to shoot people at the longest FL possible, so 110mm was the longest i could do with the space i had. Ideally i would have wanted to be at 135. The reason is that long focal lenghts tend to compress the background/foreground plus it flattens peoples features.
    F9-F11 is my prefered studio aperture, theres no point shooting at f1.4 when theres no background to play with. So you might as well get as much as you can into focus. Plus you have more keepers with a moving subject. The shutter isnt all that important in cases like this, since the burst from the flash ends up being the actual shutter. Still, the shutter slightly more open does capture some micro highlights, so if the subject isnt moving all over the place you can risk it. The trick here is that with the flashes turned off you get a completely dark or ar least almost completely dark exposure.

    I used 3 lights:
    1.The main light was a 600 watt monolight (289$ amazon) on a 24x36 soft box at 1/2 power. Canera right 45 degrees in front of him
    2. A yougnuo 5 series III bounced on the wall (usually bounced on a diffuser but there was a big white wall, 80$ flash, 25$ diffuser) at 1/4 power camera left straight parallel to him
    3. Another yongnuo on the floor pointing at mainly the background (vinyl background, 90$ and 45$ for the stand). At 1/2 power. On the ground pointing at him at an angle, but behind him so it hits the background more.
    Set up like that light hits the subject like this:


    Sorry for the crappy diagram, ill do one better next time. I usually go with 4 lights in studios but in this one we wanted more drama (shadows) so the 4th head on light was scrapped. Believe me that one extra light makes a ton of difference.
    Here is one from two years ago with 4 lights, same as above but dialed down (with the floor one having an orange filter) and one head on as the main light


    Ill stop here as i feel i might be boring a few so...feel free to ask me questions or comment and remember to check back often for more!!
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  2. christilou

    christilou TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Nov 26, 2012
    Surrey, UK
    Thanks..... I'm still trying to digest this. Will probably keep returning to it until I can get a better understanding :) 
  3. Lisandra

    Lisandra TalkEmount Veteran

    Jan 28, 2015
    Feel free to ask away☺
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  4. robbie36

    robbie36 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Nov 21, 2014
    Really nice. Especially the first one with great highlights and shadows.

    One thing I never know with this sort of shot is whether to use a black background instead of a white - I have never shot comparative shots to see how the light differs as it hits the subject.

    In terms of lights (and I seem to have acquired a lot) I wonder how much need nowadays there is for 'monolights' with their weight and power cords compared to say the Godox ad360s. Have you tried those?
  5. Lisandra

    Lisandra TalkEmount Veteran

    Jan 28, 2015
    Thanks. I tend to play around more with the background when its white, sure you can shoot a low powered light at the black one and get a nice vignetty look but lately im prefering white. In all honesty it depends on the shoot itself, what kind of subject and lights in gonna use.
    I have used the godoxs and they are great. I just dont think they can fully replace a monolight yet, but theyre close. Power is one issue, the monolight is rated at 600w vs the godox at 360w plus the battery i use with the mono lasts me all day. Using the flash at full power isnt something you do often but when your trying to meter a strong light like say the afternoon sun the 600w comes in very handy. Other than that the godox is a gift from heaven, its lightweight (for what it does), waaaay more power full than a regular speed light (with a faster recycle too) and has the amazing ability to shoot hss up to 1/8000 wirelessly!! (Well, aparently not with nikon). Also a bit on the expensive side if youre looking for a cheap setup, but for what it does 450$ is a bargain
  6. tomO2013

    tomO2013 TalkEmount Veteran

    Dec 11, 2014
    This is an awesome thread - I'm really looking forward to lots more pics.

    Lisandra would you mind sharing the before and after post processing photos. I've a big feeling that this would be another classic case of nail the lighting and all you need is a little PP. :) 

    Amazing photos - keep em coming :D 
  7. tomO2013

    tomO2013 TalkEmount Veteran

    Dec 11, 2014
    Rob you should do one of these too!!
  8. Revrock

    Revrock TalkEmount Rookie

    Aug 7, 2013
    Thank you very much for your explanation, I know it must have taken a decent amount of time to just post it up here. I would really love to know more about how people set up their studio lights and such. I agree with you, that a lot of learning comes from trial and error. I hope to continue to see your examples and discussing with you your concept, design, and process. Thanks!
  9. Yves Gajardo

    Yves Gajardo TalkEmount Veteran

    Aug 7, 2011
    Pittsburg, CA
    Thanks for starting this thread! I've been delving into off camera flash photography and have now actually started getting into it. If you can give more examples it would help a lot of us noobies getting started!
  10. Lisandra

    Lisandra TalkEmount Veteran

    Jan 28, 2015
    sure, Ill do it in future posts too.
    So a bit on my take on pp first...Im a biiiiig believer in post, especially if your being paid for it. You paid (all of you) the big bucks for that camera with that magnificent sensor and then youre gonna throw out 60% of its capabilities by shooting jpegs?? no. Do the work, get the results YOU want and not what the cameras crap processor vomits out. On the other hand i believe in nailing the exposure and getting as close to the look you want in capture. Its not wise to create more unnecessary work for yourself, thats how you start to create animosity towards the craft, when it feels like work. Theres a difference between saying "Ill get to where i want in post" and saying "Ill fix it in post".

    That said in shoots like this there is often little post. Sometimes a tripod foot will make it into the frame or some oddball thing and it has to be edited out, but other than that its pretty basic. LR adjustments are as follow:

    camera preset portrait
    wb from 5800 to 6200
    exposure 0
    contrast +29
    highlights +12
    shadows +12
    white + 38
    black -17
    clarity +31

    red hue +4

    heres how it looked as shot

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  11. Lisandra

    Lisandra TalkEmount Veteran

    Jan 28, 2015
    Thank you all for the interest, stay tuned tomorrow as Im making Wednesday officially "post a new one from a different shoot day!!!"

    one more from that day:

    • Like Like x 4
  12. soeren

    soeren TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Dec 12, 2014
    Næstved, Denmark
    Lissandra can I sign up for you class? :D 
  13. Lisandra

    Lisandra TalkEmount Veteran

    Jan 28, 2015
    so...Wednesday was very obviously not the best day to do this, so in return Ill post two instead of one...
    First one is a location/studio combo sort of thing. Hes the director of a choir (for lack of a better word, I dont know how to translate the correct term) and she is lead voice. The location was this fantastic rustic old place with furniture to match. The purpose (request) was to go all gloomy and gothicky sort of like lightning had just struck sitting near the fireplace, so I figured id threat the whole thing like a studio shot.
    here it is @ 120mm f5.6 ISO 400 1/100sec


    For this I used 3 lights
    1. main light on a 24x36 softbox camera right
    2. a colored low powered light straight on on a 24x24 softbox
    3. a bare flash camera left, from an angle behind them. For the lightning kinda mood

    It was setup like this:


    the main and the colored are actually dialed to the same intensity, but the colored is a bit further away. The back one is dialed half a stop brighter. The trick here is to setup one light at a time instead of all three. Or at the most the colored and the main and then the third, but all 3 at the same time will be overwhelming if youre just starting to dip your toe in this.To figure out how to angle them (assuming you want to), you gotta do a couple of tests first. When shooting couples or small groups where you still want some drama instead of the head on flash, you gotta position your main in an angle that lights the one side of both subjects, but doesn't cast a shadow over the person besides the subject closest to the light. With one person you have more room for "error" perse. Lighting two people with the same setup is far far more difficult than just one. So if youre in the "dip your toe" stage, one person first, find the look you want and then maybe more people.
    As a bonus the third light brought up the "dust" in the air on the hall in the background, which I thought looked cool. White balance was set ON CAMERA (you want to do this even if shooting RAW) to a cool 4000, to achieve that gloom we were talking about. The colored flash brought a nice mix of tones. I think.

    Feel free to ask as always, and expect another one today, itll be a simpler setup of mixing ambient with flash
    Last edited: May 17, 2015
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  14. Lisandra

    Lisandra TalkEmount Veteran

    Jan 28, 2015
    funny you should ask, I do teach a class, but Im guessing youll have to fly a looooong way to get here ;) 
    • Like Like x 3
  15. Lisandra

    Lisandra TalkEmount Veteran

    Jan 28, 2015
    So heres the other one i promised for today, a much simpler setup but still takes some knowhow to get it right.
    135mm ISO 125, 1/160sec f3.5


    What we wanted was that sunny "at the park" look but not have to fiddle with 2 in the afternoon sun. BTW from 11 to 3 is about the worst time to be doing any kind of people shooting. We're talking racoon eye shadows, sweat, squinty eyes and unwanted highlights everywhere. SO why did i do it at 2?? well quite frankly that there is a busy man, and 5 a clock is impossible for him. This is a RARE exception for me, do not let a client ruin your shot, just say no. But in these rarest of occasions, its good to know how to deal.
    First things first you expose for the background. 2 o clock in the caribbean means very very bright, those settings were with a 3 stop nd on the lens. Bright indeed. Be sure to know your cameras flash sync limitation, regardless of what it says on paper, the a7 cant really handle anything over 1/160. Then youre gonna either stand your subject under a shadow or bring yourself a reflector and an assistant. The point is hes not standing in any sunlight at all. Then we set a Godox 360 (bit on the expensive but amazing) camera left a biiiit on an angle to get those shadows on the left of his face, to simulate the whole sunlight look. Enough to create a shadow but not to shadow his left eye. This was almost at full power, the sun is something fierce down here.
    Feel free to ask questions or comment;) 
  16. robbie36

    robbie36 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Nov 21, 2014
    The 1/250th sync speed on the A7/A7ii is the 'max' sync speed. The actual sync speed is very dependent on the triggers you use. I think I can get 1/250th out of the Yongnuos for instance. But the Godox triggers certainly lose at least a 1/3rd of a stop off the sync speed and probably 2/3rd of a stop. Unfortunately this look is pretty much impossible to pull off without the right equipment. Try using a Nissin i40 (3 stops less powerful than the Godox) with HSS (and without an ND filter) and it simply wont be powerful enough (as HSS reduces the output). Incidentally here in Asia (Thailand) the Godox ad360 + battery pack are way cheaper (US$320). I guess that is because in the US (and maybe elsewhere) they have to give a margin to Adorama/Cheetah/Newer etc that rebadge their product. BTW do you have one of these Y connectors for your ad360....???

    It effectively halves the recycle time.
  17. Lisandra

    Lisandra TalkEmount Veteran

    Jan 28, 2015
    Youre right, despite being a "simple" one light setup it requires more. The nd is a must, and a strong flash like the godox or the monolight mentioned in the earlier post are needed to battle the sun (plus the 3 stop nd). My assistant has gotten more or less the same result using 2 yongnuos at full blast (mounted on one of those 4 way flash thingies) which i guess can cit down costs.
    So far i cant seem to get the a7 to sync at 1/250 regardless of what flash :crying:, maybe theres something on the camera i have set wrong. Theres always that dreaded black bar at the left. Not that i dont believe you, ive seen photos at 1/250 and the look great... Its great that you mentioned the hss thing, a lot of people often ask me why not use this and save me the fuzz of nd's and pseudo complicated setups, and the fact is that hss looses a lot of power in the process, plus the output is less "predictable" to day a word.

    I had not seen that, faster recycles is always a welconed thing, thanks!!
  18. Lisandra

    Lisandra TalkEmount Veteran

    Jan 28, 2015
    Oh and also, theres a 15 feet high print of that last one hung at the park☺
  19. robbie36

    robbie36 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Nov 21, 2014
    I was wondering exactly how much power you lose with HSS and found this article by Neil Van Niekerk...

    Not particularly surprisingly he finds that the relationship is linear. Namely if you increase your shutter speed 3 stops beyond the maximum sync you lose 3 stops of output power from your flash.

    He concludes

    1. If we want to control our depth-of-field, we are much better off using neutral density filters, than going to HSS mode.

    2. You can’t “overpower the sun” by going to HSS. If anything, you should not be in HSS when you are dealing with bright light.
  20. tomO2013

    tomO2013 TalkEmount Veteran

    Dec 11, 2014
    Robbie how have you found the godox setup - I've always been tempted by the portability and additional lighting potential. The price is unbelievable especially next to Sony's over priced flash systems that overheat!

    However I've seen some reports from godox users about battery life, batteries randomly dying etc.. have you had any negative experiences with this kit?
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