Monday, February 15, 2010

Speedlight Studio!

I was recently approached by a friend to do a portrait session for a young lady hoping to appear in a Hooters Swimsuit calendar.  I have to say, this didn't take much convincing, but regardless of the subject matter, I'm always up for a portrait session, especially with friends involved.

The model needed a series of full body and headshots in various solid colored bikinis.  I thought the best solution would be to set up a clean, white background and nice even lighting to photograph the model in.  This lighting isn't very artistic in my opinion, but its appropriate to the subject and will help draw attention to the model, and not the lighting.  "Subject driven lighting ...always remember that."

So I met with my friend (who is also a very talented photographer)  and began to setup our studio in her basement.  My preference over the past recent years was to use speedlights, for two reasons::

1.  I only own one monobloc (studio light)
2.  I like working with speedlights due to their small size and easy portability

Also, since we are shooting indoors, I will have no problems with power or recycle times.  I shot with a 200 second shutter speed so I didn't have to worry about any ambient light contaminating my scene either.

The first thing I did was to decide on my key light.  I knew I wanted a soft-ish light source on my model but also fully even and frontally lit.  I want to show my model in the best possible light.  So I opted with a boomed over head Lastolite Ezybox as my key source, and a Lumiquest SBIII as my fill.  I set these up in an 'over-and-under' fashion (also called clamshell) with my fill light about 1.5 stops lower than my key.  I wanted some shadow on the model but not much.

Then to light my background, I decided to use two bare SB-600s with Honl gobo's (flags) to prevent them from flaring my lens and also to keep them from rimming the model.  I had to dial these up to 1/2 power which is generally more powerful than I typically have them set to, but I needed the power to get a good, evenly lit white background.  These don't recycle nearly as fast at 1/2 power, but plenty fast enough for this session.

I used an SB-800 for the master on my camera to trigger all of the speedlights used in this set.  This light was not contributing to the overall exposure and was only producing enough light to signal the other lights.  I really enjoy this method (the Nikon CLS system) as it lets me dial in all of the individual flash powers right from the camera.  This solution always works well indoors.

Here is my setup for this session:

As you can see, these little lights take up almost no room, and there are no power chords or sync cables lying around to trip over.  The other nice thing about this setup is, except for the white seamless roll of paper, I can bag all of these lights, stands and modifiers up in one bag, and haul them anywhere.  Nice, portable light!

Below are a few more shots from the session.  Shanna was a great model and a beautiful young woman so this was a very easy portrait session for me.



This was a fun shoot and if you ever need to set up a studio quickly, and have the speedlights available, then don't forget to consider them as a viable option.


roytmat said...

Great blog/setup display. My studio/basement is very similar. A boom would be a little tight for me since floor to bottom of joists is 7'-0".... I have put in a series of 1/4" (20 thread) carraige bolts into the joists to give quick access fro swivels etc. I use two SB-800s, a Vivitar 383 (slave), umbrellas, LQ SB III, etc.Great setup photos. I'm getting back to the rest of your blog/portfolio.

John said...

Thanks for the comment!

Those carriage bolts are a great idea. I've seen a few folks using them and they hold speedlights perfectly well. I suspect after this basement is finished, there may be some of those in the "new" studio.

photography said...

Great work john! you are really true great photographer, i love your set up from your photos...

laura said...

These are great and your set up is most helpful. Thanks for your knowledge. You truly love photography, learning technique and teaching all of us. Much appreciated!!