Thursday, January 21, 2010
Portrait using portable strobes
This is a portrait of my daughter Christina and her beloved dog, Dior.
I had wanted to get a session with her for a while but our schedules were tough to arrange a time, but we finally got it together and I am pretty much pleased as this is about what I was hoping for.
I did not want her to look like she was posing for a glamour shot or to smile really. I just wanted a very sullen, relaxed and almost introspective feel about this.
I have been using hot shoe flashes or portable strobes because I have more of a need to be able to set up small shoots on location, such as the portrait of my son Kyle and at the same time they work extremely well indoor for various situations.
I am using two Canon 580EXll speedlites and a Vivitar 285HV flash. I also have some light weight stands, a softbox, some bounce umbrellas,snoots, various reflectors and flags and a boom stand. The flashes are all controlled by the wireless Cybersyncs from Paul C. Buff. (maker of the alien Bees and white Lightning studio strobes)They are much less expensive than the famous Pocket Wizards and do a fine job really.
In this set up, I had a 580EXll mounted in a Photoflex 16x22" softbox on a boom stand just above Christinas head and about two feet in front and to her right side a bit.
On her left was another 580EXll on a light stand about 6ft high with a Flashpoint Q series snoot attached. This was aimed towards the dogs head and Christinas left shoulder area just filling in where the main light would have fallen off, but snooted because I did not want too much filled in as I wanted this to have a mood about it. Basically, I needed to have the black dogs face and fur exposed.
Behind her is a greenish linen fabric bought in a fabric store at 4.99 a linear yard. This was secured with clamps to a couple of spring loaded poles that mount from floor to ceiling much like the expensive Manfrotto Autopoles. The whole background was about 7 ft wide and 5 ft high. I attached it so the bottom started at about her leg area as I was just going for an upper body portrait.
On Christinas left side and between she and the background was the Vivitar flash on a lightstand about 6 ft up and a couple feet over. There was a 1 ft long piece of white foam secured to the flash with a rubberband so that the light would not spill out towards the camera but just skim over Christinas head and mostly be directed back towards the backdrop to illuminte it slightly enough.
The shot was basically ISO 160, 9.0 at 1/160. I am using Duracell AA 2650 NiMH batteries to power the strobes and am always amazed at the performance of these things.Very long lasting and reliable. I use a 2 hour charger as well as a 15 minute quick charger in case I needed fast recharging on the spot. To note, I was shooting the main speedlite through the softbox at about 1/4 - 1/2 power and got close to 200 shots without changing a set of batteries and still had quick recycle times to boot.(under 1 sec.)
The most challenging thing about this particular shoot was getting Dior to stay awake. He goes right to sleep in her arms! While I was shooting, I would make strange noises and dog barks to get him to look at me or at least keep his eyes open. However, Christina would break out laughing at my ridiculous sounds and so when the dogs eyes would be open, Christina would be laughing. Finally got the moment where everything looked as I wanted :)
Attached is a most ridiculous looking daigram of the basic et up for anyone out there who are thinking of using a similar approach and might be curious as to how this was done.