Thursday, January 21, 2010

Portrait using portable strobes

christina and dior

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.


Marcela said...

Loved the picture. But loved the diagram even more ;)

She Writes said...

Ah, so this is how the magic happens :)! Your daughter must adore tthis shot of her and her darling Dior.

I hope some day I can use these tricks!

Amanda said...

That is a wonderful photo and so unique. I love your pictures because they are all so different than most.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

She is beautiful! And great portrait!

Sheila said...

It is apparent that good looks run in the family. I would imagine this was also challenging because of Dior being in shadow and being a very black dog. You were able to compose the image so both subjects complimented each other and were competing for the viewer's attention.

Even thought I was tickled by your drawing, I love how you persevered for the sake of the lesson. Next time, let me draw your portrait!

kyungmee said...

Very Nice! Came out well. And I liked your is good for some one like myself that needs a little visual cues..hehe..

Also, I just created a new site ..some selections from sheltersky. It is for just images w/ o comentaries but ofcourse people can comment;) I hope you can give it a look! the address is http"//

Gary Heller said...

Hi Marcela, thanks for stopping by. Yep, the diagram is surely the most "interesting" portion of the post :)

She Writes, yes, she does like it much as some of the other ones too, although this one is my fav.

Amanda, Thanks, I try to be. . .unusual. I tend to lean towards the darker areas of things . . .

Daily Connoisseur, Thanks, she is growing into a beautiful young lady.

Sheila, I like your choice of words. . yes preservered, endured the misery of my lack of illustrative skills :)
Your so right, the black hair, sweater and dog was a bit tricky to expose all. Without the snoot, the dog would be a black blob with twinkling nose and eyes hmmm, thats about what he is really lol.
You mean draw me?! Would love that.

Kyungmee, thank you. Absolutely will drop by your new site.
sounds cool.

slommler said...

Beautiful portrait!!! She is gorgeous and Dior is adorable!! Loved the diagram as well. Good tips...thanks so much!

Julie Magers Soulen said...

I am always amazed at how you have captured the inner being of your subjects especially when they are related. Your daughter's expression is deeply real. Dior looks like he is ready to nod off any second, soooo cute! Wonderful work.

Julie Magers Soulen Photography
Blog of Note

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

A beautiful portrait Gary. Her hand is beautiful, too!

You put so much into your work - thus the amazing results.

Is Christina happy with her photographic portrait?

Gary Heller said...

Thank you SueAnn, glad you like it.

Julie, thanks and I'm pleased that you feel that way about her expression. That dog was nodding off so fast. . .

Bonnie, always glad to know your thoughts. Yes, she does have nice hands and this was one shot where she had her hand that way as well as the stance and expression i was looking for.

She says she likes it alot and has it framed in her room. However, I'm pretty certain this pleases me more than her. This was really a session for me and a piece for my series of portraits.
I told her we could set up another date where she can be more glamorous and pose as she pleases.
She insists she's happy with it, but she'll get her glamour shots:)

Kathleen said...

Fantastic photo!

Anonymous said...

it is like walking through a maze reading about equipment i have never heard of before and then seeing your abstract upside down drawing i decided to focus on the photograph: whatever you did with those strobes etc (i am already using the jargon) it definately worked to protray your daughter beautifully. r.

diane said...

Your daughter is a knockout.
I would also love to see the shots that you didn't keep, of her laughing at you.

Gary Heller said...

Thanks for dropping by, Kathleen.

Rahina, you just had me laugh out loud!
There is actually a sort of "cult" of photographers called "strobists" that believe in using these portable strobes and feel that they can accomplish so much as well as being totally portable and convenient.
The background tech info here is just for those who might be interested in using these set ups but your puzzlement and then seeing my ridiculous diagram struck my funny bone. . :)
Thanks for dropping in.

Life with Kaishon said...

Wow. I love this shot. And I loved your set up in order to get the shot. Thank you for sharing.

drollgirl said...

what a fantastic portrait! and photographing portraits of people is hard enough, but throw in an animal and it gets a whole lot tougher!

L.Holm said...

phenomenal, Gary. gorgeous gorgeous photo of your lovely girl and little Dior. wow.

Catherine said...

That's cute that the little pup won't stay awake in your daughter's arms! Such a beautiful photo of them both.

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. Your diagram is... ummm... well... you sure are a wonderful photographer!!! :) haha lol

Eric Calabros said...

I loved her left hand's vessels.. look how your lighting have made theme bold and strong!!

I do also believe there are many things to learn in dark areas.

Great shot, Gary.

willow said...

This is a wonderful portrait, Gary. It has a quiet sort of "girl with a pearl" sullenness about it. Christina is beautiful.

Josephine Tale Peddler said...

Your daughter is so exotic and beautiful, Gary. And Dior looks such an intelligent, loved little dog. That is a really strong photograph. xx

Hilary said...

Lovely shot of your beautiful daughter and Dior but I think we also could have used a video of you making those noises. ;)

Antonio Estevez said...

wow, Gary. This series of portraits are truly amazing and telling of your skill. I can't wait to be a part of it!

CrowNology said...

Hah ha ha!
It is good you choose photography as your Art! :)
Love your work.

Me and my strange decision said...

but i think so that u can get it the same effect using 2 softbox and pocket wizard..dont u?
Great portrait
havea nice day