Bright Ideas for Lighting Portraits

January 28, 2010 | Mark Goldstein | Photography Techniques | 7 Comments |
Bright Ideas for Lighting Portraits Image

When it gets to this time of year, with the onset of the PMA and Focus on Imaging shows, I always feel it's time for an equipment evaluation.

What works, what is still useful, what do I actually use on a regular basis, what current trends do I need to keep up with? Obviously the computer / camera update can no longer be avoided and a regular turnover of this equipment is inevitable, so on the shopping list will be a new Canon 5D Mk11 body, which in turn, needs a new Mac to meet the camera's additional file capacity!

Every year, for the last few years, I have had a lighting debate. Years ago when I left Blackpool (you will know it was ages ago if I tell you we were shooting on film!), I sold my car and bought two R.B. 6/7's and some Elinchrom lighting. The debate arises as they were built to last and are still going strong even though they look well used. Two x 500 monobloc head's, barn door's, snoot's, spill kill's, brollies (which seem to only get used in wet weather) and soft boxes. Then a year or so later I added two x 750 heads, giving a total of 2.5k of flash power.

It is basic but it still works, even if it looks a little brow beaten - but given that I used to assist a really talented and successful photographer who used to carry his RZ kit around in a green hold-all I can do the scruffy look!

So, do I continue to use perfectly able lights that just are not the latest, or opt for new, here lies the difficult decision!

My work is quite varied, yet always people based, so my lighting and kit bag needs to cope with a variety of shoots.

The most pressing is a children's editorial fashion and cover for the Spring edition of Angels and Urchins Magazine. We intend to shoot kids in a very fresh (it's Spring!) yet highly styled look which needs to flow to the lighting. Pale pastel greens on a painted pastel flat, lemon on lemon, lilac on lilac, you get the drift.

So the studio light needs to be flattering, feathering and perky. For this my existing kit is not sufficient so I will hire-in lighting: two mains packs, heads, soft boxes for side and back ground lighting and a beauty dish for the model (the children will only be only about 4 years old so a big beauty dish covers most of them! We may have a couple of sets going at once and I will take my lights in case I need to put a boom in for some back lighting.

Bright Ideas for Lighting Portraits Studio lighting.

This shoot in a hire studio is typical of how I work - it's focused my mind. I'm going to trade in the x2500 heads for just one 1200 head - more power, 2750k, a bit less flexibility through, 3 heads not 4, but it will come with remote sync etc.. and there's only one to buy!

I will do a bit of spring cleaning with the accessories and remove some of the well earned gaffa tape that tends to hang around. And while I'm at it, the case is due for an overhaul, I think a neat little carry bag and then at least on my seminars it will look more up to date too!!

I guess the moral of this, in the age of being environmentally friendly and getting through cameras and computers bi- annually, is that it feels good to hang onto something.

One of my much used and favourite ways to light (after daylight - later) is using a Lumedyne kit or portable flash kit. The b/w image here was shot for Men's Health using a portable kit. I rarely use stands on location, I much prefer to use an assistant and we roam around together alongside the model, attached by an umbilical cord of electrical power. It's such a loose and very responsive, reactionary way to work and I love it.

A portable kit would definitely be on my lighting wish list... next year.

Bright Ideas for Lighting Portraits Dockers, portable flash kit.

Shot on location using a portable flash kit with a 50cm square soft-box, the assistant was inside the laundrette with the light. )

I have used this system time and time again, it's great for covering yourself when you are on location and not sure what to expect.

I find shooting like this is a great way to add drama, especially when you expose the subject around 1 1/2 stops over the back ground.

Entry Tags

photos, photo, photography, portrait, flash, portraits, portraiture, light, lighting, studio, daylight, Sandi Friend

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#1 Digital scene photography

A nice article. I love using strobes as my portable lighting solutions. You can add yet another dimension to so many photographs, controlling where you want the viewers eye to be lead.

1:07 pm - Thursday, January 28, 2010

#2 Paul Parkinson

You need to ask yourself one question.

“Do you NEED new gear or do you just WANT new gear?”

Another way of looking at it is to ask yourself if a stranger offered you the cash value of the purchase or the item in question which would you choose? If you chose the cash you don’t need the thing

2:46 pm - Thursday, January 28, 2010

#3 villas bali

Thanks for the ideas.  Once you get a system that works for you, you’ll only need to modify it a little for each individual, so as you experiment, make sure you take good notes so that you can reproduce your lighting set up at a moment’s notice.

5:31 am - Friday, January 29, 2010

#4 Ramon

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2:06 am - Saturday, January 30, 2010

#5 Peter Bayliss LRPS

Just a thought, portraits are my passion but manage what i believe to be good pics using much simpler items of equipment.  Even just one main flash ( not on camera ) and simple card as a fill-in reflector can achieve much.
  Much more important is to build up a good relationship with the sitter. Good eye contact goes a long way to a portrait that appeals and wins !

5:45 pm - Tuesday, February 2, 2010

#6 Robert Green Photography

A very good point by Peter there.  I’ve started using just a single light source and a reflector (or wall as a reflector) to get some nice shots because I’ve not worried about the lighting setups.

2:08 pm - Wednesday, February 3, 2010

#7 Peter Bayliss LRPS

Last week we had a portrait session at my local camera club,  some very good pictures were made i guess ( havn`t seen any results yet )  but the few i took was later than others simply because most members were taking pictures with too many lights - well so i thought!
Better be careful though as i have not seen any other prints or even yet printed any of the few i took…...will have to see…......

12:56 am - Thursday, February 4, 2010