Sunday, April 25, 2010


Last weekend I ended up doing a small headshot session with this guy.  He asked this his name and likeness be kept out of any public posts, so oddly enough, all the pictures in this post were taking by him (likewise, I took all the headshots of him).  I'll refer to him as Fred (not his real name).

The goal was to keep it simple, with relatively basic lighting, and just get some decent headshots for internet and/or business use.

We started out about as basic as you can get.  Medium soft box as the key light at upper camera right and a single light on the background to send it to completely white.  Luckily (for me), Fred had plenty of strobes, some good triggers, the softbox, stands, etc., so we ended up using much of his stuff.  If memory serves me well, we used an SB-26 in the soft box and an SB-24 on the background.  We also used his flash-meter to ensure that the exposure was good and the background was correctly exposed (if I remember correctly, he had the background a stop above the subject setting).

It honestly made me interested in getting a flash meter, because it definitely sped some things up, but we could have done the same thing with a little more time using the histogram on the camera.

The above shot is a decent, basic, but professional quality head shot I can use for generic "I need a picture" situations.  Those come up way more than I would expect, and it is good to have something like that on file.  Minimal processing, since we got the exposure good out of the camera -- just a little bit of levels, and a bit of *ahem* blemish removal *ahem*.

Then, we decided to kick it up a notch.  We added an SB-24 on each side to do some rim lights and add a little kick to the image.  It took a little tweaking to get the exposures right, especially because we had been shooting at ISO 400 (a soft box loses a lot of light and we wanted f/8), and our first pass with the back lighting caused some nasty overexposure.  So, we moved the soft box closer, dropped the aperture, and feathered the side lighting a little bit to reduce the blown edges.

I ended up really liking the result:

I also made sure to take a few with the back light off.  The white seamless goes to a nice neutral gray, and you get a completely different look with the same setup for free!

One of my favorites was an out take as we were tuning things up.  We had the backlight too low, but I like the edge to it, and it might soon become my avatar on one or two popular photo sites...

In brief, here are a few other lessons I learned on the shoot:
  • Shooting tethered is pretty cool.  I loaded the newest Canon EOS Utility on my laptop and turned it toward the subject so that we could see the results while shooting.  EOS Utility now has a handy preview window that makes it really, really easy.
  • Setting up the lighting and things was easy.  Maintaining conversation while giving myself time to think through the technicals yet get my subject to give good expressions is quite difficult and it is something I really need to work on.
  • It is definitely motivating to have someone with you on a shoot, even something simple like this.  Fred was great, and I hope we can work together again.
 * * * * *

In the bigger picture, you may have noticed that I changed the theme of the site.  I may be changing a few other things around in the near future too. 

In terms of shooting, I've set a goal to shoot at least once a week for an hour or so, with a group shoot once or twice a month.  Snapshots do not count for the once a week goal; it needs to be something that stretches me as a photographer.  For instance, today I shot a couple of innings of my son's baseball game, but I shot using my 400mm lens, so it was definitely different.

I'll get some shots up from the baseball in the near future.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Getting Serious Again

Boy, it has been a while.  My full time job has pretty much taken over my life and I've had little time for photography along with waxing and waning desire.  By the time I get to the weekend, I'd almost rather just chill on the couch than get out and shoot, but at work all week, I dream of getting out and shooting.

So, I've decided to force my hand a bit, and I put out a call for a few other people to start a small meetup group (on Bay Area Strobists).  My impression is that a ton of people want to do meetups, but they rarely happen because no one is willing to commit to organize them.  So if I organize a meetup twice a week, keep it focused by having a client and specific deliverable each time, I think we could keep a meetup going for a while meeting at least twice a month.

So, we'll see what happens.  I intend to use this spot as a place to discuss my thoughts and a venue to display my work.

Ultimately, I think I'd like to get to a spot where I do a shoot or two a week professionally.  Before I can get to that spot, though, I need to do a shoot or two unpaid a week; that's what I'm hoping the meetup will give me, plus a way to learn and collaborate with a few other people.  It will also be a good way to network with other photographers and to keep me motivated.