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Monday, December 29, 2008

••◊ Christmas Portraits

My friends are finally coming off the Christmas crack and onto the hopes of the new year. Since I stayed in town for the holidays I decided to attend my friend Brooklyn's 'home for wayward musicians' gig in downtown San Diego. It was a great event with some of the best folk musicians that San Diego has to offer. San Diego is never a substitute for being in Seattle (ahhh...home) but what is? I guess I'm part amphibian. Being a special occasion I decided to pull out my Strobist 'studio in a bag' and take some nice Christmas portraits of the guitar slingers (except for one). Just for the record, no...none of them look like Jewel (San Diego inside joke). The lighting setup was pretty basic since I had a series of musicians and about ten minutes to spend with each person. The back bar room is about 15'x30' and has windows at one end and the bar at the other. I chose to shoot everyone at the bar since the street wasn't very pretty but the nice Christmas lights provided a decent backdrop. The trick was to drag the shutter a bit (1.3s @f/4 to f/8) so I could pick up the background lights and the nice glowing red lights under the bar counter. ETTL on the speedlights handled the expose close enough most of the time, but I did have to manually tweak the flash compensation with test shots for each setup. The lighting setup was basically two speedlights and one reflector. If the person had blonde-ish color hair I might throw on a 1/4 or 1/2 CTO gell on the hair light. Also depending on the situation I used the two umbrellas I had with me as reflectors or just a shoot-through on camera left. The reflector and hair light were always on camera right.

The main issue with doing so much so quickly is mainly listening to your subject and trying to get a feel for their individuality in a minute or less. In Brenda's case she wasn't happy about the first outcome. I had to bring over three people to prove to her that she looked beautiful and had a nice smile. She still said "I hate my smile" and "all my songs are depressing." Funny, she looks slightly older than 14(?) OK, change of plans. Her personality didn't come off this way at first, but the customer is always right. So I had to go to an edge-ier setup.

Try #2 with Brenda. I went for something a little more Yoko here. Build mystery and give her a little more serious look. Yeah, I know it's artsy...but I always find it's easier to bring out a person's personality than to force one on them. I just linked to her web page and noticed that she picked out this picture for her profile (Hah!)

For Brooklyn I chose a two umbrella shoot-through setup with a two stop difference. I wish I would have had a red rim light to frame her out against the backdrop at camera right, but I was out of speedlights here. Oh well, everyone is going to be paying attention to the pretty redhead anyway. Maybe next Christmas I'll get myself another speedlight.

J. Bradley is another musician and close friend of Brooklyn. I've photographed him before and knew that he doesn't always come off with the best modeling smile (no offense). In person he's a nice guy, but it's like I wrote...you have to go with who the personal naturally is. So the answer was go film noire on him and give him a more manly look. Note that I didn't need the hair light because his skin separates the foreground from background by luminance alone. One issue I see with this picture is the reflection of the umbrella in the Murphy's sign, which can be good or bad. It's a distraction - which is bad, but the distraction gets your attention up to the area around his head - which is good. I like the picture.

The entire set of photos can be seen here.

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