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Sunday, January 18, 2009

••◊ San Diego Strobists Meet...

I recent joined the SD Strobist group on Flickr. Kevin Calumpit (TheOriginal_kevie) was kind enough to invite us out to his studio space at NAS Productions in San Marcos Saturday. He lined up four willing victims models that circulated from photog to photog. Considering this was a chance to try out some new lighting ideas that I had been inspired by I made a cheat sheet of six setups for fear that I would forget one or two. I also had to be realistic because I only had two strobes, two umbrellas, and one reflector to light the scene. However the cheat sheet was just a jumping off point because I didn't know what to expect from the models or backdrop or how much time I would have...and I didn't have 5-6 speedlights and softboxes available.


My first model was John Chang. For him I chose the 'fashion' setup because I knew that would give him dramatic lighting across his face which better suits male models...and he showed up wearing a dress shirt and tie. The problem we had was that his polyester tie was reflecting too much light. Losing the tie wouldn't have suited what he was going for, so I had to make a couple lighting adjustments to get more light on his face and less on the tie. John, next time Pierre Cardin tie. We went through the standard male poses, shoulder and foot placement, posture...etc.







After John and I went through a session I was temporarily out of models so I stole Megan, one of the staff at NAS. For her I wanted to test out the over-under close up setup. I see this used on classic celebrity B&W close ups often enough. Turns out that it worked quite well even though I was just using umbrellas. My stand-in model has a "diminutive stature," so we put her on a toolbox so she could stand above the lower umbrella. I think I successful dodged the celebrity mug shot look.









Next up I I met Satien. Satien has sort of a hipster, fast car driving, clubbing in the city sort of personality. After asking him about his ideas he suggested that I take some photos with him and cars. The first car was an old scrap out back of the studio and I didn't have my lights back there, so I stuck with just capturing him with a superior angle shot (i.e. from down below him) and watching the angle of his face. Next Satien wanted me to shoot him with his car, but again lacking lights out there (umbrellas and Santa Ana winds don't mix) I stuck with just getting head shots of him. In this case I wish I would have had a 17-40mm lens in my kit. A wider angle lens would have given his pictures more of a male model feel since it enlarges the subject relative to the background. In post I did a little more extreme S-curve, upped the sharpness, and desaturated a little to compensate. I like that effect for men because it gives an edgier look in a very simple and understated way.

Next up I wanted to try out the flare setup. Sometimes this gets used for over the top glamour shots for things like high end perfume and makeup. However if you set it up with a dark background then the look can have kind of a dance club groove. Kevin gave us a heads up that we would have a DJ as a model, so I brought along my headphones as a prop (relax, it's entertainment...it's all fake). I knew this would work for Satien and DJ Mike Strip. The speedlight stands and the star field in the background had to be removed in post. Satien and Mike's setups were a bit different. For Satien I placed both strobes behind him so I had to add a reflector in front of him and angled toward him. You can see it in his sunglasses (it's not a mistake, it's a feature! He, he.). This filled the front of his body. On DJ Mike I chose the setup shown on my cheat sheet with a shoot through umbrella at camera right and one strobe behind him. You can clearly see a fill difference between the two. I like Satien's shot more personally.



Next up I had the honor of finally getting a turn with Katy. Yes guys (big sigh), she has (another sigh) a boyfriend. When she came in there were a steady stream of photographers lined up to shoot her (go figure). It was nearly the end of the session by the time I was able to get a turn and I was a bit concerned that she would be suffering from shutter fatigue, but Katy is a trooper. From my brief conversations with Katy it seemed natural to use the "laying" setup from my cheat sheet since it's mostly for classically beautiful models "laying in repose." We didn't have a couch, so I had to approximate the positioning using a low-back chair and have her extend her legs to the side away from the chair. The chair also happened to fit well with her leopard dress (lucky find). I used two umbrellas perched high above at camera right and left and a reflector just in front of her to under-fill.


Equally popular among the disproportionately male photographer crowd was Kerri. Kerri is a tall woman with long shapely features and beautiful skin. No need to use a toolbox here. I'll skip a little ahead by saying that I learned something by having her as a model. Kerri has deep inset eyes and she really needs to be lit from below to fill in the eye sockets. For the life of me I couldn't figure out how to make it work at first because her eyes were coming out too dark. I should have recognized that at first because I share the same physical feature but at least I'll be more ready next time. ...so as thus, the session with Kerri lasted about twice as long as it should have, but Kerri is a nice person and accommodated my chimping.

When I talked with Kerri at first she said she was more into glamour, so I figured that was a best direction to go in. We chose the black strapless dress for her wardrobe since that fit the bill the best of what she brought. For her close up portraits I went with the fashion lighting setup; single light and reflector with Kerri sitting. For the first shot or two I put the light on the wrong side. It really needed to go on camera right in order to fill in under the sweep of her hair. The lighting was more dramatic than what I was going for at first; a little too movie star. With the light on the correct side, bingo...there's the glamour vixen! What mostly worked after that was to use shoot through umbrellas at camera left and right, with the one at camera left switching between in front and behind Kerri.



The complete set of pictures can be seen here, including the behind the scenes shots.

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