Pandora’s Box. Portrait and lighting technique

Lately I have being playing with light a bit more than usual. After spending some time reading the Strobist blog http://strobist.blogspot.com/  I came up with the urge to make a different kind of photo using some found knowledge and an old idea I had running on my head for a while.

I wanted to have the light to come from an unusual place like in this picture here

http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=7397779&size=lg

but I wanted a bit more of ambient light around like in this image here

keeping up with the concept and making some lighting modifications I came up with this image here.

Click on image to enlarge

Pandora's box

On this picture, I got just enough ambient light to show around the room but not so much to detract from the the main idea of a mystery box. It took a bit of playing around with the position and power of the lights (3 of them) and some reflections  until I got what I considered a decent balance of ambient light and flash light. So this is how I created this picture.

The camera was a Canon 7D with a 24-70mm f2.8L set at 30mm and f5.6, Speed 60th, ISO 125. The flashes were triggered with Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 and the AC3 controller and 3 Pocket wizards Flex TT5 one on each zone A,B,C for fine control.

The first test picture I took was with the accent lampt by itself to determine the ambient light, color temp and exposure I needed for that side of the frame. Then I set up a Canon 580 EX @ 1/64 power with a snoot to shoot a controlled beam of light over the boxes on the side table ( I ended up gelling the flash with 3/4 CTO to compensate with the existing light from the lamp) and then set the camera withe balance to 4600K. The next step was to power Pandora’s box. There I put a Canon 430EXII @ 1/16 of its power with a 1/2 cut CTO and covered it with a paper towel to diffuse the light, also I lined the back of the lid box with foil to reflect light into her face from the front since the single light coming from the box was giving me some weird spooky shadows that I did not care for. With those two lights I ended up getting something like this picture bellow and that was the look I was trying to avoid. To dark around her.

Click on image to enlarge.

That is when the third light comes in to the rescue and made all the difference. Another Canon 580EXII at 1/16 power, set at 50mm and gelled with a 3/4 CTO cut . The placement of this light is the trickiest one since is the one that is doing a double duty (I learned this one at the strobist site on the lighting 102 files) this is the light that opened up the shadows on the left side to the frame (primary function) but it also created the reflection (specular light) on the headboard that defined and separated her head from an otherwise black background. The tricky part about this light is that it has to hit the headboard to create the reflection behind your models head and  that reflection is what creates the separation we are looking for.  Therefore the angle of the light and the one from the camera have to coincide in the right place and that is when the fine tuning part comes in. I will write a post about that but make sure you check the strobist site to get more details about it.

The one last thing that helped me wrap this image was the reflection of the lamp on the lid (I really like that) I have a few without it and  I did not liked them as much, the lid looked to dark and flat. Small details like that make a big difference at the end.

Here is a quick image that shows up the set up I used to get this image done.

Click on image to enlarge.

Thanks for stooping by and as usual I’d appreciate any comments or questions. I also welcome ideas for new topics.

Regards

Alex Elias

PS: A bigger and special thanks to my wife that put up with my ideas when coming tired from work.

Portrait session for Remax agents.

This is from a December shoot I did for some Remax agents. As always it was nice to be there, there agents are fun, outgoing and great to work with.

Thanks for trusting me with your pictures.

Brian is always great to work with. No wonder he is constantly with the top producers of the office. He is very knowledgeable of the market, charismatic, and very focus when it comes to work. Despite he likes to have lots of fun when taking pictures.

Click to see larger

Jon Hatami Portrait session.

Jon Hatami is running for district attorney for the city of Santa Clarita. I was fortunate to meet with him and take the pictures for his campaign. I must say that he is a true gentleman; between him, his wife and   his entire team made me feel welcome to his house and doing the shoot was a pleasure.

I wish you a very successful run and a bright future as Santa Clarita District Attorney.

Click here to Visit Jon Hatami’s page

https://alexephotos.com/2012/01/04/jon-hatami-portrait-session/

Ring announcer portraits.

Here are a few portraits I took of my friend Barrie. He’s a ring announcer for boxing and MMA. We did a quick session at a local boxing gym to update his business cars and some other media. The place was challenging due to very limited  space  and unattractive surroundings but it ended up working out.

The equipment used for the shot was a Canon 7D with a Canon EF 24-70 f 2.8L and Canon EF 70-200 f 2.8 is L The lighting was primarely done with 2 Calumet travelite 750, one was fitted with a Photoflex 48×36 soft box and the other one with an 11″ reflector with a 30 deg honeycomb grid. For some other shots I added a third light source, a 24″x24″ Lastolite soft box with a Canon 580 EXII. The lights were controlled by Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 and Flex TT5.

Thanks for looking and a special thanks to Barrie.

Click on image to see larger.

Newborn. Baby girl Pictures.

I just finished doing a shoot for a newborn baby girl. The session went great since the little one literately slept like a baby.

The set up was quite simple, I used a photography posing table to set the basket with the baby, that made it easy for moving and positioning. The lighting was done with 2 Travelites 750 one with a 11″ reflector set with a 30Deg grid  for the background and the other one with a larger Photoflex softbox that was placed very close to the baby on camera’s right. On the left side of the camera as a fill light I used a Canon 580EXII with a 2×2 Lastolite softbox . All lights were triggered with Pocket Wizards Flex TT5 and a Pocket Wizard mini TT1 with the AC3 controller on the camera as the master. The camera was a Canon 7D and the two lenses for this shoot were a Canon Ef 100 macro F2.8 and as Canon Ef 24-70 f2.8L. I used the 100 macro 90% of the time for the session. I set it at  f5.6 since I was looking for a rather shallower DOP.

For the post work I used Adobe Bridge to organize and tag the files with colors and stars. From there I migrated the raw files to ACR to do some  adjustments and then open in Photoshop CS5 to do the last part. Here I did a few different styles in terms of post work from color, to black and white, duo tones and playing with vibrance  and saturation tools.

Thanks for looking.

I welcome questions and suggestions.

Alex Elias

Las Vegas trip. Photo tips and equipment selection. Part one.

I recently went to las Vegas with the family. We spent most of the Saturday walking around the strip and visiting some casinos. For that Saturday I loaded a Lowepro slingshot 300AW with a Canon 7D, Canon BG-E7 battery grip and 3 lenses. Canon Ef-s 10-22  Canon Ef 24-70 f 2.8 L and Canon 70-200 f 2.8 is L I also took a Canon 580 EXII for fill light, a Manfrotto 2021 tripod with a Manfrotto 498RC4 ball head. Last but not least a circular polarizer, spare batteries and memory cards.

Lens selection

There is always two sides of a story. If you are looking for the best image quality you will take primes with you. If you don’t want to be changing lenses too often or don’t like zooming in and out via your legs then a zoom will be the ticket. I had coverage from 10 to 200mm between the three lenses I took. If you wonder what one or two lenses are most suitable/ useful for a day like this the answer of course will be;  it depends on your style. The Canon ef-s 10-22mm is a very good and fun lens to have but too short to be the primary lens. The Canon ef 70-200 f 2.8 is L is a fantastic lens, the one thing though, is that after hours of holding that rig around it becomes pretty heavy. The image quality is fantastic, it gives nice images from the distance and some great close ups and tight portraits. The Canon ef 24-70 f2.8 L  had the most useful range for a walk around lens.

From that day kept 370 pictures and here is some data I pulled from those images.

Out of the 370 pictures 324 were taken with the Canon ef 24-70 f2.8 L 26 pictures with the Canon Ef-s 10-22  and 20 pictures with the Canon ef 70-200 f2.8 is L. The one thing to note is that some times I get lazy and I don’t swap lenses when I think I should. To help prove my point here is a bit more data. From the 324 images I got from the Canon ef 24-70 f2.8 L 89 of them were at 24mm and 57 at 70mm, nearly half the pictures taken with that lens were taken at either end. Based on my experience, if I can only carry one lens (from what I own), the Canon ef 24-70 f 2.8L would be the one. One other lens to consider, is the Canon ef 24-105 f4 is L but it seems like that would be a fantastic lens to own for something like this. Now If you are going to shoot prime lenses only, my first choice would be a 24mm second choice a 35mm and third choice a 50mm.

Shooting Mode

Shooting in manual mode always gives you the most control and creativity, at the expense of loosing great pictures along the way while playing with the settings. I enjoy shooting in manual mode as much as possible, but when walking around  in a place that exposures changes every step of the way I rather switch to a mode like AV, or TV and let the camera do the heavy lifting for me. In this case AV was my choice for 80% of the day; whenever it made sense to choose manual I did.

Exposure compensation

This is a feature of the camera a lot of people either don’t know what it is, or do know why they should use it to begin with. To me, this is the one function of the camera that let the user set an automatic mode such AV or TV and still be creative and have control over what the camera is doing.

The main reason reason why this should be use more often, is due to how the camera’s meter is design to work. Without getting into lengthy explanations of a meter system, cameras are set to see the world as neutral grey, AKA 18% gray. Therefore if you take a picture of a white wall, the camera will assume that the wall is meant to be gray and will shorten the exposure “underexpose” to make the wall grey. The exact opposite will occur if you take a picture of a black wall. The camera will give you a longer than needed exposure (overexpose) to make the black wall gray.

Once this concept is grasp, that is when one begins to use exposure compensation all the time, to complete the creative process. Go out there and set the camera to AV , choose an f stop that suits your subject; Do you want a nice portrait with a blurry background? Open up the lens all the way. Is it the place a bit dark because your subject is on the shade? Use a higher ISO. Once the camera have 2 of the 3 variables “in this case an f stop and ISO” the third value is chosen by the camera, in this case the shutter speed.But… What would happen to your portrait if a good portion of the frame is going to be a bright blue sky? Well, chances are the camera will expose that sky properly leaving you with the portrait of a lovely black silhouette. If that is what one was looking for, then great, but if you were not going for the silhouette effect that was when you needed to overexpose via exposure compensation to have a proper reading of your main subject. In a nutshell this is how you can use some semiautomatic setting but still have control over what is going on as supposed of the camera doing all the thinking for you.

Thanks for stopping by.

I welcome, questions, comment and critiques.

Here are some random images I got from that day.

Indoor family pictures.

Last week’s  family shoot went out very nice nicely. Everyone was ready and very willing to make this work, specially the 6-year-old that  turned out to be a star. She sure had a blast modeling and working the camera. She tried a few different looks and also did her own make up, which by the way I think she did pretty good for 6 years of age; For sure better than I would have done.

The equipment I took with me for the shoot was my Canon 7D and although I took about 5 lenses the Canon EF 24-70 2.8 L was the one that I used all the time. Lighting was done with 2 Travelites 750 triggered via pocket wizards Mini and Flex and I fitted the lights with one 48×60 photoflex Softbox for the main, and an umbrella using the bouncing side as a fill. I shot everything at F9.0 and a few at F11 for good depth of field and ISO set at 200. The one thing I must confess is that I left the white balance on auto, I forgot to lock it and now I’ll have to spend a bit of extra time in CS5 with the color correction.

Overall it was a great day and I enjoyed the session a lot.

 

Picture of the day. Self family portrait.

I Just did some family portraits with a different look. (CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO SEE LARGER) Taking the pictures for the final image was not too involved (aside from the lack of cooperation from my 3 yr son)  In this series of shots I used one main light to camera right  ( Travelite 750 with a 36″x 48″ Photoflex soft box) on the opposite side (camera left next to the kids) I went with a 48″ x 60″ withe reflector to bounce light and fill in the shadows. I set the camera ( Canon 7D with a EF 24-70 2.8L ) at ISO 100 F9.0 and triggered the strobe with a Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 and a Flex TT5. Later in the shoot I introduced a Canon 580 EXII without diffusion as a hair light to create some separation that was also triggered with a Flex TT5. I set that flash to manual and used a Pocket Wizard AC3 to control the output of that flash.

The overall steps are not to complicated. I used 2 pieces of withe foam core from the arts supply for $5 each. On one I cut a 13″x16″ hole  in the center and the other one was left intact. I First took the pictures of the kids inside the frame and then I took mine holding the board without the cut off. The rest was done in Photoshop using layers.

Thanks for looking

Alex Elias

My family

Outdoor Family portraits

I haven’t posted for a while. Life has kept me busy with good things plus I was practicing a bit on my procrastination.

Here are some pictures I just I took at the park. I could not have asked for a better day and and nicer family to work with, the kids were awesome and everything went just right.

The equipment I used:

Camera was a  Canon 7D. The main lens was a Canon EF 24-70 2.8L  follow by Canon EF 70-200 2.8  IS L  and I took a few using a Canon EF-S 10-22 . As far as lighting I took two Canon Speedlite a 580EX II and 430 EXII with 1/4 CTO on each one 1 2×2 loastolite Easybox  and a 5’x3′ reflector/difuser. The flashes were triggered with one Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 and an AC3 controller and 2 Flex TT5. Using the AC3 controller is nothing short of great, I had one light in group A the other one in group B and controlled each one at will from power up and down to turning on and off or go from E-TTl to manual. They are pricey but they are great.

 

Picture of the day Baseball pictures.

Recently I met Dave through a friend of mine. He was looking to get some pictures for the sport he loves and here a some of the images we came up with.

Thanks Dave it was great working with you.