Skip to main content

Lighting Workshops in Scotland - A Look at What We Covered

I'll apologise now for the length of this blog post. Although I began it as just a summary of the my time away in Scotland it has quickly become a recap for those who attended the course. And it turns out I have a lot more to say than I anticipated.  So if this is too much detail then just feel free to look at the pictures.

It was my intention when setting out to do these workshops that I provide the type of lighting course I would have wanted when I was starting out.  I wanted to include all the elements that took me several workshops and seminars over several years to piece together, some of which I'd not actually taken the time to fully appreciate until recently. So I began with the basics and worked my way up to include all that is necessary to understand light for good, consistent portraiture.

We began with light patterns and their uses, the position of the lights to achieve the various light patterns and the catchlights you'd expect to see for the patterns.

I began my lighting demonstration with lighting ratios. I have hardly ever seen this covered in workshops and never fully appreciated what understanding this could mean. I'd always felt that setting your fill light was a personal judgement based on what you see. To some extent this is still true. But it wasn't until I did the exercise of seeing the differences between all ratios in my typical lighting set up that I realised where my preference lies. In some cases in the past I got it wrong. I judged the outcome based on what I saw in the back of my camera but when I got it on the computer I saw that the shadows were too dark and I wasn't as happy with the end results. I was finding that sometimes I got it perfect (for my tastes) and other times I got it wrong. Now that I've seen each of the ratios and assessed where my preferences lie I know that I like my fill light to be between 2-3 stops lower than the fill and key combined for most of my work. For darker images I probably prefer 3 stops and brighter images 2 stops. Now if I take the time to meter both my fill and key I get consistent results every time.

Here is the examples we created during the first of our 2 workshops.


In case you are unable to read the details in the above image, the first image we started with a 1 stop difference.  This is also known as a 2:1 ratio where the highlights are twice as bright as the shadows. Don't let yourself get bogged down with numbers here though.  It doesn't matter that you know if something is 2:1 or 8:1. What matters is that you know if its a 1 stop or 3 stop difference so you can calculate your meter readings for each light.  

The second image we metered both the key and fill together on the highlight side as F7.1 which is also what we set the camera's aperture to.  The third image metered at F8 for a 2 stop difference. The fourth metered at F11 for a 3 stop difference.  For the final image we turned the fill off. Without metering again we'd be left with a slightly underexposed image because we've taken away some of the light reaching our subject's face. Without the fill the meter gave us a reading of F8 and 2/3rds (or F10). 

The important thing to note here is the strength of the shadows and your preference for these shadows in your portraits. Because we used a very large light source (140cm octobox) we had a very big and soft light that essentially wrapped around our subject. This produced softer, less defined shadows so the variations are not as pronounced as had we used a smaller light source. But I can still see that I like both the 2 stop and 3 stop difference portraits and I now try to set my lights to achieve this on a consistent basis, whereas prior to doing this I just guessed at where my fill light should be. 

Following ratios we discussed perspective and lense distortion and the affects that shooting wide and closer up can have on your portraits. We did an example of this to show how moving away from your subject and zooming in, or shooting with a bigger prime (ie 85mm) can give you more background and minimise the distortion you can get on your subject. 

In the example below I went to the extreme to really highlight what happens. Here I shot at 28mm and I was situated quite close. Notice how we are a little limited with the background and we'd have a lot of work in Photoshop to give us the background we would want for this portrait. There is also very obvious distortion in the trunk and possibly some in the little girl as well. 



The image above was taken from further away and shot at 58mm instead. The trunk and child did not move from their spot. Notice how the trunk appears to have no distortion and the background has greatly improved. This is incredibly useful if photographing a group of people or wanting to create a set that includes props such as this large trunk. These same principles apply to close ups of faces too. The closer you are the more possibility of distortion, which as you can imagine, is not often desirable in portraits.

We also looked at the use of grids (or egg crates) along with feathering the light in order to light just our subject so that the background can be left alone. I like to do this so that I can darken my backgrounds and completely change the look without changing the paper I'm using. I will often work with either white paper or light grey but the way in which I light it changes the look.  In everything we did during this workshop we used bright white paper. The only way we would actually achieve bright white would be to light it. And if we don't have any light reach the backdrop we can actually turn it black. Below on the left (and all images above) is an example of where we had light spilling onto the backdrop to give us grey. On the right we used a grid and slightly feathered the light to achieve a much darker (almost black) tone. A very handy technique if you are limited in paper selection. Imagine what you can do with coloured paper as well.  


To achieve the image on the right we also needed to switch off the fill light.  The softbox used here did not have a grid which would have meant to much light from this light would have reached the background. In order to still have an acceptable light ratio we used a reflector on a stand to provide some fill light without affecting the background.  

By the way, all images above are virtually straight out of camera. In lightroom only some cropping and noise reduction have been applied. 

Once we covered these lessons in lighting we introduced some styling and posing. I brought a selection of pieces from my collection so we could create some complete portraits of our models and I could show something of my thought processes when doing so. Below are just some of what I created. 












It has always been my experience that we tend to retain information if we actually get the chance to do the work ourselves. So I had everyone in the room create their own portrait using these children and the available props in the hopes that this would help in retaining the information discussed during the workshop.

If this type of workshop is of interest to you I am running one similar in my own studio in Burbage, Leicestershire on July 9th. Click here if you'd like to see more details. Or give me a call on 01455 611069. There are still a couple of places left.  

Comments

Unknown said…
Thank you for sharing Christina. Would have loved to have been there to learn from you but I was elsewhere on this day. Hope to catch you on your return to Scotland. Y x

Popular posts from this blog

I am Still Me: A Story about a Transgender Boy

  Meet Leo. Leo is 15 and currently going through an epic transformation that has momentarily turned the lives of himself and those around him upside down. A mum who once had the daughter she always longed for is now coping with the realisation that she will be living the rest of her life with a son instead. When your child is born you have certain expectations of the typical life they will lead but most of us know and accept that it won't necessarily end up the way we imagine. Not every person wants to marry, have kids or be involved with the opposite sex. Most of us have come to accept this and can adjust to whatever comes our way relatively easily. But few of us have expected to have to deal with a change in sex. Its not that we've hoped it won't happen, but just that it never occurred to us that it might. This is a new adjustment that we as a society are being presented with today, just like so many others that have come before. When I first heard that Phoebe

5 Reasons you Should Consider Getting a Professional Headshot

Headshots, or profile pictures are becoming a requirement of so many tools we regularly use or reference today. From Facebook to Linked In, Instagram to Twitter and often any website that represents a company for which you work or own will have a place to include a photograph that is meant to show your audience who you are. And how you present yourself there will tell your audience so much about you. 1. A profile picture is your first opportunity for your audience to see you. Its often the first impression you make and we all know you only have one chance at a first impression. A professional photographer has the skills to show you in the best, most suitable way to give a great first impression. (These headshots were created for recruitment firm  Optima UK  who asked to have their logo placed behind them. I think it makes these headshots quite eye catching and they should do their job well.) 2. Using a professional to create your headshot will convey yo

My Fellowship in Child Portraiture, Baby Photographer of the Year and All Things Convention Related

Its been a very busy year for me.  Hence the reason I've not been keeping this blog up to date. That's about to change though.  I anticipate this coming year to be even busier but I plan on getting a lot more organised and keeping on top of things like this.  For now though I'd like to tell you all about last week. I keep trying to think of some words to describe this past week and I keep coming back to 'I had the time of my life' and breaking into song in my head.  Apart from when my daughter was born I haven't had a better time in my life. This week was spent at the Societies Convention where in excess of 14 thousand photographers from around the world meet to take part in print competitions, submit qualification panels and join in on various classes and events. The week began as one of the most stressful of my life.  I've never felt nerves like it.  I'd just spent the best part of a year planning and preparing my 20 image panel to present to 5

I'm a Portrait Artist and Variety is the Spice of My Life

  I often admire the work of other photographers.  I'm always having a browse or spotting something interesting on Facebook or Pinterest.  Many of them have a very consistent style and subject, as is the case with many newborn photographers especially.  This has made me wonder if perhaps I'm not developing as a portrait artist as well as I could be.  We are taught early on within the realms of the photography world that we are to develop a distinct style and this of course must be clearly evident in any upper level qualifications panels we choose to submit.  However, when I look at my own work over each passing year I fail to see the same consistency.  I don't have a particular subject in which I specialise.  I can photograph anything from newborns to teenagers, toddlers to families and even the occasional male nude.  How can you put these together in an album and form a beautiful collection that I see many other photographers displaying so well.   

Fine Art Portraits of a Beautiful Young Girl

So this is really becoming my thing lately. I am having so much fun working with children individually where I can direct and interact in ways that bring the best out of my subject. This has certainly become a process now of creating rather than taking photographs. And its what I have always wanted to be, a portrait artist rather than a photographer. I cannot put into words fully just how rewarding this is. For each of these shoots (as with nearly all of my shoots) we begin with a consultation where we discuss what we would like to achieve in the shoot. Here we will consider the type of clothing and any possible props. We will look at both the clients clothes and my ever growing collection so we can pick what will work best. In all circumstances we are heavily guided by what the child in the portraits wants to wear as I see this as vitally important. If he or she is uncomfortable its going to show and the portraits won't work. But most are happy to play dressups and wear a com