Self-Portraits: Lighting Breakdown

Well, I have exhausted the last of my images from last night and I have a few from today. Yesterday I used a product light to do my portraits. Today, I worked with a strobe. I didn't delve much into creative uses. I might be visually bored with the setups I do know such as the Butterfly, Forty-Five, Side, Rembrandt, Horror, and etc. I've got my bag of tricks and now I have to figure out new ways of expanding myself.

Since my Nikon D70 died, I lost access to my Nikon Speedlights. I had intended to buy a Nikon d7000 and use the D70 as a backup. Death is expected with electronic devices. No worries as my 60D works with one flash on SU-4 mode. I am down to one light which is a mixed bag. For any studio work, I'll have to mix things up with either hot-lights or rely on fill-cards. I believe this will only strengthen my abilities.

In a studio setup, you have your key light then you build around that with other lights. Extra lights can be used for adding shine to hair, outlining the figure or for filling in shadows–things can get very complex for a studio setup. A one-light setup will teach you how to think about lighting your subject. If you can't work with one light, three or more lights will not save your intended image.

It is great that I do these self-portraits and I will keep making more. At the advice of my friend Chuck Kimmerle, I'll keep working at it and eventually I'll start noticing themes that I can expand upon.

Here are the rest from last night.

Hear are some from today. I took around ten captures–I was facing another direction!

Oh and some notes on the lighting. I played with the distance of the strobe from me. You can see the effect it has on the tonal quality with light falloff and contrast. I also adjusted the power to add a brighter effect to some of the images. The nice thing about darker skin is that I can get more tonal range with the lights. For those with fairer skin, the effect is a bit different. Not shaving for two days gave me a tonal boost. Look at that scraggly five o'clock shadow!

Notice the difference in light? Well, I also turned up the power to blow out the highlights in addition to moving the strobe closer to the center.

This image is a partial Butterfly. The symmetrical shadow of the nose looks like a butterfly. I say partial because I can't see any catchlights in my eyes. The angle of the light didn't completely match up with the angle of my camera. There is a term called the Angle of Incidence. Whatever angle your light comes from it will reflect back at the exact opposite angle.

I went a little darker on this one. I should have watched the catch-light in my eyes. Sometimes two catch-lights are distracting in that they make the eyes look creepy. Nothing Photoshop can't fix. If I were to do it over again, I would have moved the light up to remove one of the lights in my eyes and fix the shadow under my nose. This lighting setup is a loop light as indicated by the shadow under the nose.

As for retouching, I didn't do much at all. All the adjustments were mostly global. I paid a lot of attention to my light sources to help reduce post-processing time. Sloppy lighting leads to more work. If you want to be more specific about your lighting throw in some black boards to block light or white boards to reflect it. You can also cover up part of your strobe to reduce the size of your light source for a boost in contrast. One strobe can do a lot with some cheap modifiers.

I posted a lot of images didn't I? I wanted to show a loose edit rather than a tight edit. These three recent posts give you an insight into images I like by showing my alternatives as indicated by similar poses. Even though some of the images look similar, (see the bowed-head silhouettes above) subtle differences can make or break a successful photograph.

Anyone that has taken a photo has seen these small differences. They can be small things like a slightly wider smile, the eyes were slightly more open than the previous image or the person's head was angled too high.

Next post will be my favorite picks.