Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Ideal lighting for PR Headshots

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/200, 4–Alienbees B1600, Pocketwizards to trigger flashes

I am teaching lighting class in Kona, Hawaii with the Youth With A Mission School of Photography class.

This is one of the lighting exercises I do each year. This is teaching the 3:1 Lighting Ratio. I started by showing the class the final photo and then walked them back through how to get this lighting. This is all done with a White Background. See below for the same example but a Black Background.

Here is the setup that I used from above. Now here you can see one of the students later with the setup we were using.

While we have all the lights in generally the places they will be at the end, I turn them all off except the main light. The main light is 45º to the left of the subject and right of the camera as well as closest to the subject. Then I took a light reading and also set the white balance. The aperture was set to ƒ/5.6. Then I took this photo.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/200
Then we turned this light off and turned the fill light on. This is the one closest to the camera. Ideally it would be right behind the camera, but I put it a little off to the side so while operating the camera I am not blocking the light.

I set the light to be one stop less than the main light. The light is set to give me ƒ/4, but I kept the camera set to ƒ/5.6 which meant the photo will be under exposed by one stop.

Here is this photo with the same settings as the main light.

Next we turned both of those lights on and double checked the exposure with a light meter which still was ƒ/5.6. It might have been a 1/10th of a stop brighter, but we kept the camera set to ƒ/5.6.

Here is the combined light photo.

Lastly I turned two more lights on that are just hitting the background and trying to get an even light across it. I made this light just one stop brighter than the main light of ƒ/5.6, so this light was set to ƒ/8.  Here is this photo.

Hope you enjoyed this step-by-step tutorial on how to shoot a 3:1 Lighting Ratio portrait.

This is basically the same exercise using a black background. Now just one thing you need to understand is that the 3:1 lighting ratio allows this photo to be used in so many places. The one thing is where it looks the best in a Newspaper as compared to other lighting which can make those shadows lose all detail and go pitch black. This allows for you to see some modeling of the light to highlight the cheek bones and contours of the face without over doing it and creating a photo with too much contrast.
Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/200
Here is the setup

Assignment Description:
3:1 lighting ratio.  This photo is classic lighting.


Octobox closest to subject
This light is your main light. Get a light reading with just this first. The light should be 45 degrees off the axis of the camera and 45 degrees above the subjects eyes.

Your subject should have the main light lighting only part of the face and the shadows should be just a little to show the 3:1 ratio.

Choose the lowest ISO.  Ideally on full-frame camera a lens close to 85mm and on cropped sensor a 50mm. Set your shutter speed to the sync speed for your camera [in your camera manual] or slower. My camera was 1/250 but I shot at a slower speed of 1/200.

Octobox behind the camera
This is your fill light and get just a reading of this 2nd.  Be sure it is 1/2 the power (1 f/stop less) than the main light. After this is done get a 3rd light reading of both lights which will be the setting for the camera. It can be level with the eyes, but you may have to move up with glasses to avoid glare.

First set the main light and here is what that will look like:

Due to using such a large soft box the shadows are not as severe as in our first assignment using the grid light. Some of the light is bouncing off a white wall a few feet to the left of the model or right of the camera position.

Turning the main light off after finding out your setting you need to take a reading and get the fill light to 1 stop less than the main light. The main light was ƒ/4 so the fill light should read ƒ/2.8.

This is what it looks like without the main light on. You can see a little darker but no real shaping of the face as the main light which is 45º to the side.

When you combine them you get the first photo of the model we started with.

The main light is twice as bright as the fill light. So to show this using math we would say the main light has value of 2 and the fill light has the value of 1.

Where both the main and fill light fall on the face is getting the combined value of the 2 + 1 = 3. However in the shadows only the fill light is hitting those and therefore the value is only 1.

So the bright areas get 3 and the shadows 1 giving you a 3:1 lighting ratio.

Now I showed the students how they can add a background light. I put a blue gel over it to show them they can also color the background.

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