Tuesday, July 03, 2012
Shooting Indoor Portraits With Ease
Indoor portraiture can be very rewarding if you can overcome the pitfalls associated with it. Low light conditions, improper camera settings and color imbalance are all factors to contend with while attempting to capture natural looking results of your subjects.
With advances in camera functionality and lighting equipment, it is easier than ever to come away with spectacular results for any indoor shooting situation.
This lesson examines a few lighting techniques you can use to bring your portrait work to the next level.
(Click on any thumbnail image below for an enlarged view.)
- The Main Light with Tungsten
- Reducing Contrast with a Fill Light
- Mixing Daylight with Tungsten
- Balancing with Daylight
- Olympus E-3
- Lensbaby 3G lens
For this lesson, we wanted to show how you do not necessarily need a lot of lighting equipment to create beautiful, classic portraits. In this lesson, our lighting set-up never extended beyond a continuous light setup with a medium SilverDome soft box and a MultiDisc reflector.
The Main Light with Tungsten
To start, we attached a medium SilverDome to a continuous lighting unit and placed it off to the side of our model. The nice thing about working with the Starlite QL continuous light is that you can see the effects of the light prior to taking the picture. Here, our subject stood about 10 feet in front of a muslin backdrop, supported by the First Studio BackDrop Support Kit. [figures 1 and 2]
The reason we had the model so far in front of the backdrop was twofold:
1) We wanted the background to be fairly dark for this portrait. If we had the model stand closer to the backdrop, the light from the main light would have brightened it considerably.
2) We wanted to have the background be soft (out of focus) in order to draw more attention to our subject. Shooting with a wide-open aperture and having some distance between your subject and background will allow you to achieve this look.
For more details on camera functions for this lesson, view Shooting Indoor Portraits with Ease on Web Photo School.
Once the model was ready, we took our first shot. [figure 3]
As you can see from the result, the effects of the soft box are very similar to that of window light. The features of our subject are rendered softly and naturally, and the backdrop is nicely understated. Not bad for just one light!
Reducing Contrast with a Fill Light
Next, we decided to add just a little fill to the shadow side of our subject to minimize the contrast somewhat. We attached a LiteDisc: soft gold to a LiteDisc Holder and LiteStand and positioned it on the opposite side of our subject. We then used it to bounce light from the main light into the shadows. [figures 4 and 5]
Once the LiteDisc was positioned were we wanted it, we took another shot. [figure 6]
The effects of the reflector, although subtle, were just what we were looking for. It bounced just enough light into the shadows to add detail, but not so much that it would detract from the overall mood of the shot. The result is a very classic look with just one light and a reflector.
Mixing Daylight with Tungsten
For the next shot, we wanted to change the look of the background and decided to use a paned window in the room we were shooting in. We moved the Starlite Dual Spectrum Kit and LiteDisc setup over toward the window, positioned them just as we had in the previous shot and framed up the shot. [figures 7 and 8]
Once we found a composition we liked, we took another shot. [figure 9]
Notice the lighting effects of this shot. While the light on our subject looks good, just as it did in the previous shot, the light on the background has a color balance issue. For more details on solutions for color balance, please read Shooting Portraits Indoors with Ease on Web Photo School.
Balancing with Daylight
The easiest way to balance color in this scenario is to change out the Tungsten lamp with a daylight-balanced lamp. And that's just what we did here. [figure 10]
With our main light now at the same color temperature as the light coming through the window (roughly 5500K), we changed the White Balance in the camera to Daylight (also 5500K). This ensured that every element of the frame was color-balanced.
Once our main light was powered up, we took our final series of shots. [figures 11 & 12]
The result below ended up being one of our favorites of this series. Notice how the daylight lamp has rendered beautiful skin tones and that it balances perfectly with the light coming through the rear window. [figure 13]
With the right lighting and camera gear, and a little know-how, you can create beautiful, natural looking portraits with ease. Remember to experiment with your gear and techniques, and above all, have fun!