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. But with advances in camera functionality and lighting equipment, it is easier than ever to come away with spectacular results for any indoor shooting situation.
The Main Light with Tungsten
For this shoot, I started with a StarLite: medium digital kit (1000-watt continuous light source) placed it off to the side of the model. The nice thing about working with the continuous light is that you can see its effects prior to taking the picture. Here, my subject was about 10 feet in front of a muslin backdrop, supported by a First Studio BackDrop Support Kit.
The reason I had the model so far in front of the backdrop was twofold:
1) I wanted the background to be fairly dark for this portrait. If I had the model stand closer to the backdrop, the light from the main light would have brightened it considerably.
2) I wanted to have the background be soft (out of focus) in order to draw more attention to my subject. Shooting with a wide-open aperture and having some distance between your subject and background will allow you to achieve this look.
Notice how the effects of the soft box are very similar to that of window light. Facial features are rendered softly and naturally, and the backdrop is nicely understated. Not bad for just one light!
Reducing Contrast with a Fill Light
Next, I wanted to add fill to the shadow side to minimize the contrast. I placed Soft Gold LiteDisc on the opposite side of the set and used it to bounce light from the main light into the shadows.
The effects of the reflector, although subtle, was just what I was 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
Next, I wanted to change out the background and repositioned to include a paned window in the studio.
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. It has a blue tone, due to the higher colortemperature of the daylight coming through the window. The StarLite tunsten bulb is rated for 3200˚ Kelvin, while daylight is closer to 5600˚ Kelvin.
Balancing with Daylight
The easiest way to balance color in this scenario is to change out the tungsten lamp with a daylight-balanced lamp.
With the main light now at the same color temperature as the light coming through the window, I adjusted the White Balance in the camera to Daylight (also 5600K). This ensured that every element of the frame was color-balanced.
Notice how the daylight lamp has rendered beautiful skin tones and that it balances beautifully with the light coming through the rear window.
Written and photographed by Benjamin Clay.