View Full Version : Portrait Setup

31-05-07, 13:00
Rob asked for a write up of the set up for my entry in this months competition 3135

I guess the answer to that is in two parts - the taking, and the post processing.

I used to use flash for my lighting and in fact all my portraits previous to this that I have posted were taken with flash. However I have how switched over to continuous lighting as the cycle times with battery powered flashes were just too long. The lighting that I use now is a pair of Interfit Super Cool-lite 5 heads with either soft boxes or wide beam reflectors. The heads consist of 5 x 100w tubes independently switchable to enable control over the output. The soft boxes can be used in the traditional way or without the diffuser too give a more contrasty lighting. Likewise the wide beam reflector can be used with or without a diffuser. This set up can be bought as a kit including 2 x stands, 2 x soft boxes & 2 x reflectors for 299 from warehouse express (http://www.warehouseexpress.co.uk/?/photo/studio_lighting/interfit/interfit_continuous.html#coolflukits)

To take this shot, I set the lights up with a main light and a fill in light. The main light was off to the models right by about 30 using the soft box without the diffuser on full power about 20-25 about the models eye line. The second/in fill light was set straight in front of the model, slightly lower than the main light, again on full power, but with the diffuser on. I have converted my front room into a mini studio and painted the back wall white. For shots where I want a dark background, I have a black curtain that hangs from the rail that you can see in the background in the 1st view below. I use the camera on manual, at f4 and with the lights ~1.5m from the model and ISO 800 this gives a shutter speed of 1/250 - 1/300. I know what you're thinking - ISO 800!. I've tried ISO 400 and while it can work if your model is good at holding a pose, for this shoot, I was also taking a load of shots of her putting her makeup on etc to produce the montage image attached and a shutter speed of 1/125 doesn't result in enough sharp shots. But dealing with noise does probably bring us quite neatly onto the post processing part.

Noise levels are pretty good with my 20D and I just tweak the colour & luminance noise reduction sliders in my RAW converter before opening in PS. After retouching any spots and brightening the eyes, I needed to lighten the background. Although my wall is white, with it being ~ as far behind the model as she was from the lights, the light fall off had rendered it quite gray. I would do this by creating a selection to mask off the model and then using a levels adjustment. However making a selection round the hat was clearly going to be a challenge. You could use the magic wand, but in these situations I like to start by using the image itself and then use calculations which can be found in PS under the image menu. The dialogue box that comes up is a bit scary until you get familiar with it and understand what is going on.

What is happening is that you are taking either the red, green or blue channels, or a grayscale composite, and blending it with either its self or one of the other channels using one of the various blending modes to create a selection. Its usually a bit of trial and error to find the right combination. In this case I wanted to maximize the contrast between the background and the model's outline. The best blending mode was likely to be overlay, which has the effect of subtracting bits lighter than 50% gray, making them lighter, and adding bits darker than 50% gray making them darker. In this case blending the gray composite with itself gave the best result. Converting this selection to a quick mask then enabled me to paint in the centre of the mask to isolate the background completely and then apply my levels adjustment.

The final step was to desaturate the model but leave the hat in full colour. To do this I reloaded the mask created previously and then using the lasso tool to add to the background selection, made a rough selection between the models head and her hat and round her body, so that now I had just the hat masked off. Add a hue/saturation layer, desaturate to ~-65/70 and voila - there you have it.

Hope that makes sense

31-05-07, 13:51
Thank you so much for the information.

01-06-07, 00:16
Thanks Clive

It just goes to show how much work went into this excellent shot. I bet she is chuffed to bits with the results.

01-06-07, 21:38
Thanks,Clive,looks pretty complicated,but the end result is excellent.

Don Hoey
01-06-07, 22:16
Thanks for the explanation of what lies behind your studio pics Clive. I have always admired them. :cool:

Strange as it may seem, I have to use flash as I cannot think in terms of continuous lighting indoors, unless it is taking account of ambient light. :rolleyes: