This week I’m shooting about 250 portraits for Harbor Covenant Church. I’ll share more of the results of the photo shoot in a future blog post, but in the meantime, I wanted to show how I set up the studio with this time-lapse video. My goal for the photo shoot is to produce a bright white background for each of the portraits. To do this, I used a white muslin backdrop and lit it with four slave flashes in umbrellas. These background flashes are set to produce about 1.0 to 1.5 stops more light than the Profoto D1 monolights I’m using for the people in the foreground.
I’m triggering everything optically, which is another way to say that all the flashes are set to fire when they see a flash pulse from the main camera. For the Profoto D1 monolights, I’ve set them to trigger using the IR mode. For the Nikon flashes, they are all set to trigger in SU-4 mode. On my Nikon D800 camera, I’m triggering everything with a Nikon SB-700 flash set to manual output so that when it fires, everything else fires. All slave flashes are set for manual output and I metered everything using my trusty old Sekonic L-358 (no longer sold).
Here’s all the gear I used to create the location studio.
A few weeks ago I worked with local artist Sanne Beavin to photograph a series of artwork she created for Lent, Holy Week and Easter. The art depicts Jesus’ last week before crucifixion. The entire series of paintings is beautiful, yet powerful. Working with Sanne to take the photos was a great deal of fun and we were able to share these images with people all around the world.
Because this blog is all about photography, I thought I’d share a couple of quick photo tips and behind the scene shots.
The artwork was fairly large and required quite a bit of space to shoot properly. I brought my big muslin backdrop and stands, but in the end, it wasn’t big enough! I wish I had a 30′ wide by 30′ long muslin. Since I didn’t have a huge muslin, I had to shoot everything very tight.
Lighting equipment was simple and straight forward. I used two Photoflex umbrellas and two flashes. In this case, I used an SB-800 and an SB-900 remote. I used my SB-700 flash as a commander unit on my camera to trigger the remote flashes. I also set the flashes to fire with Manual output. One was set for 1/8 power and the other was set for 1/4 power.
Setting the power on the flashes to a consistent output (i.e. Manual 1/4 and 1/8 power) meant that I could shoot anything in the scene without worrying about TTL changing exposures from shot to shot. For example, the flowers below were shot at exactly the same settings (ISO, aperture, flash output) as the artwork above. Locking everything down in manual mode is frequently the best way to shoot large projects like this.
I used a Nikon D700 camera set for ISO 800. White balance was “flash” and my lens was the Nikon 24-70mm f2.8. Most of the photos were taken at an aperture of f5.6.
The most important piece of equipment was the tall ladder! Fortunately, the church had one in a back room so I didn’t have travel back to my office to pick one up. Since the artwork is so big, I needed to get into a higher vantage point in order to photograph the pieces and keep apparent distortion to a minimum. If I photographed from a low position, the art would have keystoned and looked a bit funny. Thank goodness for serendipity!
When photographing flat artwork, dealing with reflections is generally the hardest part. Often times, the solution to removing the reflection is to move the camera angle ever so slightly. The other solution is to move the position of the lights up, down, right, left, forward or backward. It can be a delicate balancing act in a complicated scene like this one because moving the lights for one piece of art will impact the light on the other piece of art.
You can see in the two photos below that changing the camera angle by a smidge will make a big difference in the amount of reflection in the image.
Check out these other links for more information on Sanne’s art and the story behind the story.
For those of you who read our newsletter, this month’s GOAL (Get Out And Learn) assignment was to take some great holiday event photos. I promised I’d post some of my own for you all to see, so here goes!