F-Type Headshot Lighting: Equipment and Principle
I am really even more excited to share this with you. This is a really, really cool set up that... As I mentioned before, my friend, James Ferrara, has invented this lighting set up that I use and I have modified it to be useful in a very specific purpose, whereas the way I've seen it used before is very artistic and cool in creating these really dynamic images per individual. As I've found it's actually really, really good for doing high volume amounts of head shots. And I've even used this for school photography and I've used this for convention head shots. And it has come across really, really well. The lighting is so cool and different and flattering that people really gravitate towards it. There's something different when they see it. It's very outside of that classic look that everybody's used to seeing. So not only that but the lighting requires no adjustment no matter who sits in front of you. So it's a really, really cool way to do a lot of head shots really, really quickly an...
d have them be really surprisingly good. One of the things when you do these large scale volume jobs is that the expectation of quality is so low most of the time. Like if you ask somebody, "Hey, when you went to the, "you know, accountants convention "and you got that head shot in the booth at the trade show, "how awesome was it?" No, it's pretty terrible most of the time. I mean there are exceptions. I know photographers who do the work and do a great job, but most of the time, people don't expect much from it. So truthfully, you don't really even have to do that well to be impressive. But imagine if you could hop over nicely surprised into, "Holy crap, that's a really cool head shot." And I think that's kind of what we go for here. So although this is sort of large and insane looking; in fact some photographers that really know what they're doing will walk by and go, "I can't believe that you're actually "getting anything out of this." But it works really well. So this is sort of like a mouse trap, you know? Where you go like the ball goes up, and then it falls down, and then it hits a seesaw, and it keeps going. Well this is sort of like that in the way that it's just a really unusual set up. And so let me start to show you a little bit without trying to move around too much, I don't want to drag the camera crew crazy, what exactly it is that I've got here. So what I've got is a Paul C Buff 86 inch parabolic umbrella with a diffuse cover over it. Now, I use this for a very specific reason. We got a really big light source, really close to the subject. It would be a very soft flattering light. But the coolest thing about this is I've seen octaboxes this same size that put out a similar light for way more money. Five, six, seven, eight, and nine hundred dollars for a softbox this size. And because it's an umbrella rather than a softbox... I'll show you here. It's just an umbrella with a sheet over it (laughs) essentially. But it puts out a very similar quality of light and the price point is much, much lower. As of the last time I bought it, and they may raise the prices based on the rush towards this sort of buy at this point, I think it was about 120 dollars with shipping and that's pretty incredible. Not only is it really beautiful, really reasonably priced, but it's also really portable. It just folds up into an umbrella like it's not that big of a deal. It's really easy to get around and set up. One of the things I love about it is that I don't need to bring a whole team of people with me to load this in somewhere. And it sets up in two minutes, which is really cool. Now, this is gonna be the main light in the set up and I really want you to understand this set up specifically cause it's very unusual, right? So it's not like typical we got our main light here and a reflector here. We're kind of doing it in a really weird way. And although we're only using three lights and one reflector, we're getting a really unusual look, alright? So this is gonna be our main light. And, in fact, you could do this set up with just this light and not this. But I added this along with, at the suggestion of my friend, James Ferrara, I added this because it's adding a really unique depth to the image. It adds something very specific, which I'm gonna tell you. This is a 47 inch octabox that folds, collapses really easy. It's super easy to put together. Both are, I think, are Paul C Buff and what this is providing is it's not only gonna provide... It's gonna provide two things. One: it's gonna give a highlight on the forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin from a light with the subject's face is right here. It's gonna give you a little more dimension on a light that is pretty much flat. So you're gonna add a little more dimension to a face while still keeping that soft, flat light. The power ratio between these two. If this is 100%, this is gonna be at about 25%. This is pretty much shooting at about a quarter of the power. All I want is a little kiss of light on the head, the brow, the lips, and the chin. Just to add a little bit more dimension. You could almost not see the difference unless you really look at it, but it really is awesome. Now what it doubles as. This is gonna bounce a good amount of light into this silver reflector on the bottom, and I'm the subject in this position, bounce more light back up into the eyes. So I've got beautiful, large, soft, flat light going this way and I've got a nice light kissing a little detail and then, boom, a little more light coming up here to fill in the eyes. Remember: 100%, 25%. When it comes down here, this is just gonna be a little nice touch of fill at the bottom, alright? Now is it alright if I move down a little bit? We go this way down to the background. Now I've got a pop up black background here just cause this is easy to set up and this is what I'll take on location most of the time. But you could use seamless paper, you could use a black wall. It really doesn't matter. What matters is that's gonna give us separation from this black background just like we kind of did yesterday when we were shooting Oscar and we used it to create that gray gradient. Do you all remember when we had the speed light on the floor doing that? We're doing the exact same thing here except we're using this AlienBee B800 to do it. So this is on the floor with our Mega stand that's gonna throw a little light up there. That's gonna cause it to be gray in the middle and get darker out towards the edges, which is gonna give you a natural vignette that's gonna draw you into the center of the image. So that's pretty much the gist of the equipment. Now I want to talk to you about fine-tuning, setting it up. This whole thing hinges on one particular idea. That everything is as close to dead center as possible. I found that if it's off just a couple of degrees one way or the other, it really dramatically changes the way that it looks. So you have to stand in the middle and look. I can already tell that my umbrella is slightly askew that way and that I'll have to twist it just a little bit. But you want everything pretty much to be dead down the center when you set it up. Now, this background light. I want to mention this before we go on. The power is set fairly high. I think it's at about a quarter of full power, because this black background, it really needs more power to sort of get it to that color gray that I want. We're gonna see when we take our first couple of shots. And I have it really low because the subject is seated and I'm typically shooting in a slightly high angle and I don't want to get the wood floor in the photo. Is that cool? Okay. Everybody got that. Now, you're gonna need to make sure. You'll see that if I'm seated right there and my subject is seated right here, you'll notice that there's a much greater distance between the background and the subject as there is between me and the subject. We'll talk about that. Remember we used a little bit of the 85 millimeter lens earlier today and I showed you how nice it can look, how cool and unusual it can look to get in really close with this lens. This is why I use this lens for this particular set up. For two reasons. One because I need to be close enough to the subject to be able to focus and a longer lens needs more focusing distance for the most part. This will enable me to get close while still maintaining a pretty close to portrait lens compression ratio. Okay? Now, I will normally shoot on a tripod in almost every other set up. Because I'm seated here, I usually have my camera on a tripod next to me so that when I'm not using it, I can just set it on top of the tripod. But I do shoot free hand on this. It's the one time I typically do. Now, why am I sitting? Really good question, I'm glad you asked. I'm sitting because this is when I'm gonna shoot 300 people in a row and standing is just too hard, (laughs) okay? No, because I have to be able to sit and play so if I have to get up and do anything, it starts to bottleneck really bad. Because what happens is here's how a lot of these jobs work. This is typically something that I would use at a convention. It's the only time you're gonna run into shooting 300 people in a row. It's the only time I've ever run into shooting 300 people at once. They have classes scheduled at a convention and I do the photos in the 30 minutes in between the classes when everybody goes back into session. The session breaks, everybody runs for the photo booth and then I've got nothing to do but shoot 150 people in like 30 minutes and then they all disappear when the next session starts. So we have to be a well-oiled machine. So I'll walk you quickly through that movement. I will have an assistant here who checks someone in and they will give them their name. They will come to me, they will sit down. I will take their picture; probably six to eight exposures. Boom, boom, boom. And then they will go out, select their image with my other assistant, and then leave. Each person is with me for about 20 to 30 seconds at maximum when I do this. And that would be going pretty slow. So the real trick is how do you sit somebody down, make them feel comfortable, get a great expression, have an interaction, and then shoot them in 30 seconds? And that is something that you can't necessarily teach, but I can give you some pointers that will help you do that. There are a couple of things I do that enable me to start a conversation with anybody instantaneously. Bear in mind most of the time when I'm doing this, these are business people who typically are traveling for work. So these are people who are used to traveling, having single-serving friends on an airplane, you know? These are people who typically know how to converse. So they know about polite chit chat. So you're not doing this with a bunch of four year olds with no social graces, alright? You're talking about people in business suits who have good jobs.