Lighting test shots

Continuing the work towards shooting my next two assignments I have managed to find a nice kit on eBay for basic continuous lighting and have taken the time today to shoot a few test shots with the lighting setup I aim to use for the portraits I am having to capture.

The kit is as the following photo and is available on eBay for £58 including next day shipping from the UK which was an unbelievable deal especially after I shot with the kit.

I also came across this handy guide for lighting setups with examples of what to expect results wise when using the recommended rigs.

I found the reference images really useful in deciding what ‘look’ I would go for in my next series of portraits. I will talk more about the choices I make in my assignment own but just below are some images I shot to test. The lighting and also my learns about the kit should anyone want to invest in a similar setup

These images were all shot using my Sony a7mk2 full frame camera with the Sony 50mm 1.8 prime lens. I chose this lens over my 28-70 zoom as the aperture opens much wider and gives me the room to manipulate the shutter speed more without having to boost iso too high.The 1.8 f stop also help create a really shallow depth of field to focus the portrait on the subject. I find the lens is pretty sharp across the image but definitely in the sweet spot when focus is central. Because of the 24mp sensor I find I can crop images to compensate when needed and still have plenty of resolution for large prints.

The lighting kit comes with 4 lights, 2 soft boxes and two which can take umbrellas or bare bulb. The bulbs are rated at 135watts and are an oversized coil bulb similar to house hold bulbs. I would say the rating is accurate but unlike LED the light emitted is not over the rating. This means that in a well lit room they act more like a fill as they are not powerful enough to over ride the natural light.

In this test I closed the curtains and had no other light source than 1 soft box 45 degrees to the right shoulder, just above head height and approximately 2 feet from the subject. I also used a reflective umbrella approximately 1 foot to the left of camera and approximately 4 feet in front of subject to create a ‘catch light’ and some light fill.

To achieve the final exposure I had shot the images at f1.8, 100iso and 1/320s. This did leave the subject a little under exposed but with lots of room to post process the images to achieve the look.

I found the lights to be a little on the ‘cold’ side which makes sense as they are supposed to be 5500k temperature.

Post processing was done in Lightroom CC Mobile on my iPad Pro 2018.

Original images were shit in high quality jpeg adobe colour space as I wasn’t looking to over process the images and being just a test I didn’t need the head room offered by shooting raw which I normally do.

Port processing consisted of warming the overall temperature and introducing a slight red tint to bring back the natural colours. I also increased contrast slightly and altered black levels to ensure an even background as the backdrop is slightly grey and a little creased. I also increased sharpness and definition to bring in more detail to the face as the in camera jpeg does tend to slightly smooth skin tones. I cropped the image down to a 7:5 ratio which seemed to balance the dead space well with the subject and finally I increased the overall exposure slightly and introduced a graduated filter to the top of the hairline to increase exposure further to bring the fringe back from the darkness.

I also tested one image in b&w to see how a quick process would look and I feel that with a little more time on creating high contrast lighting the setup would work well, again this is a process that would benefit from shooting in raw as I expect my subjects will be quite sombrely dressed which won’t lend itself well to black and whit but I feel I can achieve the look with more direct lighting.

Going forward I will benefit greatly by shooting I RAW as this will preserve more detail to manipulate whilst reducing the need to undo some of the jpeg processing I don’t like.

I will also look to increase iso from 100 to 200 and potentially reduce shutter from 1/320 to 1/200 which will allow me to move the soft box away slightly to help reduce the highlights caused by having it so close, also moving the light away slightly should help create more pleasing shadows as I find these to be a little too soft for what I am looking to achieve.

Finally I will introduce a third light to the rear of the subject to create a highlight on the subjects silhouette as I feel that too much is lost to the background when the subject has dark hair, skin tone or clothing.

My last thought is that whilst shooting I tried a pose shift with angling my torso to camera and still looking down lens, I didn’t capture any images I liked of myself but I feel that is more down to how I posed rather than the setup, I did prefer how the body looked when not straight on so this will definitely be a pose I use and will shoot multiple poses of each model to ensure I don’t miss the option.An example of the body tilted is below and unprocessed to demonstrate the lighting as natural



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Harley Bainbridge Photography

Event and Portrait Photographer Manchester 


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