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What about lighting?

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  • Member since
    October 2007
  • From: Louisville, KY
What about lighting?
Posted by pordoi on Thursday, January 9, 2014 9:05 PM

Photography is all about light.  So how do you prefer to light your models?  Natural light outdoors?  Incandescent lighting indoors?  Or whatever is available?  What about backgrounds?

I usually photograph my models on my working table after draping a white paper background.  Lighting is from 2 150W incandescent bulbs in 12" "worktable" reflectors"  that I purchased from the local hardware store.  Also, I usually mount a 100W bare bulb positioned right over the top of the model.  It's a bit of a crude setup but it is quick to set up and relies mostly on lighting that I use for modeling.  It seems to work well; here are 2 photos of models that I have photographed for previous posts to FSM:

So how do you light your models?  Especially interested in those of you who use natural (outdoor) lighting (and how you control or set up the background), but also indoor lighting tips. 

Don

  • Member since
    November 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Friday, January 10, 2014 9:29 AM

I do two types of model shots.  Your two photos are a good example.  The first is what I call a "realistic" shot, attempts to make the model look like the actual prototype object.  The second type, as in your second photo, is what I call "model as art object".  Some call it the eBay photo.

For the first type shot I definitely prefer direct sunlight. It makes contours stand out better. I have photo backdrops I have shot at airports, auto racing tracks, etc. I make these background shots in mid-day on sunny days, so the model needs to be shot in similar light. Unfortunately here in Minnesota that eliminates doing that kind of shooting during winter :-)

For the model as art object, flat lighting seems to look better.  During summer I have a three season porch with a lot of windows that creates a nice even lighting. During winter I use a couple of flood lights, one on each side.  I bought one of those neat collapsible light tents that come with a couple of lamps, but have misplaced it, so back to improvised lighting.

Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    October 2007
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by pordoi on Friday, January 10, 2014 1:26 PM

I have seen a couple of your sunlit photos; they are very nice.  My concern with direct sunlight is that it can get quite contrasty.  I take it that you don't use a diffuser; have you had contrast problems?  If so, how do you control?

Don

Dre
  • Member since
    June 2007
  • From: here, not over there
Posted by Dre on Friday, January 10, 2014 1:56 PM

Pordoi- your lighting setup produces some very nice results- I wouldn't change a thing!

Not to step on Don's response, here's my thought on your question:

As for dealing with contrast in outdoor lighting, you can always use white foamcore boards or some such item as reflectors to bounce all that light back into the model and fill in the heavy shadows.  They'll need to be fairly close in order to get a decent fill ratio.   IMO this is the easiest, cheapest and quickest way to dealing with excess contrast.   Using an overhead diffuser along with bounce cards would be even better.

A light tent used outdoors can be quite nice as well.

  • Member since
    November 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Saturday, January 11, 2014 9:36 AM

pordoi

I have seen a couple of your sunlit photos; they are very nice.  My concern with direct sunlight is that it can get quite contrasty.  I take it that you don't use a diffuser; have you had contrast problems?  If so, how do you control?

Don

I have not had a problem. In fact, I often bump up the contrast a little.  Yes, high contrast is one of the hallmarks of sunlit photography and the real shots of planes in sunlight often have high contrast.

However, almost any photo editing software has easy to use contrast adjustment. I routinely tweak brightness and contrast on almost any shots I do.

Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    October 2007
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by pordoi on Saturday, January 11, 2014 9:38 AM

Dre

As for dealing with contrast in outdoor lighting, you can always use white foamcore boards or some such item as reflectors to bounce all that light back into the model and fill in the heavy shadows. 

Whiteboard reflectors, of course!!!  (slapping myself on the side of the head)  I knew that;, .... no really!!  Sometimes the Idea just fails to go off.  My guess is that Don Stauffer doesn't use a diffuser since he wants the realistic natural shadows of direct light.  Reflectors then would be the simplest way to maintain shadow detail.  Thanks.

the other Don

  • Member since
    October 2007
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by pordoi on Saturday, January 11, 2014 9:46 AM

Hey Don, looks like we almost posted simultaneously.  Of course you are correct that current software allows pretty substantial adjustments to contrast and other aspects of the image.  However, I have found that Nikon dSLRs seem to expose for shadows and have a tendency to blow out the highlights.  For many of the software programs, it is easier to adjust detail in the shadows rather than attempting to recover detail in blown highlights in my experience.  I routinely underexpose to keep shadow detail in the raw image, makimg the downstream adjustments easier in my setup. 

Don

  • Member since
    November 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Sunday, January 12, 2014 11:59 AM

I don't care if shadows in background are washed out since it is background only.  For the model and the ramp, I find the 360 degrees of skylight on a sunny day generally doesn't cause shadows deep enough to block up.  Nice thing about current generation of digital cameras is that they have more dynamic range than much of the color film I used to use, which is why software contrast adjustment works so well.  And yes, I agree the Nikons do seem to expose for shadows more than highlights. I seldom have shadows blocked, but sure do have to watch highlights- I have blown them a fair amount of time. So I am back to bracketing like I did in film days.

Don Stauffer in Minnesota

Dre
  • Member since
    June 2007
  • From: here, not over there
Posted by Dre on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 9:32 AM

An easy rule of thumb to use when dealing with bright scenes and a digital camera is to keep 1/3 to 2/3 stop of underexposure using the exposure compensation dial or menu.  This helps prevent the highlights from blowing out.

Same concept from the old color slide film days.

  • Member since
    October 2007
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by pordoi on Thursday, January 16, 2014 2:38 PM

Yep.  I use -0.7 and sometimes -1.0 stop exposure when I photograph my daughter's soccer games when they occur in direct sunlight.  So consistent with your rule of thumb.

Don

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