A Beginner Needs Help!

Started Apr 7, 2013 | Discussions
MonazF
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A Beginner Needs Help!
Apr 7, 2013

Hello,

I am just your everyday photographer, take nature shots, urban life and flowers.  I have a Canon 20d.  I am familiar with Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISOs and how to control them.  Mostly shoot in Aperture Priority mode and let the camera do the rest.
  A friend of mine asked me to do some portraits of her young daughter.  I always wanted to get into portraiture, so I bought two cheap umbrellas, two used flashes (580exii and 430 exii), a long ettl cable along with some stands and a background.  I read a lot of the strobist sites, read the two books of Syl and Nick's, and looked at numerous youtube videos.  I have figured out how to do a master/slave setup, ratios and such.  Still I have some basics that I can't seem to put it together.
So every book or blogs that I read, it says "The eyes were too dark, so I repositioned the light" or something like that, or "The background was a little dark during this outside portrait shoot, so I bumped up the shutter speed to bring in more ambient light" and such.  Makes sense…BUT
Are these famous photographer looking at the LCD screen of the camera to figure out too much darkness around the eyes, or the subject is more lit than the background while they are outside shooting?  I am told by many pros including the same writers that you can't really count on the LCD screen for exposure, so do they run to the computer to look at it as they are taking portraits?  Or is it experience?  It is easy to say I am one stop low in exposure for ambient or flash (so adjust with EC or FEC) when I look at the picture afterwards, but how do you do it during the shoot? Am I missing something (except experience of course!)
I plan to put the umbrellas at 45 degrees up, 45 degrees to the sides, set the flashes on ettl with a ratio,   set my camera to M (with ISO 100, SP 125 or 250, F 8) and shoot.  How do I know I have the eyes that has too much shadow or anything else that would make the portrait bad?
Thanks for any advice or help you can provide!
Monaz

Canon EOS 20D
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Denton Taylor
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Re: A Beginner Needs Help!
In reply to MonazF, Apr 8, 2013

Short answer is to use manual, not ettl.

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Sailor Blue
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Re: A Beginner Needs Help!
In reply to MonazF, Apr 8, 2013

With lots of experience and by magnifying the LCD image you can more or less judge exposure and see if the eyes are too dark or if you need to decrease the shutter speed to increase the background exposure.  The problem is that you are only close and wind up having to "fix it in Photoshop".

Nothing beats experience and a good flash meter.  If you meter then you can indeed use the LCD to judge relative exposures to some extent and you can use it to see if the eyes are too dark.

Your lighting setup isn't a very good one.  Check out these classical lighting diagrams and results.

Portrait Lighting - Names for different portrait lighting set-ups in photography

Here are a couple of videos on how to use a flash meter you should watch.

Sekonic - Joe Brady - Control the Light and Improve Your Photography: Part I — Portraiture Using Available Light

Sekonic - Joe Brady - Control the Light and Improve Your Photography: Part 2 — Better Environmental Portraiture

Here are a couple of more tutorials of great value.

Benji's Studio Lighting and Posing Tutorial

Benji - The Rules Of Good Portraiture in PDF Format

Ed Shapiro - The fabulous fill light...an article

Thomas Park - The One-Light Studio: Digital Photography Review

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Yan Duval
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Re: A Beginner Needs Help!
In reply to MonazF, Apr 8, 2013

MonazF wrote:

Hello,

I am just your everyday photographer, take nature shots, urban life and flowers.  I have a Canon 20d.  I am familiar with Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISOs and how to control them.  Mostly shoot in Aperture Priority mode and let the camera do the rest.
  A friend of mine asked me to do some portraits of her young daughter.  I always wanted to get into portraiture, so I bought two cheap umbrellas, two used flashes (580exii and 430 exii), a long ettl cable along with some stands and a background.  I read a lot of the strobist sites, read the two books of Syl and Nick's, and looked at numerous youtube videos.  I have figured out how to do a master/slave setup, ratios and such.  Still I have some basics that I can't seem to put it together.
So every book or blogs that I read, it says "The eyes were too dark, so I repositioned the light" or something like that, or "The background was a little dark during this outside portrait shoot, so I bumped up the shutter speed to bring in more ambient light" and such.  Makes sense…BUT
Are these famous photographer looking at the LCD screen of the camera to figure out too much darkness around the eyes, or the subject is more lit than the background while they are outside shooting?  I am told by many pros including the same writers that you can't really count on the LCD screen for exposure, so do they run to the computer to look at it as they are taking portraits?  Or is it experience?  It is easy to say I am one stop low in exposure for ambient or flash (so adjust with EC or FEC) when I look at the picture afterwards, but how do you do it during the shoot? Am I missing something (except experience of course!)
I plan to put the umbrellas at 45 degrees up, 45 degrees to the sides, set the flashes on ettl with a ratio,   set my camera to M (with ISO 100, SP 125 or 250, F 8) and shoot.  How do I know I have the eyes that has too much shadow or anything else that would make the portrait bad?
Thanks for any advice or help you can provide!
Monaz

Strobe position:  As a beginner, I can see quite easily in the LCD how my lights are positionned, especially by looking at the highlights in the eyes.  If there are highlights, the eyes are not in a shadow....

General exposure:  It is very difficult to judge the exposure from the LCD image only.  You should use the histograms and the highlight alert to make sure everything is fine.

Fine exposure:  This is where E-TTL gets in the way.  It's great at getting you in the right zone, and if you shoot raw, you will be able to save all your images.  If you shoot several identical pictures, the exposure will be consistent.  However, if you reframe your subject, the exposure will change.  If you shoot a serie, all exposures will be slightly different.  A lot of tweaking to get everything similar in PP afterwards...  If a fixed light is also used for the background, the subject to background ratio will also change...  People prefer to shoot in manual flash mode in the studio to get consistent lighting.

Ratios:  To get the right mood, you need to properly balance everything.  I am currently unable to judge this by looking at the LCD screen.  A larger screen will be my solution.  The other solution is to use a flashmeter.  Experienced users know the light ratios they need between their strobes to achieve the look they need.  This was the only way to go in the film days and it's quite fast and reliable to perform when you know what you are looking for.

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BAK
BAK
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What was the question?
In reply to Denton Taylor, Apr 8, 2013

Seems to me that's the answer to a different question.

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BAK
BAK
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Mostly, this is art and common sense
In reply to MonazF, Apr 8, 2013

EYES FIRST

Yes, we look at the back of the camera.

In the olden days, we'd walk over to where the light is, stand as close as possible, and see if it looked as if the light would hit the eyes.

Now, we take some degree of care when we place the light, but we then look at the back of the camera.

If we've got a fairlys till model, and lights staying in one spot, and the camera staying on one spot, and we worry about light int he eyes, just zoom in onthe faceand take a shot.

Look at the back of the camera. Got light or not?

Then zoom back out to your preferred framing, and shoot away.

Depending on conditions and how complicated the shoot is, and how still you want to be... put a reflector under the face and out of the frame, and let some light bounce up.

EXPOSURE SECOND

Looking at the back of the camera is not perfect, but it does two things. First, you get a good idea of rations; one side is a bit brighter than the other, or a lot brighter. One side looks fine, and the other is dark.. It's up to you to decide what you want the shot to look like. And the camera back gives you a good idea of light vs dark.

As for whether the exposure is nailed; 1/ close is good enough, because you really can fix it in post. and 2/ you need to practise a bit because the brightness of the back screen is adjustable, and it looks brighter or darker depending on the surrounding light, glare, etc. So learn to bendover the back,block the sun with your hand, move into the shade behind a tree, to inspect the back.

And find some frames that look great on your computer, and then see how they lookont he camera back. Adjust the back brightness so the on-camera picture is as good as the computer picture.

If prints are involved, make sure the prints match the computer.

BOTTOM LINE 1: it's easy to get over-concerned.

BOTTOM LINE 2: It's more important to have a visiony-goal

BAK

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BAK
BAK
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Re: What was the question?
In reply to BAK, Apr 8, 2013

But, as I think about it more, it might be the answer to the next question he should ask, so please take my comment as praise for the future, not criticism for the past.

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