A Beginner Needs Help!

Started Apr 7, 2013 | Discussions thread
Yan Duval Regular Member • Posts: 190
Re: A Beginner Needs Help!

MonazF wrote:


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 senseā€¦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!

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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