Friday, 31 January 2014

Poly-board Tunnel - Fashion Portraits - Diffuse Light

This is another light set-up that we cover, that produces an exceptionally soft diffuse wrap-around light. It requires a fairly large studio space because you need to make a large box shape construction out of your 8'x4' poly-boards. You'll need the following equipment...

2 x studio flash heads and appropriate light stands.
6 x Poly-boards 8'x4'.
A table (typical school table).
Optional backgrounds.
2 x small light stands.

Place the table in the middle of the studio space with an appropriate (white) background behind where the subject/model is stood (A). Construct the square shaped tunnel on top of the table (See second diagram). The sides need to be supported by small extended light stands either side of the poly-boards as you construct it, you should also work with an assistant to make the whole thing easier and safer. Once the side are in place the top of the box should be carefully placed making a tunnel.

Starting with one light, either (E) or (D) set the light up so that it's just outside of the box positioned so that it's directing the light into the box at 45 degrees. Have the light so that it's positioned mid-way up the box, with the light angled into the box straight rather than downwards or upwards. The lights must not be visible to the model when standing at (A). You take your light reading from the face of the model pointing the invercone into the tunnel measuring the light falling onto the face of the model. Dependent on what you're aiming to achieve (Shallow depth of field or deep) make a choice with regards to your aperture. We would generally go for f8 for each flash head. They're measured individually and accurately (work to eliminate the 10ths of stops). Once they're both set to f8, the combined reading of both of them being fired at the same time will produce a reading of f11. At which point if your camera is set up correctly you're good to go!
This below is an approximation of a 3D view.
If you've not set the lights up with the poly-boards at (c) you'll probably experience bright panels of light either side of the subject in your images. The light travelling down the tunnels will be absorbed  to some extent giving you an image in accordance with your meter reading, but the light that passes down the outside of the tunnel is not hindered and may be recorded in the image either side of your model slightly brighter. In which case you need to prevent that light from falling on your background.
The effect is that a white background as with our infinity cover will be rendered slightly U/Exp. The further the box is from the cover the darker it will be.
3 Light system - pure white back-ground.
We then developed the set-up, by introducing a 3rd light (below) indicated by (j) in this instance we just used a dish-less head. The light was positioned so that the light fell onto the white B/G, but you have to be careful to ensure none of the light encroaches onto the model/subject to ensure the hatched area (b) is still maintained at around f11. The third light (g) is calibrated so that it gives a reading of around f16 (1 stop brighter). This modification of the lighting will produce a pure white background.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Studio lighting Film Noir Gloom

This is the last of the lighting sessions where we've been exploring lighting with a Film Noir/Horror theme. Again using chiaruscoro techniques (Single point light) allowing for much of the scene to fall into darkness increasing the sense of gloom. As before, the influence comes from film stills - Nosferatu the vampire (The stair case shadow scene). One of the scenes from the film Noir Classic 'Double Indemnity' and the more recent take on film Noir - 'Sin City'.

The classic 'Staircase' scene from the 1922 German Expressionist film Nosferatu
A scene from the Film Noir classic "Double Indemnity" 1944
A scene from the Film Noir inspired Sin City 2005

Diary style work approach

Diary Style work approach                                                                                 Updated Jan 2015

Increasingly we're advising students to work with both a hardcopy display folder (Below) and a 'Blogger' blog.

The majority of your written work will be typed up within your blog and 'Published' daily in a reflective diary style. So each day your in college or whenever you produce some practical work you would write up an entry using the Gibbs method reflecting on your days activities.

How do I lay out and title my blog?

Look here for the instructions as to how you start a blog for your course at Southend.

What do I put in the blog?

As much as you can is the short answer. The way that you're expected to work is to have your research completed in the first two weeks. Your research should be written up straight into the blog using this approach here. Add images as much as you can and make the blog visual. Once the research is completed the rest of the blog for each unit is to be written up in the blog 'Reflectively' using the Gibbs reflective practice method. This should be done on a regular basis. On the days you're in college, it should be done daily, primarily while you're in college. Outside of college hours, you should do it as soon as you can if you shoot or are producing work of some form connected with your course.

Always use the 6 Gibbs prompts to structure the way you write up your reflections. It will make it easier to assess, you'll probably be more aware that you're meeting the assessment criteria and you'll soon realise and learn that it's an affective way to record your work in order that you meet the criteria.

What do I use the folder for?

The folder is used for a number of things, but primarily for the display of your final images. At the end of each of your projects you should aim to produce high quality final portfolio standard images. These should either be mounted on A3 card/paper or produced A3 in size. You should aim to keep the sizes fairly uniform, so in the case of Black and White darkroom prints I advise that you print all of your images 'Full Frame' which is approx. 9" x  6.5" (24cm x 16cm). Similarly with enlarged sections of negatives blow those up to the same size.

*Note; If you intend to mount prints on to card or paper in your folder, don't use glue or stick them down in any way that is permanent. Instead use masking tape or sellotape and form it into a circle and use a small piece to hold the print in the centre of the card. Inside the sleeve, the print will need little support to hold it in place. This will allow you to use the prints in another folio if you decide to 'Upgrade' your portfolio prior to seeking employment or Uni places.

On-Going hard-copy work

The other things you'll put in the folder will include...
  • Black and white prints (tests)
  • Black and white exercise prints and trials
  • Contact sheets
  • Test strips
  • Final B&W images (Mounted on A3 card/paper see above).
  • Hard-copy print offs of your research internet (Photocopies of journal research)
Some of the above bullet pointed items could be and in the case of the final B&W prints should be scanned and digitized. This is especially important in the case of Pinhole images.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Studio Lighting - white floor - full length fashion portrait.

Studio lighting - white floor on a full length fashion portrait.

One of the conundrums of studio lighting is how to achieve a white floor, or at least reduce the amount of re-touching required in Photoshop.

In one of the lessons, we use a single light method to test this theoretical approach out (Below).

The floor plan is drawn on the white board and the students copy this up. I usually get a couple of the least experienced student to then set up the lights and take the meter readings, one acts as the assistant and the other the photographer. The rest of the class look on as H&S monitors.
I then go round the class asking individual students how they need to configure their cameras...
Manual Mode
White balance set to flash
Lens set to a focal length of 55mm with a DSLR
Focusing point set for upright portrait, central or manual focus.
Shutter speed - 1/125
ISO - 100
We them aim to set the lights to give us a light reading of approx. F8 or F11.
The light (B) is the primary light source and we use either a medium size dish (Parabolic type) or a white umbrella with the light reflected out of it. The best option if available is small soft box approx. 18" x 18". The light is set at 45 degrees to the subject and the meter reading is taken from the face. The light gives good modelling to the face picking up the shape and features. Some attention should be given to where the shadows fall and reflector (D) positioned to provide fill-in.
The main observations with this demo is to look at how the floor is rendered. Students tend to have their lighting far too close to the subject and therefore have poor results due to the negative affect of Inverse Square Law. The basic principal that needs to be taught here is The further the lights are away from the subject, the more control you'll have over the lighting. (Inverse Square Law). The downside of this is that your studio needs to be relatively large in size in order to give you the distance from the subject (height and length).
In our studio in this demo we use the height of the studio to gain our necessary distance from the subject so putting Inverse Square Law into practice in our favour. With the light fully extended to the ceiling (15') the light striking the model is sufficiently even as to cover both the model and the surrounding floor space. The distance between the model and the infinity cover behind is approx. 15'-18' and with this single light is almost rendered 100% white too!
The only issue and area for concern is the shadow between the subject and the reflector board, but this is relatively small and unobtrusive and easily removed in Photoshop. Or you can explore the use of using the reflector closer or adding more lights? A mate of mine who uses this in a professional context places an additional reflector between the model and the camera directing additional light back into the floor reducing the shadow further still. Students should be encouraged in their own time to explore this as an option.
If you need to link this with a practitioner you should use my and type in studio and check out the photographers there.
Note, as a student you should record exactly what you do when setting these lighting sets up and take a wide shot of the set, to use alongside your floor plan and the resulting images.
Once completed you should then reflect on your activities.

The Gibbs reflective practice process should not be seen as a separate entity from your work – an ‘Add on’. It should be seen as an integral part of how you put your projects together… Each time you produce something of substance or try something new or challenging, it should be followed by the ‘Gibbs’ process.