Lighting and Photographing White Seamless Background Headshots

Lighting and Photographing White Seamless Background Headshots

I photographed the staff headshots for both BorrowLenses.com and Zenfolio.com using just a white wall as my background. Lighting basic higher-key headshots is an essential skill for most photographers. Here is a step-by-step guide for how I lighted the scene to create that seamless “white room” effect. Lighting Gear I Use For a large space, I use the following items: Elinchrom BX-RI Kit x 2 Elinchrom 39″ Rotalux Deep Octabox Elinchrom Octa Light Bank – 74″ Sekonic 358 Lightmeter The Elinchrom BX-RI Kit comes with two small umbrella softboxes which are perfect for using on your background strobes because their black backing prevents unwanted light from spilling onto your model. For a small space, I use the following items: Flashes, any brand that allows off-camera shooting, x 4 Black-backed umbrellas x 2 Small-to-medium sized beauty dish or softbox, such as the Photoflex OctoDome nxt Extra Small Kit. 3′ or larger softbox or octabox, such as the Westcott 28″ Apollo Kit. These can be varied for budged and taste. Just remember the essentials: 1 large light modifier as your key source. The larger the source, the softer the results–especially with a diffuser. 1 smaller light modifier as your fill. A reflector may also be used but may not produce as even and soft results. 2-4 umbrellas or softboxes for your wall or white paper backdrop. Placement of the Lighting Gear I place my key above my subject by several feet, pointed downward at them and facing them at a right or left-leaning angle. I place my fill on the opposite side at a similar angle and below the subject by...
Kill the Background: How to Turn a Background Black with Speedlights

Kill the Background: How to Turn a Background Black with Speedlights

I was recently inspired by a recent series of portraits by our very own Alex Huff. Titled “Chiaroscuro Portraiture,” it features these gorgeous close-up portraits of the men and women in her life, each one of which is a study in how to render the interplay between light and shadow. Alex takes these images in front of a grey background, and through a combination of getting in close to her subjects and using one light, sends what little you might see of that grey to almost pitch black. I began to think of what I could do if I didn’t have a backdrop to shoot against, if I needed to make a portrait in a relatively brightly-lit area. In theory, it could be done; a basic understanding of the Inverse-Square Law reveals that much. But what if all you had was a basic modifier and a couple of speedlights, not a big studio strobe? Could you still do it? I had to give it a try. I picked the area above to try this out in. That’s the lobby of the BorrowLenses.com West Coast headquarters in San Carlos, CA. As you can tell, it’s a pretty bright area, with large glass windows letting in a lot of ambient light, grey walls with photos mounted, a television and a glass case in the corner. Not exactly an “uncluttered” background, but it made for a great area for a test case. I roped in a couple of guys from our front-desk team, who’ve been long-suffering models for my various experiments, to be my portrait subjects. I started with taking a test exposure....
The Softbox Cheat Sheet

The Softbox Cheat Sheet

A while back, we put together an article on how to use softboxes with your light of choice. At that time, I mentioned that we’d be putting together a cheat sheet that would allow you to figure out which softbox could go with which light, and what you’d need to make it work. Well, that cheat sheet is here. In the the matrix below, you’ll see the lights we rent down the vertical axis and the softboxes we rent across the horizontal. There’s a legend at the bottom of the table that will indicate if you need something additional to make the combo work. You can click on the image below to enlarge it (warning – it’s a big image), or download the PDF version here. The PDF version has embedded links to direct you to the gear mentioned.   We hope this helps with the constant conundrum of what softbox goes with which light! As always, questions and feedback are welcome in the comments below....
Easy Holiday Photo Booth

Easy Holiday Photo Booth

Holiday events have a way of filling a room. Being tasked with running a party photo booth for friends and family can be daunting, especially if your budget isn’t big and your space isn’t, either. We put together a simple, fun photo booth using portable items that you can rent from BorrowLenses.com. There are various ways to make a booth–some even more simple than this, many more complex. This is just how we did it and you can improve/build upon it. If you do create a booth, feel free to share links to your fun party pictures in the comments below and tell us how you made it! Our Backdrop: We purchased a lightweight wood dowel and stapled garland to it. It is light enough to still be able to hang with gaffer’s tape and not ruin your hosts’ walls. Of course, we have backdrops and backdrop stands for rent. But they take up quite a bit of space. Equipment Used: 3 Nikon SB-910s: 1 main, 1 fill, 1 back light. 3 SD-9 Compact Battery Packs for Nikon: extra battery power for the flashes. D800, using the popup flash as a commander (info box below for other flash-triggering options) Photoflex OctoDome Extra Small Kit: comes with a speedring, flash mount, and multiclamp. Manfrotto lightstand for the Photoflex OctoDome. AlienBees LS1100 backlight stand and multiclamp for the back light. Justin Clamp for the fill light (bouncing off a reflector). Pocket Wizard Plus II and TT5 (info box below for other shutter-triggering options). Pocket Wizard motor cord for Nikon. Tripod and ballhead for camera. 35mm lens or something with a range like 24-120mm, allowing...
Understanding Softboxes

Understanding Softboxes

Off-camera strobes and other forms of lighting have become remarkably approachable over the past few years. The knowledge and information that were once the sole province of pros working with tens of thousands of dollars of equipment in studios or on location is now all over the internet for the taking. We carry a fair amount of lighting gear, and given that we cater to the novice as well as the pros, we also answer a number of questions about one particular piece of lighting gear: the softbox. Over the phone, via email, and through our social networking outlets, we respond to queries ranging from the number of stops a box’s diffusion fabric will eat, to “What’s a speedring?” This article is designed to help you understand the various pieces of a softbox and how it is used with a studio light like the Einstein E640 or the Profoto D4 heads we rent. Let’s start with what a softbox is. Basically, it’s a light modifier. Its purpose is to diffuse the lighting coming out of a studio head (or a small flash, but we’ll cover that in a later article) so that you can achieve the soft shadows and gentler light quality you see in so many professionally-taken photographs. Now let’s break down a complete light setup, with softbox. In the image above, you can see the three basic components of a studio light with a softbox. We have the softbox itself, a speedring (which is only barely visible right now), and a studio light. You’ll probably have noticed that the softbox is made by Profoto, while the studio...