Peter Phun is a freelance photographer in Riverside California. An alumni of Kent State University in photojournalism, he was among the first at his local paper to make the transition from film to digital with zero training. Phun is currently an adjunct instructor of photography at Riverside Community College. Go behind the scenes with Phun and a couple of 1940s-inspired models to discover how you can make the most of lighting a shoot in a dark and relatively cramped environment.
A Few Photo Tips from a 1940s Theme Shoot at Lake Alice Saloon and Eatery
reprinted with permission by Peter Phun
In a bar, there are surprisingly many, many shiny and reflective surfaces. To help combat this, a softbox is a better choice than an umbrella. The light falls off very dramatically and won’t scatter the way it does in an umbrella. I especially like the Photoflex OctoDome NXT for this. To go inside the OctoDome, I rented a Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite from BorrowLenses to help save space.
Lighting conditions inside most bars are poor so you may need to use your fastest lens, especially if you are only using flash for accent lighting. I used a 50mm f/1.2 on my Canon 5D Mark II set to ISO 400. I usually prefer to fire my Speedlites on manual power because I like to have a consistent output. From the ST-E3-RT radio transmitter attached to my camera’s hotshot, I was able to dial in my flash setting without having to walk over to either Speedlite to make changes in power.
For this shoot, I chose a 2:1 lighting ratio using just 2 Speedlites. I wanted my back light to put out 1 stop more light than my main light. No matter what aperture I set on my lens to, the back light was still 1 stop brighter than my main light.
I kept the lights fairly close to my subject. Both Speedlites were attached to a Lumedyne battery for faster recycle times.
Special thanks to Peter Phun for sharing some of his tips and behind the scenes images with us! Share your own great portraits in the comments below.