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Photography DiscussionA Question From Our Facebook Page

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A Question From Our Facebook Page

Post by pmAdmin » Mon Mar 26, 2018 6:34 pm

A question from our Facebook page -

Jessica Lemmon‎ to photoMentoris
"Hello! I am wondering who in here offers professional headshots? I was going to purchase the collapsible black/white background but was looking for input first. Does anyone use this over seamless? Is 5’x7’ an actual need or is it over kill? Any input or advice is appreciated. Thanks and I hope you have a good Monday!"

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Post by Steven G Webb » Mon Mar 26, 2018 6:53 pm

While I am not pursing head shots presently I have and continue to do on-site studio portraiture. The 5X7 collapsible backgrounds are very handy. The size isn't overkill at all. Black and white are peculiar colors. Like most things photographic, extremes are seldom preferable. Jet black isn't normally a flattering background for head shots; however, it is an excellent background for tinting with jelled background lights. If additional light for the background isn't something to desire, then white is equally problematic as it will most assuredly require independent illumination. So if you're into complex to complicated lighting, then black and white are good. Otherwise I'd opt for a pair of less extreme. Maybe a solid midtone and a old master's type with a simulated hot spot. Just my two cents.
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Post by pmAdmin » Tue Apr 03, 2018 12:43 am

Steven G Webb wrote:
Mon Mar 26, 2018 6:53 pm
While I am not pursing head shots presently I have and continue to do on-site studio portraiture. The 5X7 collapsible backgrounds are very handy. The size isn't overkill at all. Black and white are peculiar colors. Like most things photographic, extremes are seldom preferable. Jet black isn't normally a flattering background for head shots; however, it is an excellent background for tinting with jelled background lights. If additional light for the background isn't something to desire, then white is equally problematic as it will most assuredly require independent illumination. So if you're into complex to complicated lighting, then black and white are good. Otherwise I'd opt for a pair of less extreme. Maybe a solid midtone and a old master's type with a simulated hot spot. Just my two cents.
Thank you for this!

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Post by JLemmon » Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:54 am

Okay now that I have remembered my password, I have gotten back in to search the forums and catch up. :)

My next question still in regards to headshots/equipment - I am looking for a light meter to ensure I properly expose on the white background. Typically I've adjusted by my own eye, however I want to be prepared for any scenario that comes my way.

Recommendations on light meter? I'm seeing some from $100-$200 up to $500. Obviously you pay for what you get, however if I can stay in the lower range that would be great.
Does it matter what brand of camera/flash/triggers you use? Natural light is my go to, and this year I am pushing my artificial light skills and knowledge. Thanks for your support and sharing experiences.

I will be practicing on Wednesday and will post some in the critique area!

Here is one from B&H that I am looking at- https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product ... eter.html

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Post by Duck » Mon Apr 09, 2018 7:34 pm

Hi Jesica, I'm glad you were able to get back in to the forum. Please be aware that we do have password recovery ability/reset should you ever run into another similar situation.

As to your questions; Before investing in any equipment you need to find out what you need first. Your background for example. For most headshots you don't really need a dedicated backdrop. Any blank wall will do. Most professional photographers use a dedicated backdrop for uniformity and flexibility but there is no hard rule saying you need to use one. As for size, this is where know your needs will determine your purchase. Most headshots are done around the 80mm range so you don't need a large area behind the subject. A 5x9 will be more than adequate until you try to set up in a room with 8 foot ceilings. While convenient to use, you may find that a 56in roll of white seamless gives you a cleaner background, even at closer distances from the subject.

Here is a suggestions for you; Give yourself some time for experimentation. Find a flat, empty piece of wall and use that as your backdrop. Measure out a 5 foot width and mask it off with low tack painter's tape. Find a willing subject to play around with and run through a variety of situations (for example, subject close to wall and photographer close to subject because the room is too small - it happens) and see if the 5 feet work for you. Use different focal lengths to see if there are any limitations that you can't work with. Try extreme closeups (the easiest), mid length, bust length and full length to see if it'll serve your needs. Also change up your lighting configurations. They don't need to be pretty, you just need to see how the background size works under varying situations.

It's one thing to think you need something, quite another to KNOW you need something.

Another consideration will be background color. White is the standard but some photographers prefer a gray background because they feel it gives them more flexibility in tighter spaces. You can brighten a gray backdrop to white quite easily in a tight space. Not so easy to darken a white backdrop to gray in a tight space. Light bleed affects the background in many typical portrait lighting setups when the background is right there.

As to your meter question; with today's digital cameras and their ability to preview an image you really don't need a meter. Specially once you really start understanding your equipment. For a typical setup you will be able to come in, set up your lights, dial in your starting power and within two or three shots you will be right on target. Where a meter becomes a valuable tool is in setting ratios between different lights (i.e background to key, kicker to key, etc.) That's not to say you shouldn't get one ever. I have two of them and I do use them on occasion, just not as often as one would think. My first (and still my favorite) is an inexpensive Polaris SPD100 that I bought on ebay for around $50. It is comparable to the one you're looking at from B&H.

The one thing I wish I did have was a meter with built-in flash triggering. That comes in useful when setting up multiple lights. My workaround is to carry my pocket wizard trigger with me so it's not really a deal killer.

In the meantime, you might want to consider making a string meter. To make one get a good length of some nice quality string (Nylon paracord works well). Tie a loop on one end so you can easily anchor it to your light and follow these steps
  • Set you flash to 1/8 power and the zoom to the mid point (50-ish) then set your camera to 1/125 sec @ ISO 100 and aperture to f/4.0. To get your measurements requires a little back and forth.
  • Use a gray card and attach it to a light stand or tripod and place it about four/five feet from your light.
  • From the light source zoom into the gray card and take a photo and look at your histogram. You want the spike to be smack in the middle. If it's not, adjust your light's distance closer or further until the spike is in the middle.
  • Tie a knot at the card end. this is the distance from light to subject for a camera setting of 1/125th sec @ f/4.0 ISO 100.
  • Fold the string in half to the light and tie a knot there. That marks f/8.0.
  • Fold the first knot to the second knot (you're folding the end of the string in half) and mark that with a knot. That is f/5.6 (well, technically f/6 but you can cheat the knot forward a bit.)
  • If you need the other settings (f/11, f/16) repeat the process but closer to the light.
Here's a handout I give out when I do this workshop;
String Meter Handout.jpg
Unitas_Photography-StringMeter.jpg
String meter in use

Hope this helps some.
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Post by St3v3M » Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:38 pm

Wow, there's some really good information here! I'm learning so much! S-
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Post by Steven G Webb » Tue Apr 10, 2018 2:14 am

Whoa Duck, way to go. The string meter works well. If you were photographed by an Olan MIlls photographer chances are 1:1 that at some point in the session a string with a knot was held to your chin. Somewhere someone actually metered the lights at the distances and thanks to extremely reliable and consistent flash output a studio could be set up anywhere with enough room.

I have and use a 20+ year old Minolta F-IV meter. If it died today I'd replace it with a Sekonic brand and a model that displays the percentage of flash to ambient light. A simple meter will give you the simple readings you're seeking but so will a higher featured model if your needs change and you desire more complex metering functions.

White seems to be easy, just over expose the background. Just how much is the tricky part. Spill, flair and contrast issues are issues that can crop up. I'd use a meter on the background were it me.
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