The basics of portrait photography could fill many large books. We have decided to concentrate on one application with a few variations on the theme for this lesson. In the future, we will bring you other basic portrait solutions. 





For our backdrop, we draped a black muslin drop cloth on a Boom attached to a Litestand. Next, we set up a medium Photoflex MultiDome soft box as the main light source to the right of our model (fig 1). We attached the soft box to a Quantum Qflash strobe powered by a Quantum Turbo (fig 2).

Fig 1

Fig 2

Paragraph under fig.1/2 – The Qflash is a manual, automatic, and TTL flash. Because the soft box blocks the Qflash’s sensor, we set the flash to manual and dialed in the power, f-stop and film speed settings by using the Mode, Set and up/down buttons (fig 3). Because we wanted the background to be slightly soft (out of focus), we determined that the camera’s aperture should be set to f/8. To ensure that there would be no motion blur, we set the shutter speed to 1/250th of a second. 

Fig 3

Fig 4

This first exposure shows the main light position and exposure. A one light portrait can be dramatic in effect because of the contrast between light and shadow (fig 4).

Because a longer lens does not distort a model’s face the way a normal or wide-angle lens can, we used the 140mm lens on our Contax 645. One of the great things about the Contax is that it comes with 90-degree prism finder, which isn’t the case with most medium format cameras. The prism finder allows you to look directly at your subject while shooting. This is especially advantageous for shooting portraits as the image is right side up, and the composition of the photo is easy to see (figs 5 & 6).

Fig 5

Fig 6

Fig 7

Waist level viewfinders, on the other hand, place the image upside down and require you to be above the camera in order to view your frame (fig 7). When shooting a portrait this often means that you must climb on and off a small ladder to shoot, which can be awkward for both you and your model.

In order to fill in the shadow on the left side of the face, we attached a Litedisc reflector to a LiteDisc holder to reflect light into the shadowed areas of our model. We used a soft gold reflector surface, which “warmed up” the model’s face (figs 8 & 9).

Fig 8

Fig 9

Fig 10

The results show a more balanced lighting scheme as the Litedisc helped to fill and warm up the shadows (fig 10). 

To enhance the color of the model’s hair, we set up a gold Multidisc reflector above her. This reflector caught the light from our main light and bounced it onto the top of her head. This allowed us to get more highlights from the hair and put some light on the shoulders (figs 11 & 12).

Fig 11

Fig 12

Now we were ready to shoot a variety of poses, but we wanted a little more depth to the image. Because the background is black and not lit, it comes across as a little too flat. So we set up another Quantum Qflash powered by a Turbo battery in a large MultiDome and positioned it to light the background (fig 13).

Fig 13

Fig 14

This helped give us some separation between our model and the background. As you can see, we have created a little more depth to the shot. By draping the muslin in folds, we added texture to the image (fig 14).

Fig 15

We then turned the model so that the angle of her body matched the angle of the backdrop. This created a harmonious visual effect that draws the viewers eye up and across the image (fig 15).

Simple changes to the set can give you very different results. We changed the background to an off-white muslin and removed the glasses. Now the shot has a very different feel (figs 16 & 17).

Fig 16

Fig 17

Understanding and experimenting with the different elements of your shot enables you to find the shot you’re after.





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