Shooting family portraits

Studio Photography, Flash, Daylight and Studio Lights, Flash equipment and use
  
4 Apr '12 Wed Apr 04, 2012 13:02    
aliengrove
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Post Shooting family portraits

I was wondering if anyone can give me some advice on shooting family portraits? It's not something I have done before, but out of the blue I have been asked to do a paid shoot by some new friends here in Doha. I got paid for shooting pictures of hotel in Sri Lanka recently, so it's my second paid job in a month, which is rather nice! I will probably be doing this shoot in a few weeks.

My wife will be assisting me (or vice versa more likely; she will probably do some or even all of the photography as she is very good at people photography). The family are a couple and their 6 year old son.

My existing equipment is a Metz 50 AF-1, a Chinese flash of similar specs I can use as a slave, a home-made softbox (quite small), a bendable flash reflector and a square metre or so of foam material that I can use for diffusing flash. I don't have any stands or other equipment, save two tripods and a Gorillapod. I am wondering if I will have to get a flash cord to use the flash off-camera, and what other equipment I might need. I am going to Osaka tomorrow so can buy more equipment if needed, but I don't want to outlay too much as this could just be a one-off. I will make a stand or two if needed for the flashes. I am thinking about using natural light from a window with a gauze curtain too.

Any advice on what I need, set-up of the equipment, settings to use etc. would be very much appreciated. I will try the set-up out before the shoot by enlisting some friends to pose for me. I also have no idea what to charge; a work colleague here who does this type of photography charges $US300 including prints, but some people who I work with who have used him have not been very happy with the results they got for that price.

Jon

 
 
 
 
  
4 Apr '12 Wed Apr 04, 2012 13:46    
layingback
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Post Re: Shooting family portraits

2 lights should be sufficient, but you will want both off camera. As you will probably want to control the flashes manually, so you can set the power higher on the main than the fill light, you can fire it with any basic PC cord, as camera is not part of the calculation, just the trigger (it being set to X Sync or suitable manual speed for your camera to sync with the flash). The flash effectively defines the exposure. You can connect the camera to the closest flash.

Here's a couple of sites to get you thinking: www.portraitlighting.net/index.htm and guessthelighting.com/

One issue you are going to have is getting enough light coverage. You'll have enough power to light, but with > 1 person you have to be careful that it doesn't drop off before it has covered everybody. But a test shot will tell you (easier than using a flash meter). So start practising with 1 person, to get the position of the lights, model, camera sorted, then work on stretching it to cover several people (close together Wink ).

For window light, using the same approach with window as main light and reflector as fill. But window light all depends on the window, its size, the direction it's pointing in and the weather.

Have you thought about outdoors?

If you have some DIY friends, you may be able to borrow work lights. They may be good as studio lights but most likely not, but might work as stands. Tripods will work if tall enough fully extended.


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4 Apr '12 Wed Apr 04, 2012 14:50    
aliengrove
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Post Re: Shooting family portraits

Thanks for the reply, and the links! We will probably use our dojo/exercise studio in the house. It's a bright and airy room and also has a mirror along one wall, though whether that will be a help or a hindrance I am not sure. The room gets sunlight in the morning and has fine gauze curtains on the window so should be good for fill light I think. I will have a good look at those links and try a few set-ups out. Shooting outside is not an option, it will be too hot here in a few weeks. I think my wife will do most of the shooting, she really likes photographing people, and interacts very well with people when taking pictures of them. We have some very nice prints on the wall that she took in India using natural light. Plus she has a lot of contacts who could be interested in having photographs done, so we are thinking it could become a nice little side-line for her (and get her using the camera more!)

 
 
 
 
  
4 Apr '12 Wed Apr 04, 2012 15:24    
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Post Re: Shooting family portraits

Sounds like a plan, but remember that you don't always want shafts of light. If there is a lot of light in the room, later in the day may work better, or just as well, as the light is more diffuse.

I think my wife will do most of the shooting, she really likes photographing people, and interacts very well with people when taking pictures of them.

You're off the hook then Wink


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4 Apr '12 Wed Apr 04, 2012 16:54    
aliengrove
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Post Re: Shooting family portraits

The room gets good light all day, so maybe afternoons would be better. We will try it out at different times of day. There's some really good stuff on portraitlighting.net, thanks for the link!

I may be off the hook as far as taking the pics go, but I am not sure how it'll go being her assistant! Confused Very Happy

Should be fun though, both of us are new to using multiple light set-ups so we will have to do some experimentation. Any advice on lenses and apertures? I am thinking of using my Sigma 24-60mm f2.8, the room is not large enough for any longer with three people in the shot. I am thinking that three people together will preclude using f2.8, which is what I have generally used with portraits using on-camera flash.

 
 
 
 
  
4 Apr '12 Wed Apr 04, 2012 19:05    
cardiff_gareth
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Post Re: Shooting family portraits

Doh! I PM'd you on t'other site!

Did you get it?

This is the context of the message if not:

Due to your location why not do an on location shoot? Get them to a nice location and do the shoot there? Use the Metz off camera using it in manual mode but with the built in slave activated, using the on board camera to trigger it. Just dial the power down using the flash compensation so the trigger on board camera flash doesn't alter the exposure at all. Vary where the flash is - 45 degrees etc

The softbox ideally should be as big as possible to offer maximum diffusion but also think of reflectors to bounce light back into shadows also.


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5 Apr '12 Thu Apr 05, 2012 03:35    
aliengrove
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Post Re: Shooting family portraits

Thanks Gareth, I must read the pm. If it's not too hot here by the time we do it that sounds like a good idea. There's an area called The Pearl that would probably be a good place to do it. My wife is going to the UK next week for ten days, so if we do it before then the temperature should be ok. Next month it will probably be over 40 degrees c and too hot to shoot outside. I am looking forward to it, and my wife too as photographing people is the photography she enjoys most. I have been trying for ages to get her to post stuff online without success, The couple who want the shoot got the idea of using us because of prints we have put up at home, all the people pics bar one being Jackie's work.

I am going to Osaka tomorrow, so will buy a few reflectors there.

 
 
 
 
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