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Old July 7th, 2008, 11:47 PM   #1
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critique my lighting

Hi all. I'm testing my lighting kit and honing my lighting skills. Please let me know your critiques, suggestions, likes and dislikes. New to lighting, but realize it is what' going to make the difference for me.

This is just a set up involving my wife, who is sick of me saying "all you have to do is sit there" and then blinding her for 2 hours of adjusting and readjusting.;)

Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

thanks,

Mike
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Old July 8th, 2008, 03:04 AM   #2
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Lighting looks very natural. I would consider pulling the key light up a bit higher and farther to the left (but it's probably a personal aesthetic thing on my part). The higher will serve to allow her to lift her head up slightly which will pull the neck a bit tighter (portraiture trick), and raise the eye catch light a bit making her look more cheery. To the left will give a more severe "short lighting" setup which I feel adds more dimension to the face. I liked the way the background light feeds into the hair light, nice effect that makes the hair light feel very natural.
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Old July 8th, 2008, 03:17 AM   #3
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What that struck me at first were the strong shadows on the wall, which I thought were distracting. The next thing I saw was how bright the unshadowed part of the background was. Only then did I really see your subject.

Lighting on the subject seems a little weak, but maybe only because it's not as vivd as the background. Maybe a bit of fill from the right would help, but I think the main criticism would have to be that the background lighting grabs the eye and then everything else looks drab by comparison. Partly a problem with the amount of light on the background and partly a problem with the strong color that tends to pull color out of the foreground subject leaving her a bit washed out looking.

Just to check, I copied just her face and opened it in Photoshop and looked at it without the distracting background.

Even without the background the face didn't have enough contrast or light intensity. When I lightened it in Photoshop, things improved, but the difference between the lighting on the face and on the arms was a bit much.

A little fill to de-emphasize the shadows under the chin would be nice.

Catchlights in the eyes add a nice sparkle.

Hope this helps and apologies if it sounds too critical. I really mean it in the spirit of what you asked for.
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Old July 8th, 2008, 10:14 AM   #4
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The visual psychology of imaging tell us to keep the most important part of the image lighter than the rest, this will attract the viewer’s eye to the center of attention, in this case the face of the subject. Also separate the different planes in the image. In this case the background is way too bright in respect to the subject and way too close.

Watch out for composition. Any lines coming into the image should lead to the main point of interest; the background light should be coming from the other direction with the oblique lines leading to the subject. Also never start an oblique line from the corner of an image; this will visually split the image, have the lines start either above or below the corner.

Conflicting light sources. Always try to give the illusion that there’s only one main (key) light, in this case the key light is coming from one side while the background from the opposite side, try to avoid this.

Raise your camera, especially for subject that are overweight or those with double chin. You are shooting right into her chin making it very prominent, (see attached samples).

Adjust the key light so you will have modeling on the face; also learn about the 3 basic key light positions and angles "front, 45 degree and split or 90 degree light". Proper light placement is another trick to make heavier people look thinner; what’s not important make it dark. People look at eyes and mouth, cheeks and ears are not important (see attached samples).

Posing; do not cross the arms, this will make the person look bulkier.

Avoid a high back chair or one that cuts in the middle of the head.

There are techniques to pose and light subjects that will make them look much thinner that they really are. Once you learn those you'll be a hero.
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Old July 8th, 2008, 12:48 PM   #5
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Hi Mike,

I'm new to the lighting world as well; and learning alot on these forums. I'd also like to strenghten my interview lighting skills. Just a few comments...

I agree with Jim that when I first saw the pic, the shadows on the wall are what struck me first; and also, that the key is a bit weak (compared to the background).

Best,
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Old July 8th, 2008, 12:49 PM   #6
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Hi Nino,

Great comments and critique, as always. Learning a ton from you, man! Keep up the good work.

Best,
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Old July 8th, 2008, 01:12 PM   #7
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Very interesting discussion thus far.

There are many different thoughts and styles on lighting. I've found one of the biggest bones of contentions is the lighting levels between subject and background. Several here have said the "key was weak", and that the background was brighter than the subject. I think the background was simply to close and was distracting. But I'll offer a quote here:

"We'd make a big, very soft source, which looks great on a woman's face... The trick is to make sure the faces were never brighter than the background... If your face is the brightest thing in the shot, you're probably in trouble."

-John Thomas, ASC
DP, Sex and the City Movie
American Cinematographer, June 2008, p.62

Given this man's talent for making these middle-aged women look beautiful, I think his words have some merit. I think one of the things I see more often in amateur video than in Hollywood is the amount of light falling on talent in relation to the background. In scenes with windows, the talent is not the brightest thing in the shot. And why should it be? Why would the motivated source of the light be dimmer than what it's lighting? In scenes without a window, it seems somewhat odd to have the talent be lit out of character with the surroundings unless it's specifically for effect.

I also note that some have offered to have more modeling on the face. Again, from my work in portraiture, and from studying the cinematographers who make women look beautiful, this is also an issue of contention. Lighting women nearly flat smooths the lines and wrinkles. Using a nicely diffused, large light source is kind to their faces. Less modeling seems to be the order of the day unless you are working with 17 year old supermodels.

Again, I am no professional. I am just a guy learning how to shoot. But reaching back to the 30s and 40s, all the way through today, I see women lit very flat when you are trying to show them at their best.

Just what I've seen.
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Old July 8th, 2008, 01:41 PM   #8
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Hi Perrone,

Interesting comments. I can think of a lot of situations where I'd light something with a really light - maybe almost blown out background with strong shadows across it. Done right it can be very effective in calling attention to the subject - particularly when done in black and white. But it would be rather dramatic.

I think in fact the biggest issue with this sample is as you say the lack of separation between subject and background, whether the separation is by distance, by lighting, or both.

Also the strong color of the background I think is an issue here, as is the placement of the shadows.

I tried to eliminate these from the equation by cutting just the portion with the face in Photoshop, but even so the lighting was lacking something. Again I can go with high key contrasty or low key soft lighting, but I think in this case the lighting was neither one.

Maybe the real issue is that the lighting doesn't seem to be done in service to a clear concept of what is wanted.

Makes me think of a quote attributed to Ansel Adams which I saw painted on the side of a building in of all places a Tokyo back street. Something to the effect that there is nothing worse than a beautiful photograph of a fuzzy concept.

I'm not so judgemental as to say that there was no concept behind this shot, but the lighting doesn't make clear what the concept was.
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Old July 8th, 2008, 01:48 PM   #9
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The thing I always do with these type of 'tests' is look quickly and see what my eye is drawn to. In this case, it's the background. The assumption is the brightest part of an image may well be the most important. So the wife came in second here! She's actually well lit, but the background , while interesting, is a distraction that needs sorting. There's a picture on the table, but again, it presumably isn't important as it's not lit either. Me, I'd have lifted the face with a stronger key - looking at her nose, there aren't any shadows I can see apart from on her left, so her face looks a little flat. Just an opinion.
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Old July 8th, 2008, 01:54 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Andrada View Post
...there is nothing worse than a beautiful photograph of a fuzzy concept.

I'm not so judgemental as to say that there was no concept behind this shot, but the lighting doesn't make clear what the concept was.
I think this is the nail on the head right there.

She is lit "flat" but the motivated lighting is very dramatic and directional, and it seems VERY fake. Like a bad greenscreen. Like you say, a "fuzzy concept".
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Old July 8th, 2008, 03:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Watkins View Post
This is just a set up involving my wife, who is sick of me
Hi Mike,

For me the forground is too dark whilst the background is light(er) which is "the wrong way around". My suggestions would be to increase the light levels for the foreground and to seperate your wife from the seat more by adding more light on her right shoulder.

I've doctored your image a bit, redistributing the shadows, and the skintones aren't perfect but you can tell the key was a bit hard. Disregarding the wall the rest of the image gained color and detail and your wife is now more 'in the foreground'. It is probably not 'the look' you were aiming for, but just me (trying) to make a point.

I have no problem with a contrasty background; as long as the subject is seperated properly that is where you'll focus.

George/

P.S. Apologies of me having fun with the quote ;-)
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Old July 8th, 2008, 08:47 PM   #12
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Many thanks..

to all who have given the free advice. It is all very much appreciated.

The basic thought behind the test, was to help me learn how to use a lighting kit I have been putting together over the past few months, and to get familiar with the functions of each unit. I'm still green to the lighting process, and feel a little limited by the space to set up lights, reflectors and camera in my home, and still live (peaceably) with my family.8)

I noticed the background was too close, and would appreciate any tricks other than 35mm adapters, to making distance less of an issue. I guess I could over light the subject, then flip on the ND filter, and crank the iris.

Also, I don't have soft boxes for my fresnels(older century 750w and 2000w fixtures) and am currently poor-boying it with parchment paper clipped to the front of the barn door for diffusion on the key light. Is there a more efficient method until I can afford a soft box? Would I be better off to use one of my 1000tota lights for a key?

Maybe I could use some advice on how to best utilize my kit for interview set-ups.

My kit includes the following:

3 - 750W 6" Century Fresnels w/bdoors
1 - 1000w 8" Century Fresnel w/bdoors
1 - 2000w 8" Century Fresnel w/bdoors
2 tota lights: 1-750w, 1-1000w
4 750w smith victor floods with barn doors Model 710
1 3" 150w fresnel
1 42" 5 in one reflector.

Any advice on my next light-related purchase would be great also.

I appreciate the advice offered by those who carry much more experience, than I, with video and lighting, and greatly appreciate those who have taken and will take the time to post your comments.

Please keep them coming, and thanks again!!

Mike Watkins
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Old July 14th, 2008, 01:49 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Watkins View Post
I noticed the background was too close, and would appreciate any tricks other than 35mm adapters, to making distance less of an issue. I guess I could over light the subject, then flip on the ND filter, and crank the iris.
You're missing the obvious solution, which is to physically move the subject away from the background. Pick up the chair and move it :)

Granted there will be times when you have no choice, but I don't think this is one of those situations. You generally want to avoid having someone close to a wall as a general rule, just because of the shadow liability that you have. Just making sure you know there is a way to do what you want without using any adapters or camera trickery.
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Old July 14th, 2008, 04:03 PM   #14
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I was thinking the same thing. I seem to remember you saying that you were in a confined space, but I think if you make a tighter pose (ie head and shoulder only) you'll be able to move the chair closer to the camera.

Not sure if depth of field will be enough to help, butin any case, with this particular colored background, I think you want to let it go as darkas possible.

Having more distance between wall and subject will also help make it easier to keep more light off the wall.
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Old July 15th, 2008, 08:22 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nino Giannotti View Post
The visual psychology of imaging tell us to keep the most important part of the image lighter than the rest, this will attract the viewer’s eye to the center of attention, in this case the face of the subject. Also separate the different planes in the image. In this case the background is way too bright in respect to the subject and way too close.

Watch out for composition. Any lines coming into the image should lead to the main point of interest; the background light should be coming from the other direction with the oblique lines leading to the subject. Also never start an oblique line from the corner of an image; this will visually split the image, have the lines start either above or below the corner.

Conflicting light sources. Always try to give the illusion that there’s only one main (key) light, in this case the key light is coming from one side while the background from the opposite side, try to avoid this.

Raise your camera, especially for subject that are overweight or those with double chin. You are shooting right into her chin making it very prominent, (see attached samples).

Adjust the key light so you will have modeling on the face; also learn about the 3 basic key light positions and angles "front, 45 degree and split or 90 degree light". Proper light placement is another trick to make heavier people look thinner; what’s not important make it dark. People look at eyes and mouth, cheeks and ears are not important (see attached samples).

Posing; do not cross the arms, this will make the person look bulkier.

Avoid a high back chair or one that cuts in the middle of the head.

There are techniques to pose and light subjects that will make them look much thinner that they really are. Once you learn those you'll be a hero.
What a terrific analysis Nino. I'm such a rookie that as I read your critique, I realized that I spotted only 1-2 of the things you pointed out. Great job.
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