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Old November 21st, 2006, 10:18 PM   #1
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Books & Bookcases Galore: How would you light them?

I am shooting an interview in an office. Will be shooting diagonally into the corner. Both walls have oak bookcases chock full of books.

I'll have about 5 feet separation to the walls and maybe 8 feet directly behind the subject to the corner.

I'm not sure how to light this to minimize the overly busy background created by all the books. My instinct is to make it as dark as possible. Not sure tho. How would you light this?

TIA
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Old November 22nd, 2006, 09:18 AM   #2
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I use...

Hi:

I often shoot bookshelves but rather than hide them, I try to put cool things on the bookshelf and highlight the objects with lights.

I often will use 21" fluorescent lights with some party gel wrapped around them behind items, it will give a nice glow or I use Ikea 12" white LED strip lights taped up above the books to make them pop. I am constantly on the lookout for small glass colored glittery items that I can put on bookshelves. I often stick multicolored rolls of gift wrap ribbon, small colored tea light holders, etc. I want color and glitter in the BG, not just boring looking books. I mix it up.

It's a lot of rigging, hiding and routing cables but it's worth it.

Best,

Dan
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Old November 22nd, 2006, 02:48 PM   #3
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If possible, try and use the long end of your lens, to decrease apparent DOF. I've shot in offices with lots of bookcases, and put the camera IN THE HALLWAY, shooting through the doorway. This racks the books out of focus. Also, you can keep them dark, and get a nice back light/kicker on your subject to seperate them from the cases.

(Just so it's clear. When I'm shooting from the hallway, or even the next room... the interviewer is still seated near the interview subject... just out of frame.)
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Old November 22nd, 2006, 10:12 PM   #4
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I'm using an XL1s. Does that technique of using the the long end of the lens work with the Canon 3x wide angle lens?
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Old November 22nd, 2006, 11:39 PM   #5
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Well, the 'shallower' DEPTH of field on any telephoto will be found at the long end, but in the case of the 3x, I'm afraid it's not going to help much. To maximize the effect, (Stay with me here...) You want to 'minimize' the depth of field. This is accomplished by shooting at the long end of the lens (Getting as far away as possible and zooming in to frame the shot) AND shooting with the aperture as wide open as possible (Which means LESS light on the subject) OR adding ND filters to allow you to open up the lens.

You can experiment with this on your own, and see how shallow you can get the depth of field. But the 3x isn't going to be as shallow as the 16x or 20x.

Alternately, a little trick I've applied in post - Shoot your subject normally.Create a 'mask that surrounds the subject, and apply a gaussian blur to the background. IF you do this judiciously, it can look like a shallow DOF.
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Old November 23rd, 2006, 06:15 AM   #6
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Right. My experience is that I get better DOF results with the 16x at any focal length than I get with the 3x. Last I experimented, the largest aperture I could get from the 3x at the long end was 2.2 (I don't remember exactly) vs 1.8 at the short end. Thanks.
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Old December 9th, 2006, 04:06 PM   #7
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I advise two things for "noisy" backgrounds...

1 - use a shallow DOF around your subject, to keep the eye focused on their plane

2 - use a half or quarter CTO or CTB (or whatever color contrasts the subject) to give a hint of uniformity to the clashing objects behind your subject.
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Old December 10th, 2006, 05:56 AM   #8
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That is a good suggestion. I did the best I could given the time. As usual, there's things I'd do differently if I lit it again. I was unable to get any more DOF from the XL1s 16x lens. Using a Tota light on the floor with a diffuser but pointed at the books created a bright outline around the subject. It would have been better with a CTO gel. Dan's suggestion to light the cubbies in the bookcases was a lifesaver. It is time consuming tho.

LESSON LEARNED: I had scouted the place and saw I'd need to use Matthews scissor clamps to hang lights from the drop ceiling. Fine in theory but practically speaking, drop ceiling grids limit you to its 24" grid for mount points.

EVEN BIGGER LESSON: I failed to notice there was a fire sprinkler right where I wanted to hang my hair light. By the time I was done, the light was too close and became a kicker instead of a hair light.

Here's a still:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/49561034@N00/318473648/
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Old December 10th, 2006, 08:39 PM   #9
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Oh.

That room is a lot different than I had imagined it.

How tight was the final shot?
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Old December 11th, 2006, 06:46 AM   #10
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I shot diagonally across the room from corner to corner. I'd estimate from camera to subject was 7 feet and 8-9 feet between subject and back corner of the room.
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Old December 11th, 2006, 01:32 PM   #11
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I would have used a spot on the subject; have him 2-3 stops above the books.
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Old December 15th, 2006, 10:51 PM   #12
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I would have had him wearing a light blue shirt to pop him off that background.
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