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What\'s the secret..someone please tell me...
Old 02-13-2005, 10:30 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Okay..who has the recipe for a great high-key set-up?? I desperately need it. Mine either look grey or my subjects look VERY FLAT and overexposed around their shoulders..etc. How do you get the best of both worlds - beautifully exposed people with a WHITE backdrop? I've got two alien bees - one as my key and one as my fill - then another strobe set on my backdrop to overexpose it to make it really white - I'm using white seamless. I can't get it right. Does anyone have a diagram of a set-up they use? Or a picture of their lights set-up? I would REALLY appreciate it. I did a search in the forums but couldn't find much on studio lighting.
Thanks!
Nicole
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Re: What\'s the secret..someone please tell me...
Old 02-13-2005, 10:49 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Nicole

The secret is to have the background two stops over the main, while keeping the model out of the background light. Like this:

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to add to that
Old 02-13-2005, 11:41 PM   #3 (permalink)
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use 2 small umbrellas on either side of the seamless, and have them pointing 90 degrees to the seamless, so the only light comes out the side of the umbrella to the background...it seems weird but it works, 1 on each side.

2 stops if a little hot for my taste, especially with digital, but 1.5 stops over the main is my max, but the extra 1/2 stop shouldn't kill you. You can control the density of the background from solid white to solid black by adjusting the light on the back, as long as yu have no spill from the main onto the back.

As Mr. Warren notes, keep the model far enough forward to keep her/him from the light on background. The longer your shooting area, the easier it is to accomplish. I actually like a little light spill onto the side of the models face for headhsots, but for other things i keep them forward enough to avoid the spill light.
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I respectfully disagree
Old 02-14-2005, 12:51 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I hate to disagree, but two stops over on the background is WAY over. Unless you have the model very far out in front (at least 15') you will get bounce-back spill onto the model, producing a halo on the model and possible flare in the camera. Both of these can be effective artisitic elements, unless you are trying to get a crisp catalog look. The thing is, white is as white as white can be. In PS, there is nothing whiter than 256, right? So if you have "white" paper, and overexpose it even a little bit, you have WHITE. Making it even WHITER, is not possible. Why knock yourself out? The trick to getting the white background is to make sure your background lights do not spill into the camera (use black flags) and make the light as even as you can on the background, which usually means using umbrellas and pulling back their position, and not aiming both toward the center which will give you a hot spot. When doing full-length, ideally you should have four umbrellas on the background, but with PS now, you can cheat a bit. This shot of Jaime Bergman (dated wardrobe I know) was shot with two umbrellas on the background and one giant softbox off to one side for a main. The group catalog shot (more dated wardobe) below was exactly the same, but with two softboxs very close together for the main light, and shot on 12' wide seamless. No special work to dodge the seamless (even the floor). These both had backgrounds approx 2/3 stop hotter than the main light, and even at that I detect a little halo on the black edges (and dark hair). I can't see how doing this with 2 stops would work.





I have some behind-the-scenes shot of this kind of setup, as soon as I find them I'll post them.

Regards,
Andy Pearlman
Andy Pearlman Studio
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Re: I respectfully disagree
Old 02-14-2005, 01:17 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I agree with Andy. Too much light on the BG will "blow back" onto the subject. 1/2 stop more light is all I use and I get perfectly white background w/no Photoshopping.

Okay, for my setup, I have two low-wattage strobes mounted to the ceiling. I don't use these lights for anything other than hot white. Each light has a background reflector on it (AB's sell them). In addition there's an aluminum foil sheild on each reflector to keep light from these from hitting the subject.

Paul

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The secret..
Old 02-14-2005, 01:53 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Two lights, one on each side of the white background angled toward it, with barndoors set to prevent overflow onto the model. One light on the model from a softbox, with the background being 1/2 to 1 full stop brighter than the subject. More than a full stop and like others said, you'll light bouncing onto the subject. Use an incident flash meter on the subject, on the center and sides of the background, with the meter pointed toward the light source.

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Re: What\'s the secret..someone please tell me...
Old 02-14-2005, 09:44 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Just wanted to thank everyone for the feedback! This forum is great for advice!
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Re: I respectfully disagree
Old 02-14-2005, 09:51 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Andy,
If you have those pics of the set-up - I'd love to them..
Thanks!
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pix of the setup
Old 02-15-2005, 02:09 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Here's the setup we use for Wicked Temptations. Its the same i would use for any white-seamless look, although we're not as concerned about the floor being perfectly white since we mostly don't shoot the feet, and if we do, their web guy cleans it up for me. (and it will never look completely white in this kind of hehind-the-scenes shot, shot by ambient modeling lights).If I needed it to be prefect, I would probably move everything further away from the back of the seamless so there would be more even spill on the floor, and I would put more emphasis on getting some light lower on the subject too, to balance whatever shadows might come from the background. In other words, if you're going to shoot it full-length and want no shadows, you have to have double-stacked umbrellas or very tall soft boxes (I used to have a pair of home-made 8' tall foam-core towers). To be honest, with PS, we just don't have to be so precise now, I don't even worry about the models making marks on the floor with their shoes.

Here's our setup (lit by the ambient modeling lights, not the flash). All strobes are Norman packs & heads. Sometimes (not here) if I want a little crisper look in the face, I might use a beauty dish or 10" reflector lamphead about 2'-3' right above the camera, adding about 1/2 stop to give it a little contrast. Don't ask about power settings, it it won't matter (my heads, umbrellas, and softboxes are different than yours) and I don't remember. Just know that the background is reading (with an incident flash meter) about 1/2 to 2/3 stop over the main light on the model. I am about 10' from the model, she's about 10' from the background. Note the large foamcore flags keeping the background umbrellas from flaring into the camera.




And here's how it looks in the camera with the strobes firing:



Regards,
Andy Pearlman
Andy Pearlman Studio
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Re: What\'s the secret..someone please tell me...
Old 02-15-2005, 11:14 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Ok, first off. There is no magic formula. Every situation, every studio confine, even every subject with different skin tone and size etc, lens-to-subject distance, etc will necessitate a slightly different approach.

However, some good solid technical understanding will help you to both recognize what's wrong with your current approach and what you can do instead.

To begin with, set the fill light aside for the moment. Never use more heads than are necessary to do the job. More heads means more shadows to fill (yes, even fill heads can create yet more shadows to fill, ironic isn't it?) and more highlights. Quite unnatural, wouldn't you say?

Try for the time being to light your subject with only a key. Choose the appropriate modifier for what effect you're looking for. Generally speaking, a softbox is a poor choice for high-key lighting. It's directional (giving you a drop shadow that looks out of place in a high-key environment) and it's too soft, thus eliminating the slight nuances of texture in your subject when your subject is overexposed. This effect is exaggerated when shooting digital, which I'll assume is your medium, because of digital's inherent tendency to block-up quickly in the highlights. To start with, I'd rather suggest umbrella. If you've got access to fancier stuff, ringflash or a beauty dish can work great in this regard. "Flat" light (meaning an evenly lit subject, very little of a "shadow side") and yet the light has intensity which gives the subject texture. Then the trick at that point is getting your exposure right. A silked barebulb or gridded bulb could also work. If you still need help filling in a shadow side, try white bounceboard. It won't cause a cross-shadow. And that's frankly an accessory that no studio should be without, it's just so useful.

As for the background, well that's pretty straightforward. Just throw enough light on the background to keep it light. That generally means between 1 and 2 stops overexposure. Oh, and another, sometimes forgotten detail. High key need not NECESSARILY be shot on white seamless. White seamless acts as a giant bounce board, and what that means is that if simply from your key light you've got the shoulders at the edge of the tonal scale, once you bounce that background strobe off the white paper you're gonna get blooming highlights. Sometimes a light grey seamless (or a wall or some such other) can serve the same purpose. Remember, a grey seamless becomes white if you expose it enough. Reflective as well as incident metering is definitely useful. Reflective meterings read what the film (or sensor) sees if you know your film/sensor's dynamic range... Oh, one other word on the background light. Be very sure that you flag off any extraneous light, and whenever shooting against a white or very light background, you'll almost definitely want to use a lens shade. Lens flare could very well be partly the culprit in your problem with lack of contrast. DON'T fool yourself into thinking you need a better lens when a simple hood will do. If you try hard enough (and high-key subjects are an extreme case in this matter) you can get even Leitz Summicron or Zeiss Planar to flare.

Save the fill head for when you've got a shadow that just can't be tamed. And I think you'll find it more use with low key subjects anyhow. However, it is always my firm belief that you should always light with as few heads as you can get away with. Only use more heads only when you really need them.

Ok, so I didn't give you a magic formula (put this head this far away set at f/X and this other one here at f/Y...) but hopefully I gave you at least part of the key to the real answer. Please email me if you could use clarification.
 
 
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