This "Portrait" Background and Lighting?

Cory

EOS RP
Oct 20, 2012
553
3
Yardley, PA
youtube.com
If no one minds do you think this is a great choice for a basic background? -

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/62535-REG/Westcott_5641_5x6_Muslin_Collapsible_Background.html

I've been using my Canon 70D with on-camera bounce with exceptional results, but am not opposed to taking my EX430II off-camera maybe with a TTL cord (can't get my head around wireless).
If you like the above background (or something similar, but different) would you terribly mind building an ultra-simple portrait set-up around this so I can see how it's done? Wouldn't be opposed, too, to keeping the flash on-camera, using the Little-Black-Foamie-Thing like I have and maybe adding some lighting of some sort to the background itself or whatever.
I'm an open book and enormously thank you in advance.
 

neuroanatomist

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Jul 21, 2010
24,647
2,167
As a place to start, I highly recommend Syl Arena's Speedliters Handbook.

FWIW, the backdrop is nice though a bit dark for my taste. The size is suitable for a torso shot, small for full body or >1 person.
 

IglooEater

EOS R
Nov 15, 2014
904
0
My ultra simple light setup would be speedlights off camera a little less than 45° to the right or left, a foot or so higher than the subjects eyes. A simple speedlite will give rather hard light (defined shadows), so you may want to look into a diffuser of some kind.
A somewhat less simple setup would be: light 45° to right or left, second light on opposite side, 2 stops less bright, and a 3rd light behind and above the subject as a hair light to isolate them from the backdrop. Especially if they have dark hair in front of your dark backdrop. This is the basic 3 light setup, and it's worth learning. But it's more complicated than what you asked for.

Personally I love that background, looks gorgeous. But I agree with Neuro the background is a little dark and might want a kicker or hair light for folks with dark hair. If it's your only background think about the colour and as to weather it will clash with different colours of clothing. It's your choice.

I immensly appreciated Mark Wallace's class "Understanding Light" at CreativeLive. Highly recommend. Just don't get caught up in all the gear- he's a gear nut.
 

pwp

EOS R6
Oct 25, 2010
2,530
23
Sorry to put a dampener on it but all I can think of when I see these type of mottled backgrounds is my kids school photos and 1990's corporate portraits. I keep a couple of colors in the storeroom for clients who insist, or need to match new portraits with existing collateral but they're really ancient history.

I'd disagree it's too dark. A dark background offers greater flexibility as you can lighten it easily by throwing some light at it. As well as even lighting, there's the option of using a single light to create a dark to light gradient across your background, or a single light concealed by the subject throwing a halo effect. If you're just using front lighting, the background will get darker if the subject-to-background distance is increased, and will lighten if it's brought closer.

But yes, you'll get some solid viewpoints and advice from Syl Arena's Speedliters Handbook.

-pw
 

old-pr-pix

EOS RP
Dec 26, 2011
413
56
+1 for Sly's book. Portrait style is something that you need to decide for yourself. Your 430EXII should be easy to trigger from your 70D's built-in flash. Move the 430 off camera at 45 degrees, add a reflector on the opposite side at 45 degrees. Now you have key light and fill (keep built-in flash minimal to avoid harsh look). For the background consider seamless paper -- less expensive, easy to change colors, newer versions available with printed variations. For some shots I actually like the Gary Fong diffuser (Tupperware looking thingy). On-camera with the Fong modifier on the 430 and using a white foamcore board as reflector can work also.

Have fun playing until you like the look you create. Just be warned, you can spend endless time and money trying different modifiers, adding more flashes, gels, whatever.
 

Cory

EOS RP
Oct 20, 2012
553
3
Yardley, PA
youtube.com
Crap. Should I just get Syl's book, make it my "starting point" bible and methodically grow from there?
I've been doing portraits in natural settings (outdoors, workplace, etc.), but am at a point of upping my game a bit. Just made my business cards and my word-of-mouth referrals are getting more and more frequent.
No one must know that I don't know ****.
Thanks.
 

pwp

EOS R6
Oct 25, 2010
2,530
23
Cory said:
No one must know that I don't know ****.
The definition of an expert is someone who knows just a bit more than the next person on a given subject. I sense you're doing just fine.

If your clients have a great time with you they'll forgive a great deal. If you're getting referrals, you're obviously doing a lot of things right. Referrals are pure gold. Thank the people who referred you. People put their own credibility on the line when they make a referral.

Good luck building your business. Become valued and expensive.

-pw
 

Cory

EOS RP
Oct 20, 2012
553
3
Yardley, PA
youtube.com
pwp said:
Cory said:
No one must know that I don't know ****.
The definition of an expert is someone who knows just a bit more than the next person on a given subject. I sense you're doing just fine.

If your clients have a great time with you they'll forgive a great deal. If you're getting referrals, you're obviously doing a lot of things right. Referrals are pure gold. Thank the people who referred you. People put their own credibility on the line when they make a referral.

Good luck building your business. Become valued and expensive.

-pw
Many thanks. My secret is that I've done a massive amount of volunteer work in the community and study something new every day. It got to a point where it became overwhelming (pretty quickly) and I had to gently become "valuable". My pricing has been "entry to market" pricing and that, too, became overwhelming so I've been adjusting and coming up with creative pricing. I have a lot to learn and have a "Professional Photography" training DVD set from MichaeltheMentor.com which I have to just sit down and view over a few days. With 30 minutes into it it's pretty good and I REALLY like his camera-specific DVD's.
In the mean time my missing link is off-camera portrait photography so I just ordered Syl's book.
Another thing I've done is create a Facebook page for photography in my community which is just pure photography of the area with no business or other agenda. I have almost 1100 members and it's growing. It's attracted most of the area photographers some of whom are PHENOMENAL. And some novices have become pretty exceptional through it. I was careful to not allow anyone else to moderate (which I'm glad about because there's already been a few minor requests for a direction that wouldn't have been good and maintaining full control ensures that it remains pure to photography) and anything not photography-related (you know how it can get on Facebook) gets quietly deleted without any fanfare.
I also have my business photography Facebook page which is pretty good and might just leave it at that along with my new cards which should arrive tomorrow and look really good.
 

unfocused

EOS-1D X Mark III
Jul 20, 2010
5,711
2,702
67
Springfield, IL
www.mgordoncommunications.com
I disagree about mottled backgrounds. If they were good enough for this guy...

https://www.google.com/search?q=irving+penn+worlds+in+a+small+room&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj-8vvy_OrPAhXLeD4KHfQXBd8Q7AkIPg&biw=1595&bih=920#imgrc=90_92lJX40S6hM%3A

I'd love to find a nice one like that. Anyone know where to find one?

But, I'm not wild about the colored ones, which look a bit like the Penny's or Sears studio shots.

Anyway, I have one of those collapsible backdrops that is white on one side and black on the other. It's very handy for a single portrait shot, but eventually I found myself switching to a cloth backdrop and pole, and now I use a seamless paper. Real pain to transport, but worth it for the results.

If you do get a collapsible background be sure and practice folding it back up. That's the most embarrassing thing about them – having to carry it back to your car unfolded and stuff it in the back seat because you can't get the darn thing back in its little sleeve.

I'd recommend either plain white or black or a mottled gray instead of blue. B&H used to carry an off-brand that was significantly cheaper, but works just as well.

I'd start with a single umbrella off camera and use the camera's infrared trigger. Experiment with that at home. An umbrella set up a bit off to the side makes for beautiful and simple portraits. You can use a piece of foam core on the other side to add a bit of fill light.

Once you have a little success with that, and it will be successful, you will wake up one morning with six speedlites, an RT trigger and four or five softlights and umbrellas, along with C stands, seamless paper, etc. etc., and still think you need more. At least with lenses, you usually only need one of each. But with speedlites...well...you always need just one more.
 

pwp

EOS R6
Oct 25, 2010
2,530
23
unfocused said:
I disagree about mottled backgrounds. If they were good enough for this guy...

https://www.google.com/search?q=irving+penn+worlds+in+a+small+room&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj-8vvy_OrPAhXLeD4KHfQXBd8Q7AkIPg&biw=1595&bih=920#imgrc=90_92lJX40S6hM%3A

If you do get a collapsible background be sure and practice folding it back up.
Mottled background? In the safe hands of Irving Penn these shots are timeless and plain fantastic.

Folding up collapsible backgrounds? Oh yes...practice first. I learned from a YouTube video.

-pw
 

scottkinfw

Wildlife photography is my passion
CR Pro
Cory said:
If no one minds do you think this is a great choice for a basic background? -

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/62535-REG/Westcott_5641_5x6_Muslin_Collapsible_Background.html

I've been using my Canon 70D with on-camera bounce with exceptional results, but am not opposed to taking my EX430II off-camera maybe with a TTL cord (can't get my head around wireless).
If you like the above background (or something similar, but different) would you terribly mind building an ultra-simple portrait set-up around this so I can see how it's done? Wouldn't be opposed, too, to keeping the flash on-camera, using the Little-Black-Foamie-Thing like I have and maybe adding some lighting of some sort to the background itself or whatever.
I'm an open book and enormously thank you in advance.
I agree with Neuro.

That said, I do "portraits" in my line of work- medical photography documentation.
In my experience, the blues are excellent for portraits, but more of a powder blue is more pleasing to the eye. You should try different colors to decide for yourself.
The benefits to your background are that it likely folds up and is easy to set up and bring along.
The bad parts are that you can't get more than busts really. What if you want to do full body? Plus, this is expensive.
Follow this link for other ideas, maybe one will work for you: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_12?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=photography+backdrops&sprefix=photography+%2Caps%2C606

I would agree with Neuro's book recommendation- I have read it several times and it is well written and will really help you along.

I don't know what kind of portraiture photography you do, and I'm glad you are getting outstanding results. I'm not by any means a professional photographer, and certainly not a portrait photographer (my disclaimer), but I think that if you explore off camera flash, you will gain a huge amount of creative control that you can't get with on camera flash alone.

This is a very good site to help you get started with off camera flash: http://strobist.blogspot.com/

I encourage/challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and try strobist photography. Start with some stills, like plush animals, pets, fruit, whatever, until you get comfortable. Work your way up to people, then you are off and running.

believe me, once you get comfortable with the setup, you will love it. Shoot in ETTL is a good starting point.

I included a portrait of my Dane with off camera flash.

Good luck.
 

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SteveM

EOS 90D
Jun 29, 2016
138
0
Plenty of set ups shown above. Off camera, seriously consider some modifiers: shoot through umbrella, reflective umbrella (both inexpensive), and most importantly a softbox - lastolite do some good ones. Eventually get some pocket wizards (wireless), they are not complicated, just fasten to camera and flash and they work.
 

neuroanatomist

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Jul 21, 2010
24,647
2,167
SteveM said:
...most importantly a softbox - lastolite do some good ones. Eventually get some pocket wizards (wireless), they are not complicated, just fasten to camera and flash and they work.
Agree on Lastolite, I have several in different sizes, including grids and for the 24x24s the round panel for catchlights.

My experience with PocketWizard was very different – I had the MiniTT1 and a few FlexTT5s, they worked but were finicky, camera/flashes/PWs had to be powered on in a certain order, etc. Canon's RT system 'just works', can be configured on-camera, and once I started using that I ditched the PWs.
 

triggermike

Canon Shooter
Mar 1, 2011
183
1
www.mikefosslerphotography.com
You need to strive for a 3 light ability - this will allow you to do almost anything using all 3 or less.

If you do not want to invest in monolights/kit (which can be found at random times on craigslist for cheap), then you need to get modifiers for your speedlights. The simplest and cheapest route is umbrellas (reflector type and/or shoot thru) and a flash/umbrella holder like these http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=m570.l1313&_nkw=speedlight+umbrella+holder&_sacat=0. Add lighstands and you are set to go anywhere and can get professional results.

Softboxes for speedlights can be bought relatively cheap these days and can be affixed with adapters similar to the umbrella mount linked above. The softboxes give nice even light and you will notice the difference from the umbrellas.

Do some reading and web surfing as mentioned previously and EXPERIMENT until you get comfortable with various set-ups.
 

scottkinfw

Wildlife photography is my passion
CR Pro
neuroanatomist said:
SteveM said:
...most importantly a softbox - lastolite do some good ones. Eventually get some pocket wizards (wireless), they are not complicated, just fasten to camera and flash and they work.
Agree on Lastolite, I have several in different sizes, including grids and for the 24x24s the round panel for catchlights.

My experience with PocketWizard was very different – I had the MiniTT1 and a few FlexTT5s, they worked but were finicky, camera/flashes/PWs had to be powered on in a certain order, etc. Canon's RT system 'just works', can be configured on-camera, and once I started using that I ditched the PWs.
Again I agree. Pocket Wizards experienced interference with my 580EXII. They provided a sleeve to place over the flashes. Still, gave up because they were flaky for me too. The I love the RT's because they work very well (600 EX-RT X 2 with 2 soft boxes https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1045824-REG/lastolite_ll_ls2420jm_joe_mcnally_ezybox_speedlite.html, and ST-E3-RT)- always works. Only complaint is that the menus are a pain, and maybe i'm "stoopid" but every several months I have to re-read the manuals.

Anyway, these little items start to cost a lot so you may need to purchase them piecemeal and that is fine. Another thought for you. I check out my local camera shop and they frequently have used stuff that has scratches etc. on the cheap. Great way to get stands, and other stuff.

sek