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An evening of portraits…

Well, not really…

We met this young woman four years ago when she was a freshman. It has been really neat watching her blossom. She heads off to college in the fall. It does not seem like that much time has passed…

We’ve been shooting her senior portraits piecemeal for a while now. Last night was probably the final installment. Stopping by last night with her mother, she pretty much just sat in the chair talking with our children while Jacci took the photos. Here are two of them:

I neglected to take any BTS/setup shots, but there were three lights: A 2 foot square soft box was about 3 feet in front of her on camera right. It had a homemade one-directional grid on it, consisting of 2 inch wide foam core strips running vertically, spaced about 2 inches apart, intended to reduce the spill horizontally but not vertically. The second was a reflector consisting of a 20×30 inch sheet of white foam core on camera left, just outside of the frame. The third light was a flash gridded with about an inch of Coroplast and set on a diagonal from the background about 4-5 feet away to create a splash of light on the background.

Jacci only took something like 24 shots, which included some I took while setting up the lights. I watched her while she was sorting through them afterwards when she kept going back and forth between them. I thought she did not like them so I asked her about it. No, instead she liked most of them and was having trouble picking a couple to post on Facebook. After posting, she further commented that she did very little post processing of them, fixing some facial blemishes and some skin softening. She did very little like with the last living room portrait shoot we did using the homemade unidirectional grid.

I thought I had made a blog posting about it, but it was apparently on our Facebook page instead. I’m reposting it here for comparison:

In this one, there were only two lights: the uni-gridded on camera left and a bare flash on the lower shelf of that table pointed up at the background.

The other difference in these two sets of photos were that I was using battery flashes instead of the fixed power 45 Watt-second slave bulbs we’ve typically used. I think less power in the soft box makes the contribution of light bouncing off the walls much less significant. The slave strobes require shooting at F10-F13 versus F5 with the battery flashes.


Posted by by david

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Senior Portraits: Dominic

It’s been a while since either of us has blogged. There has been much going on, but not many projects completed enough to document.  (I have some LED lighting and portable battery power projects going on…)

Here are some of recent senior portraits we’ve taken of our son, Dominic.

The cap and gown and desk shots were taken in our living room using a home-made, one directional grid on the front of one of our 2’x2′ softboxes. It’s hard to tell from the photos, but a new dark Westcott backdrop we bought is hanging behind.

The train tracks were in Austin on Oltorf, between Rock and Roll Rental and Music Lab. The night street shots were taken looking south on Congress at the curb right in front of the Capitol.  Jacci wanted to make it look like he was standing in the road.

Posted by by david

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Ecumenical portrait…

On Thanksgiving eve, there was an ecumenical prayer service at Santa Cruz in Buda, TX. Last year we took a group photo of the various local ministers, so we were asked to come again and do the same.

I didn’t recall exactly how we had it set up last year, but this year, I used two umbrellas above and on both sides of the camera. Right behind was a bare flash aimed away to a strip of wall to provide some additional diffuse light (or that was the hope). Here is the setup photo:

The result was:

I mentioned that I didn’t recall how I set up last year because I got a nasty, bright specular reflection off the window around the shadow of the woman 3rd from the right. I ended up having to paint in some dark blue from another pane (at about 11 o’clock from the bright area) to make the bright spot go away. You can still see some of that reflection on the lead between the panes.  At full size on the screen and printed on 8×10, it looks ok.

I was asked by a local reporter if I would provide a copy of the image to her.  I didn’t see it in the online edition of the Hays Free Press, but she sent me a link to her blog posting.

Posted by by david

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Quick Class Portraits

Religious education stated at our church earlier this evening. As part of Jacci’s plan for the year, she is going to take photos of the students at the beginning, middle and end of the year to document their growth through the year. She asked me to set it up in a corner of the room and to take the photos during the class. Which leads to the obligatory setup shot:

In the photo, each flash sits atop a Ravelli ALS photo stand ($21/each). I recall that I bought the background stand off eBay for about $20. It came in a zipper bag and it’s not very heavy duty, but it works. I’d grabbed 3 sections for the top but ended up grabbing three ends rather than two ends and a middle. It was fortunate that two ends were just wide enough to fit the background. The background is a 5×9′ black glam cloth from Backdrop Outlet, which was $50 on sale (with a rather steep $15 shipping charge, though).

The flash pointed at the backdrop is a Nikon SB-600 (these are ridiculously overpriced at the moment, but I paid ~$200 two years ago). It was covered with a red gel cap ($10), held in place and gobo’ed with black paper tape. A Nikon SB-900 (picked up locally off CL for $340) sits behind the 43″ umbrella (eBay?, ~ $10). Both flashes are mounted with umbrella adapters (~$8 each). The flashes were fired wirelessly using Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS).

Everything in the setup above except the flashes were easily packed into a speaker bag ($15), which made transport very convenient.

What are the take aways from the above? Shopping around can save money. The portable portrait setup was assembled for around $160, excluding the flashes. Money could have been save by using older manual flashes and wired or optical slave triggers. While not nearly as convenient as Nikon’s CLS, once the exposure is set, there’s no real difference when taking a series of portraits.  [In fact, I’ve picked up 3 older manual battery flashes: SB-24 for $65, SB-26 for $100, and a Sunpak 611 for $40.]

Enough of the equipment end…

To shoot the actual portraits, each student stood a little forward of the rear light stand with their toes on black tape I put on the floor. [Note that in the photo above, the red gel can be seen – that’s because I started taking things down when I remembered that I should take a documenting setup shot.]

Here is a composite shot of the results, all assembled into one photo:

Posted by by david

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On Making Model Portfolios

This is the beginning of one of our adventures in photography. We are preparing to start offering model portfolios as a service. But before we can offer such a detailed service, we need to have a complete example of the final product associated with the service. So our daughter, Celine, agreed to let us create a model portfolio for her. What a sport, huh? This afternoon, we did a “western-wear” shoot for a portion of the portfolio. We strung some of the shots from today through this blog entry.
So, what made us settle on a “western-wear” shoot? Well, professional models are not usually just pretty faces looking for portraits that make them look even prettier. They sell stuff, or at least their employers use their faces and bodies to sell stuff. So an effective model portfolio has to contain material that shows prospective employers that the model can sell their particular products or services. Since Celine is a child (usually children do not travel for modeling jobs), who lives in Texas, we are going to show that she can sell western-wear, a huge market in Texas. There are several avenues we could have chosen for western-wear. Leather, denim, horses and cattle are all great choices. We chose to go with headgear and footwear contrasting with formal wear. It was fun.

But a model portfolio is more than a theme book. This theme will only appear in a portion of the portfolio. There will also be examples of her “selling” products or services with a completely different attitude or tone. The reason for this is the need to show flexibility. We don’t want our model getting locked into one market because of the portfolio we created for her. For Celine, we are going to include some pin-up photography. This will show perspective employers that our model can do western and vintage, two completely different types of markets. It will increase her job opportunities. Our goal is not to just make her look pretty, but to get her modeling jobs.

Of course, there will be quite a bit more to the portfolio than our model’s image plastered all over the place. There are some very specific things a perspective employer wants to know. We are going to include a bio that introduces our model and tells her perspective employer who she is, where she lives, what her cultural background is and most especially, what her goals are. We are also going to include a “measurements” page early in the portfolio. This page will include a series of pictures and actual measurements. This is where we put our model to the test. Most young ladies who dream of modeling, can not imagine posing for the pictures that go on this page. These are “mechanical” shots of our model in a bikini. There is one full body front shot with arms down to the side and one full body back shot with arms folded over her chest. The head shots are straight on, one with hair down, not smiling, one hair down, smiling and one hair up (smiling or not). There is no make up on the model for these shots. Her measurements are posted alongside or under the pictures, and everything is measured, even wrist and ankle circumstance. Prospective employers need to know up front if their product will even fit on our model.

Our final product is both digital and hard copy. Our models will be able to purchase just the digital portfolio if they wish. It will be literally a digital version of the hard copy (book). Of course, a model portfolio needs to be pretty current. We are looking for repeat business, annually. If she our work gets her jobs this year, we know she will be back next year for new measurements and images.

* In this entry, we refer to our model as she since we are using our daughter for our sample portfolio. But the service is certainly available for men as well as for women. A variation of this service is also going to be available for senior portraits. Senior portrait books be almost identical less the measurements page.

Posted by by jacci

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