Quality of light [a work in progess] - Page 2
- How to use the available light, or to make more of it!
By: Thorsten Overgaard
<-- Continued from page 1
Film set in Copenhagen with three big ARRI lights outside. I would guess each is 6 kW (Sun Arri 60), two of them pointing directly in the window and the third pinting out with a reflector in front to spread the light back into the apartment where they're filming.
Playing around with FilmGEAR
The other day I went to FilmGEAR in Copenhagen to find some light for 70-80 portraits I'll be doing at an event in the coming week (I'll get back on that later). It was their "small warehouse" which was plenty to impress me and make me want to fill a truck. Mr. Uffe there knew where all the small bits were and was kind to help me set up some of the stuff I was interested in. Ha ha, did I have a great time?
I was mainly interested in a setup with soft light for full-size portraits of couples of up to four persons. For that we set up two KinoFlo 4Banks on one side and from that figured how much light that would give. And the calculation was that four ot thise in total (two on each side) would make it possible to shoot at 1/125 at f/2.0 at 100 ISO. Which was what I wanted. They're made for video where less light is required, and several celebs know the secret about those soft lights that which will make you look years younger and won't reveal sweat and stuff in the face. (For video you set up two 4Banks on top of each other and can place the video lens between them so you have the camera placed to film from the center of a 4 x 3 feet wall of light pointing to the interview subject. Uffe told me Paul McCartney required those to be used last time he was in Copenhagen and had to do an interview.
And here is the result from this with only two 4Banks from the right. The real setup I will be using will be two from each side, hence much softer. I'll be using 3200 Kelvin tubes but will have daylight tubes as backup in case i change my mind.
For comparison you can see the sharp "sunlight" from an ARRI "Sun 12" daylight lamp to the right which was even softened with a 45% softener that comes with it in the box.
As you can smell this is very different light from flash, and a lot more pleasant to have around. The Kino Flo 4Banks will look like a cosy livingroom where I will be using them. So it will be very discrete compared to flashes and bigger ARRI lights. And the good thing about them all is that you can use normal power-plugs (some of the bigger ARRI lights require special power plugs).
And compared to renting flashlight from a pro photo center, it's economical. The KinoFlo is about 55$ a piece a day, and the ARRI "Sun 12" is about 75$ a day (plus 3$ an hour when used because it's a daylight lamp).
As you can see in this photo, President Barack Obama was set up with two Kino Flo "Diva-Lite" with a piece of silk in front of them ("Flozier Diffuser"). Thiose are daylight temperature why they look cold compared to the other room light. But as you can see, the final result looks nice. From the recording of "The Colbert Report" where Obama orders Colbert's head shaved.
"The Cocktail Dress Experiment" with Kino Flo lights
Now, the event I was renting these Kino Flos for, was a fashion event. In fact it was Danish designer Signe Bogelund-Jensen's 40th year birthday mad into a party for family, network and friends, as well as a fashion event: She had invited 160 people and offered (or ordered) all female guests a designer-dress of her own. The trick was that the desses were all the same design, and it was up to the individual person to make it personal by assesories (shoes, bags, scarfs, jewrelry, etc) and/or alter the design.
Setting up the Kino Flo 4banks and the backdrop a few hours prior to the guests arrival.
The idea originally was to shoot all guests with the exact same setup on a "red carpet arrival" by the entrance so as to be able to make a slideshow where the background stayed unchanged but the persons and style changed. And then to do atmosphere from the party with another camera.
The party in action. Note how "discrete" the Kino Flo lights are in this party scene where it's almost all candelights. When you step onto the red carpet you see jut how much light is there (f/2.8 at 100 ISO at 1/125 - 1/250). But from the 'outside' it looks rather discrete and it doesn't blink or flash!
Two things went "wrong" as it turned out to be a rather enthusiastic party! One thing was that the tripod with the camera of course was pushed during the action, another that they guests thought it was so fun to be photographed that we shot for four hours with couples, friends, groups, kids and what have you. It was great fun and I think the light turned out to be very succesful. Only in few occassions I would have liked to have the ability to make broader pictures with more even light than this rather narrow setup allowed.
But the main quality of the Kino Flo is that it makes people look instant great and hide age, scars, and all in a soft and pleasant light.
You can read more on this and see the slideshow here: "The Story Behind That Picture."
Elite model Tatiana Pajkovic and dancer David Boyd on the carpet.
The designer Signe Bogelund-Jensen as the center of attention "with all her PA's" (Personal Assistants). The light looks remarkable good though it was just designed to handle max four persons inthe scene at the same time.
Annika Vilstrup and singer-songwriter Louise Dübiel on the carpet. [Leica R8/DMR, 35-70mm @ f/2.8, 200 ISO, 1/125)
I like this one for how the light frames them. 70-80 female guests will be wearing the same dress, designed by Signe Bøgelund Jensen, leaving it to each of them to "be them self" rather than the dress and see how they can distinguish them self with accessories. On this photo it's Louise Dübiel, Signe Bøgelund-Jensen, Annika Vilstrup, Tatiana Pajkovic, Nina Folmer, Anne Mette Trolle, Rikke Borgkvist and (front row) Rigmor Bøgelund-Jensen & Juni Jørck. [Leica Digilux 2, 200 ISO, 1/125, f/2.0]
Wedding photographs with Kino Flo lights
The trick to do wedding photography is really not about technical issues. First of all, I believe a great part of it is the emotional kick of the couple preparing their day. And somehow a wedding photographer is part of what one will book.
But in the real world, apart from that the hair and the dress is set up near to perfect, it's a really bad day to be photographed, the same day as one gets married, has to open loads of gifts, has to organize all sorts of things, and have a party for fifty or two hundred guests in the evening.
So in fact, the main challenge for the wedding photographer is to get the couple to forget all that has happened and all the things they have to do, and instead just rela and be them self. In this case of Anette & Martin the challenge was that they have three kids that was also with us on the shoot. It's actually very romantic that they have known each other for 20 years and have three kids together - and still want to marry - but it puts on the the parenthood as well on this day and during the shooting.
Anyways, that was just a thought and perhaps an advice on this. On this wedding shoot we did a series in a nice park just a walk from the church, using sunshine, overcast, shadows from the trees, and reflectors. It actually went ok as it always does; there's a good handful of great shots (and a lot that doesn't work for one reason or another). But as I had these Kino Flo 4banks beauty lights lying in the car, I had also set up a studio at the place where the party would be later in the day. So we went there and did some shots which was almost impossible because the kids were tired, one didn't want to leave mother, another didn't want to be in the shot. All in all the parents attention was dispersed. But as always - we did get some that worked (and a lot that didn't). It's basically a question of keep trying and keep shooting within a reasonable time limit and as long as it's fun to do.
Annette & Martin in the soft light from four Kino Flo 4Banks.
But here's what I really wanted to show because it gives a hint as to how one could set up this soft light from the Kino Flos in other ways so as to act as 'natural' light from other angels than from each side of the photographer. One could set them up as "windows" or similar.
The irony of this of course is that when the shoot was over and the parents left, the kids came back and played on the piano. And then we had a relaxed atmosphere that didn't really count, but where I of cause continued to photograph.
The piano was there and we did some semi-ok photos with it. But this one is from after we finished and the kids came back and relaxed with a book and the piano. Their decision, so to say... The backdrop is a little too dark to my taste, but it was there as it was an old theater, and the alternative was a white wall.
Look at this light! Another nice photo to have of your kid, no matter the circumstances. The rather dramatic effect is partly because the black backdrop doesn't offer any reflections of light to soften up the image. All light is from two 4banks to her left and two 4banks placed distant to the back left of the camera.
Another one with interesting light - you can see the two Kino Flos in the background. I like this because I alsways love to shoot against the light when in available light, but tradition with studio light is that the photgrapher always has the "sun behind him," and I guess that's why I don't do that much studio photography - it's simply boring and predictable.
Finally, one fromt he park which I like because of the light and the - for families with children - very familiar siuation of chaos, love and haramony! Technically it's a location under the shadows from threes, with a few sunbeams coming through and the sun bursting onto the background.
Continues on page 3 about flood light and
page 4 about wedding photography using gold reflectors -->