portrait lighting

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by jeff, Oct 11, 2002.

  1. jeff

    jeff Member

    Sep 20, 2002
    I have been ask to do a portrait of a musician.It's a family request,there goes any profit,and the young man wants subdued lighting.I will probably use candles as the only light source.I'll use a C330 with the 135 lens.Does anyone have any experience using candles as a lighting source or if any special film should be used?Almost all of my photography is outdoors usually in old abandoned gravesites so artsy lighting is not my strong point.....Thanks for any help........Jeff
  2. OP

    jeff Member

    Sep 20, 2002
    Many thanks for your assistance jdf.....My subject wants to be posed in a dark environment with just enough light to show his face and the guitar he is playing.I'm guessing he's seen something similar on an album cover somewhere.Vinyl is still in production isn't it?Candles came to my mind or some strands of Christmas tree lights on the floor or maybe a 40 watt light blub on a drop cord.I'll have to cover the light to dim it if it's too bright.You can probably figure out I'm not very smart at artsy studio techniques......Thanks for the help....jeff...
  3. Lemastre

    Lemastre Member

    Sep 9, 2002
    The placement of your lights will determine the mood of the shot more than the amount of light they produce. That is, you can get what you want with strobes and fairly slow film if you put the strobes in the right places and control the background. And you can include candles in the shot and drag the shutter to show the flame or do a double exposure to capture the flame. The strobe could be placed to suggest that the shot is lighted by the candles.
  4. blansky

    blansky Member

    Nov 6, 2002
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Medium Format

    You need to get a book or something to teach you a little about portrait lighting. Subdued lighting in real life and subdued in photographs are two different things. The low mood lighting you see in real life, whether its candles or just low light are not very appopriate for portraits. Firstly the film needs enough light to capture the subject, and secondly you need to place the light correctly to enhance the subject. If you want the final portrait to be moody that is done partly in printing the picture darker. If the portrait is to be in color you have to match the color temperature of the film with the color temp of the light. Strobes are matched to daylight( normal) film and tungsten film is matched is matched to normal light bulbs.(not fluorescent).

    So my advice: Get a light source, place it at roughly at a 45 degree angle to the subject, higher than the height of his face. Get a piece of white foamcore or cardboard and place it close to the other side of the subject to bounce some light to the shadow side of the face. Then practice.

    As for the candles save them for a romantic night with your significant other.
  5. steve

    steve Member

    Sep 12, 2002
    You can use candles for lighting accents, but it will be difficult to adequately light the subject using only candles. If you'd like to see how hard it is to do it correctly, look at Stanley Kubrick's film "Barry Lyndon." Note how many candles were required to light the sets and close-ups - you'll rapidly lose count as there are hundreds if not thousands.

    Kubrick did not use any supplementary lighting on this film for the interior scenes - only candles. He did use a specially modified film camera so he could use a very fast aerial photography lens, and shot wide open with it.

    I would suggest the following. Use hot lights (tungsten or tungsten halogen) if possible. You can make snoots for the lights using heavy duty broiler foil and just fitting it to the front of the lights. What you are trying to do is get the lights as directional as possible to use for accents.

    Light the overall scene as evenly as possible to an overall low level using bounce light from reflectors. Establish a 2:1 ratio so you have a "shadow side" and a "highlight" side - but again at a low level lighting level like about Zone IV on the highlight side and Zone III on the shadow side.

    Put your candles into the scene and see what they do and now start adding additional lighting using the lights with snoots on them. You can attenuate the light by using "angel hair" (non-oriented fiber glass cloth). You should be able to find the cloth at most home improvement mega-stores along side the Bondo polyester resin.

    The cloth is non-flammable, won't burn-up and you can add it in layers as needed to attenuate the light as it exits the snoot. You will probably need at least one light down low shining up so that it looks like the candle is providing the illumination. Add other lights as required until you get the look you want.

    If you are shooting in color, shoot tungsten balanced film. You will have the problem of color balancing the candles (about 1800K) with the tungsten lights. The tungsten will actually be "cooler" (bluer) at 2500K to 3200K depending upon the type of light. You could gel the lights down to match. Or, you could let the lights just be whatever they are and let the candles be slightly redder.

    If you are shooting black and white, then of course, you won't have the color balance problem.

    The suggestion to shoot day-for-night is interesting, but takes a bit of experimenting to get correct. In color, the standard day-for-night exposure is to simulate a soft, underexposed bluish effect. This is usually done by underexposing 1-1/2 to 2 stops depending upon the film type. The bluish cast is sometimes added during printing of the release print or by filtering slightly. The problem is that the blue will often turn skin sort of a copper/purple so you have to be really careful with filtering. A somewhat different approach can be taken by trying to simulate "warm moonlight" with the addition of a light yellow (CC10) filter on the camera using 3200K lights and matching 3200K film. Or a "straw" filter (color) on the lights and no filter on the camera.

    Black and white is much easier using a Wratten 23A and a Wratten 56 combination (Harrison YL-7). The 23 + 56 is usually used with a filter factor of 6 rather than the 20 required for total filter compensation (5 for the 23A and 4 for the 56: 5 x 4 = 20). This automatically achieves the 1-1/2 stop under exposure.

    However, not all films have the same filter factor with all filters - everything given is the starting point only, you have to experiment to find out exactly how the filters will work.

    That's the short of it....