Advanced portrait lighting by Jill Greenberg

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by jake_reed, Sep 22, 2009.

  1. [​IMG]
    I love the unnatural detail, lighting, and colors in photos by artists such as Dave Hill and Jill Greenberg ( I have tried mimicking their techniques for a while, and I realize that besides being awesome photographers, they have unlimited amounts of lights, beautiful models, and large format cameras. I am working with a D80 and speedlights :(
    What I want to know, is if anyone can identify the lighting setup in this portrait by Jill Greenberg. Types of lights, positioning, etc. The lighting and detail is awesome, I would love to take portraits like this!! His face becomes so animated with the detail in lighting. How do you get those pure white highlights and not blow-out the photo!?
    Basically can someone walk me through the process required to produce portraits like this one (equipment, lighting, post-production).
  2. You really shouldn't reproduce other photographers' work here. Per this site's terms of use (and good manners), just link TO the image, where the photographer has already chosen to put it or expressly allowed it to be seen.

    Given Greenberg's unrepentent ethical lapses, she may be the one person I wouldn't be inclined to defend in that regard, but in this case, I'm defending as a take-the-high-road venue when it comes to copyright.
  3. Oops live and learn !
  4. I am new to The first photo link is from New York Times, the second is a screen shot from her website. Compared to drawing you a map through her flash site, I don't think a screen shot and a news article is a big deal.
    What's wrong with an amateur photographer wanting to learn someone's technique?! I dont remember Picasso in a lawsuit with Juan Gris when he tried his hand at cubism? AND her technique (lighting & post-production) is very similar to a majority of popular commercial photographers like Dave Hill and Alberto Oviedo.
    If my original wording was confusing, I apologize. I didnt think you were naive enough to think I could rip off Jill Greenberg by getting Ed Helms back in his blue shirt to take a picture of.
    I simply would like to explore a popular technique. Any constructive comments would be appreciated.
  5. Backlight, hairlight, two kickers (opposing sides) and a main at right 45/45 probalby with a beauty dish. Not rocket science.
  6. Thanks! Like I said Im way amateur, just looking for a friendly place to learn a thing or two.
  7. I'm all for learning, Jake. Looking at other people's work is essential, that way. And this is indeed a friendly spot.

    I'm just telling you what the site's administrators tell anybody who posts images from other artists or publications: they don't allow it, because that's what keeps PN off the hook in terms of copyright infringement. Hot linking images from other commercial web sites, or screen-shotting an artist's own site, are specifically and frequently mentioned by the moderators, here, as being something they can't allow. It's quite likely they will remove those images from your post - just so you know, if that happens.
  8. My apologies Matt, I misunderstood. Ill keep that in mind for the next one, thanks
  9. Rather than just telling someone "here's how this photo was done", I have found it more valuable to learn how to sleuth out for myself how it was done.
    You want to look at two things - highlights and shadows. Where shadows are cast will tell you a great deal about where the light was placed that cast that shadow. The sharpness or softness of the edge of a shadow will tell you how hard (small) or soft (big) the light source was.
    Highlights will also tell you where light sources were. High school physics/playing pool tells us "angle of incidence = angle of reflection". Visualize the light rays bouncing backwards out of the camera lens, striking the subject's nose or forehead or neck or right side of his face, and bouncing off at the same angle.
    There's a pretty big nose shadow on his face, and a pretty dark chin shadow. Thus the light was above and to the camera's right. This also gives us highlights off nose, eyesocket, forehead, front of hair. The shadows below nose and chin are fairly sharp - so not a big diffuser on the light - something smaller. Could even be a speedlite, or one with a diffuser on it. Other lights - look at the hair on top of his head, that big hotspot on his neck and the right side of his face (camera left). That's 3 lights there - or perhaps one is just a reflector bouncing one of the other lights. You can do a lot with speedlites and reflectors.
    The background could just be a white wall with a light pointing down at it, or behind the subject's head pointing at it. The wall appears dark/gray because there isn't much light falling on it and it's a fast exposure - but you can see where the one light that is on it makes it white.
    Check out - lots of good learnin' there.
  10. Hey Bob,
    I see now how that lighting set up could work. But when it comes to white balance and achieving that nice white highlight, would each of those lights (excluding backlight) have to be a strobe? Because I have mixed strobes and hot lights and couldnt compromise between them in the white balance. So I am assuming that whatever set up you have, has to be either all hot or all strobe.

    In that case, is it more common for photographers to have a bunch of strobes, or a bunch of hot lights?
  11. Much more common: a bunch of strobes.
  12. Nice one, Robert. Thanks.
  13. Actually you could do both hot lights and strobes, but you'd need to put gels over one or the other to get them to the same color temperature. Hot lights are pretty yellow, so blue (color correcting) gel to get them more like strobes (not sure the exact gel number). Or amber color correcting (again, not sure of the number - I have some of it but I always forget what it is) over the strobes, then adjust white balance to incandescent to compensate for everything being yellow (though if you shoot raw you could always do this when you open the raw file).
    Though for best results you probably want to use all strobes. I'm not sure how much you "lose" when you shoot very yellow then push it to blue, vs having white lights to begin with.
  14. she uses two sikver ubrellas i front /sides to get those snabby highlights and sometimes a ringlight for fill. then she use a hair light and two kickers with grids and a oval light on the blue paperbackground - thats it! - all in all - it gives the retoucher ( amy dresser somtimes ) some highlights and shadows to burn and dodge on to get that plastric kind of look to the skin. I somtimes use same setup with bowens strobes and get exactly that kind of look - u dont need highend equipment to get that look - just light and modifyers. could be done with any kind of camera. But some knowledge of using Photoshop is essential.
  15. some flags is also good !
  16. Not anybody own a ringlight so try using a beautydish instead
  17. a littel diagram ;)
  18. Wow, ya thats awesome. Thanks a lot guys! All were very helpful. Special thanks to Anna for the diagram!
  19. I can see four lighting sources on this photo:
    • a main light - on the up-right not too off from the centre axis
    • a hair light
    • a rim light on the left behind the subject and low than the subject head
    • a rim light on the right behind the subject, also below the subject ear level
    I don't believe there was a light on the left front as Anna mentioned, at least on light contributation.
  20. And, of course, a background spot light.
  21. Well wei - maybe not on this exactly image - but if you view her portfolio this is often her main setup - she wraps her subjects with light . - actually dave Hill often ( or used to- dont know how he does things now) use same kind of setup as someone earlyer statet - not rocket sience.
  22. Anna, great description. Is she shooting through the ring light? The catchlight here seems small enough but appears to high and lacks a characteristic donut hole (filled in photoshop?) Camera is above eye level though. If shot through ring, is it just dialed down enough since it is fill only, that it doesnt throw the characteristic rim shadow? What is the advantage of the ring as fill? Is it that shot through, it is shadowless pure fill that is filling only what the camera sees? I often see recommendation for fill being on axis. I guess that is what a ring is, although a small source and hard. Is that an advantage of the moon unit from Alien bees that is a 30 or 56" shoot through that attaches to their ring light for soft light on axis?
  23. Bob - idont think a ringlight is used on this particular picture - a beautydish maybe i dont know - im not an expert on analyzing and guessing on the light setups. I used to, as everone else, use a lot of time getting info on this kind of images (jillGreenberg/dave hill) and theres alot of video clips floating around on the internet showing these two photographing - no really need to use time on gueesing :) - but as i said -she often uses this kind of setup . its not really that hard to acomplish this look but it demands a " bunch of lights" and photoshop. BTW i use my ringlight of and on camera axis dialed way down - just for fill and not for the rim shadow .
  24. From the catch light on the subject's eyes, the main light source seems to be a silver umbrella as Anna mentioned. It isn't from either ringlight nor BD. If either was used in this case, it must be quite far away from the subject. I can't see any effect of either lighting modifications.
  25. Anna, I try to employ my ring for more than the specific ring "look." I have used it gridded for bg light and as accent/hair light but never as shoot through fill. Will try it. Thanks for the idea. Since I like to shoot outdoors, it sounds like a fill that isnt subject to wind.
  26. I often use 5-6 lights, but on this one i tried with 3. As you can see, the rim is "missing" on camera left side. This is softbox left, beauty dish front and softox back right. And a few hours posr producion.

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