Create darkened background indoors using a single 46" Softligher with 250 sync speed

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by bob_estremera, Oct 7, 2014.

  1. Hope I can get some guidance here.

    I've used my Softlighter with a Canon 60D that has a max sync speed of 1/250th. Lightsource will be a 300WS monolight.
    The project I'm working will be shooting hospital patients in their bed or patients that might be able to sit in a chair or on a sofa.
    I've used the Softlighter many times when it really didn't matter if light fell on the background.
    But what I want to achieve is for my subject to be lit, probably with a feathered light but be able to control and darken the ambient room light exposure to end up with a kind of impressionistic final image with a dark background and a well lit subject.
    I've seen this done with examples when people shoot outdoors when they make an exposure for the background and render it a stop or more underexposed while the flash exposure is made for the subject.
    Any suggestions on how to approach this shoot from a technical perspective?
    If the sync speed is not fast enough, would a ND filter help the effort?
    My problem solving skills are a little undeveloped so any help is appreciated.
  2. my first thought is that hospital rooms are small and white. Something like an umbrella/Softlighter is going to bounce light all over the place pushing lights into all the shadows. Perhaps a different modifier would be better suited (softbox, eggcrate, grid)??
  3. I had thought that the Softlighter is more like a softbox that controls and contains the light better than an umbrella.
    Especially with feathering.
  4. Your Softlighter is the wrong tool for this. It sounds like you are needing to contain where the light goes and for a broad source, this will
    means using a soft box with a grid and perhaps also barn doors. It might also help to have the light on a boom and it will definitely help to
    place the soft-box as close to your subject as possible.

    Don't get get me wrong: I really like the Softlighter, but it is just the wrong tool for what you want to do.
  5. The key to doing what you want is light fall off. Read about the "inverse square law". What this means simply is that the farther away from the light source you move the darker it gets. So to get something well lit while something else is dark, you need there to be a big difference between the distance of the light to the subject and the distance of the light to the background. This may be hard to do in a very small space, so the key is to move the light as close to the subject as possible.
  6. While proximity to the light source helps, the real key to doing this is a narrowish beam angle & very sharp falloff of light that can only be done w/ a grid, snoot, or barndoors/flags/cutters, something that lights the subject and not much more (or at least more in a controllable way)
  7. It seems something like this Photoflex might give me what I'm looking for. They even sell a grid for it.
    This would let me keep the lighsource focused and confined to a narrow band.
  8. Bob, I've photographed folks in hospitals, health care and home care settings many times (few posted online since these are mostly private photos for eventual use in documentary projects). I understand the type of lighting you're wanting - a chiaroscuro effect, with the surroundings much dimmer than the primary subject. Most health care settings are very reflective - lots of white walls, etc. Very difficult to avoid any flash diffusing and illuminating the entire room.
    To confine flash as you've described you may get better results with a snoot or grid. That Photoflex Half Dome may be closer to what you need. Westcott and others have nifty adjustable modifiers that can work as a snoot or grid.
    First, meter for the ambient light, then underexpose a full stop and add the flash. Keep tweaking until you get the balance you want.
    The Photek Softlighter would need to be placed very close to the subject to create the desired effect of soft light on the subject with falloff to a darkened but just barely visible room or surroundings. If you check examples online of photographers using the Softlighter it's often very, very close to the subject - often within arm's length. That might not be practical for a hospital or health care setting. It would have been impractical in the ICU and similar open ward settings where I've needed flash. I just used bounce flash off the ceiling, or dialed flash way back and adjusted the flash zoom position to emphasize light falloff at the periphery.
    Normally I use available light, including window light whenever practical. I'll use supplemental hotshoe type flash next, often off-camera, with the flash dialed way down. And I'll occasionally use reversed flash against my cupped left hand as a reflector - it needs to be very close, but the cupped hand makes it possible to get very soft, warm, directional light on a single face or a couple of people at very close range.
  9. Lex-yes, that's it exactly. I'll experiment with your suggestions. But what do you mean by reversed flash? Never heard that
    one before.
  10. I think he means to turn the flash head around 180 degrees and point it 45 vertical and use your palm as a bounce reflector.
  11. any of the current craze of parabolic modifiers should accomplish the "pool of light" it seems you're looking for... I have used both the Westcott Orb and Apollo for such an effect. The Orb has a grid that would certainly deliver this result. One of the best attributes of the Softliter is it's removable shaft, which facilitates close placement to the subject. I'm pretty sure that's why it is often employed by one of the great portraitists of our times, and it gives good edge... t
  12. Without getting all fancy with grids and snoots all you need to do is place your main light as close as possible to your subject (2 feet or less) and the light fall off will be much faster than if it were further back. If there are white walls they will go dark gray. You may want to shoot at a lower iso and close down to f-11 to further darken the ambient.
  13. Wonderful portrait, Tom. Yes, Annie uses the softlighter but has a strong assistant keeping it in close on a stick. I have seen him in the water holding the stick. Easily portable is a Wescott and speedlight. Has a large lip that should help in feathering the light off the bg. Note how it appears that's what Tom did and produced the subtle chiaroscuro with the bg, dark on the lit side of his face, lighter on the shadow side. He nailed the loop with a self portrait too. With studio gear I would use a 3' octa with egg crate. Just my personal solution. Then get subject as far from bg as possible and if main shooting towards a white wall, use a black panel to prevent it from bouncing everywhere. I carry a piece of black velvet that can be gaffered to the wall for a bg or held just past the subject to absorb light that would otherwise bounce. Held in close enough, it subtracts ambient to increase the contrast ratio. I think Clint said adapt, improvise,overcome.
  14. Thanks everybody,

    Now it's time for me to just experiment with all this great input.
    I know I'm going to nail it.
    Thanks again.
    And Tom, I DO love that portrait. The tone is beautiful.
  15. I think that was an SB900 in the Orb, and white seamless for the background. Thanks for the kind words. Oh,
    100%Lightroom on the processing.

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