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09-21-2017, 05:57 PM - 1 Like   #1
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3-Light Portraits

A rare occurance for me, setting up 3 lights in a traditional manner ..... Main / Fill / Kicker. Mainly I lack the time at home for this, and my subjects are rarely patient enough! The problem with family members and kids in particular is that you need your subject to be sitting the 'right' way and not to change position much. A different angle or moving forwards a little can mess up the coverage of the lights on the faces.

However, I got a few the other day which show the effects of the 3 individual light sources, and I was pleased with how it came together.

Pentax K7 / D FA 28-105 / Cactus V6 / V6II / RF60 / Rf60X / AF-540FGZ (+V6) .... 1/180th / F8 / ISO 200

The Main light was through a white shoot-through umbrella (on the subjects right) .... the Fill light was into a white reflective umbrella, just behind the camera slightly off centre ..... the kicker was with a Gary Fong 'Powersnoot' to contain the light to the head from behind the subjects left side.

Thanks for taking a look .... all feedback and ideas most welcomed!


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09-21-2017, 10:39 PM   #2
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Number two for sure that is for the walls.

I understand your pain about shooting families. I have two of my own and for a long time I stopped shooting them.
But I think I am going to start as they are a little older now. 7 and 4.5 yrs old.

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09-22-2017, 12:02 AM   #3
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Good job. For my taste the nr.4 is the most beautiful. I like the way you managed the shadows on the face and on the dress and the lightening of the eyes of the cute baby. I suppose the lightening was intended to be "low key" because the background is black but I like you managed the lightning like a "middle key". My preference for portraiture is middle key, low contrast and 3:1 ratio for lightening (depending on subject).
Well done !
09-22-2017, 02:31 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Brooke Meyer Quote
Your rim light is a bit too hot, over powers the key, especially on females and children where its hard and a point source. Also. Its a little too far forward, stops being a rim light. Light placement takes a lot of adjustment and its hard to see if you don't do it often.
I was also going to comment on the rim light being too forward, but I left that out because for shooting your family as he said, they hardly stand at one place long enough to change light positions.

09-22-2017, 03:33 AM   #5
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As I understand the term "kicker", it can be used to accent the subjects face, placed opposite the key light. I agree if it was Nigel's intention to use it as a rim/hair light it is too far forward, but he describes it as a kicker and I think it gives the result he intended.
09-22-2017, 06:00 AM   #6
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Thanks all for your responses, and I'm glad that the third lights effect has generated some debate.... It's good to he able to talk about that kind of thing for a change instead of all the HSS / trigger stacking stuff!

There's truth in what everyone has said .....

These are not studio shots, as I suspect that Brooke"s is ...... They are shot in a small living room, and the third light' could not be moved further behind as it is jammed up against the patio window, which is covered with a black curtain. It's very tight, although with some furniture rearranging I could get a bigger angle possibly.

Also neither the 11 month old baby, 3 year old boy, or 39 year old woman are ever much inclined to follow instructions from this photographer!! So I saw the light' effect changing a bit as each person moved around a little, and back and forward. I ended up quite liking the play of the light' onto the faces, as a contrast to the soft main light, so I instinctively didn't turn it down. I did indeed see that it was not pure "rim" or "hair" light, and that is why I used the term "kicker" ..... So it's not all completely perfectly planned out, but I liked it anyway!

I will definitely try again with a re-positioning and see if I get a traditional hair light effect. Thanks again for all the feedback and interesting points made.

I think its only fair to acknowledge that many of us have very different experiences and opportunities, and those factors play a big part of our results and what is realistic. Very often the amateur / family flash photographer will be working under quite severe restraints (for example my inability to place a "hair" light far enough behind), and the images I think should only fairly be judged in that context.

I think the real negative aspect of these limitations is that it is more difficult to achieve absolute consistency, and to reproduce both a technical approach's and creative results over and over again so that they are embedded. That is the professionals advantage.

Last edited by mcgregni; 09-23-2017 at 01:13 PM.
09-23-2017, 09:16 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by mcgregni Quote
Thanks for the interesting points Brooke, always thought provoking as usual .... although I don't think there's any ego or baloney at play from me. I'm quite realistic about my creative work, and treat each session as a learning experience. Of course as an amateur there are simply never enough opportunities to do much of the more complex stuff like this, and its never always possible to reproduce things exactly every time.


I think its only fair to acknowledge that many of us have very different experiences and opportunities, and those factors play a big part of our results and what is realistic. The scenario you describe Brooke, of a dedicated journey over a long distance, lots of time for planning and set-up, plus working with a (presumably) patient and committed model .... well, that's all worlds away from the realities for many of us, me certainly. Yes, there's work and perseverance needed, but very often the amateur / family flash photographer will be working under quite severe restraints (for example my inability to place a "hair" light far enough behind), and the images I think should only fairly be judged in that context.


I think the real negative aspect of these limitations is that it is more difficult to achieve absolute consistency, and to reproduce both a technical approach's and creative results over and over again so that they are embedded. That is the professionals advantage.
My criticism was solely about my own experiences. My intent was to share what I learned. Appropriately deleted my post. Mea culpa.

Last edited by Brooke Meyer; 09-23-2017 at 09:27 AM.
09-23-2017, 01:21 PM   #8
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I didn't mean you to have to delete it .... I do think you made some good valid points. Of course it is the work you put in that is paramount, plus learning from experiences. I certainly have now vowed to do all I can to re-arrange my living room and try to squeeze my third light further back behind the subjects sitting position so I can try a real 'hair' light effect. Whether the 'kicker' style works well is a matter for each ones taste .... certainly there have not been many opinions voiced on the matter, so perhaps the verdict is that its not worked out very well?


I am surprised though that there is not more interest right here on the flash forum about these very fundamental aspects of portrait photography, and traditional lighting techniques using a radio flash system that is compatible with our Pentax cameras.


Perhaps if I want to generate much interest I should give up flash photography and just build my lens collection and then keep coming on asking what lens to get, what ones to sell etc etc

09-24-2017, 06:07 AM   #9
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I really like 'em, Nige!

Last weekend I took part in a shoot where coloured gels meant you knew exactly what was doing what in the 3 light setup!

K-1, three Godox 600 strobes, D FA 28-105mm kit lens.

09-24-2017, 09:05 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by clackers Quote
I really like 'em, Nige!
Phew! Thanks, I wasn't looking forward to all that lens LBA stuff

Yes, you've got a great way to distinguish between your lights there .... red, green and blue! I see also that, like me, you choose the 28-105 zoom for use with flash .... its my most used lens, and I find I rarely want to shoot my portraits wider than f6.7 anyway.

I have resisted splashing on a 70-200 f2.8 (perhaps the most obvious choice?) purely because I am a bit nervous about accurate focusing and getting enough DOF on faces at the wider apertures available. However, with a multi-light radio HSS set-up under my fingertips now, perhaps I will be unable to resist the pull of the bokeh effects obtainable outdoors at F2.8 ....
09-24-2017, 09:24 AM   #11
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I thought you did extremely well! You used the term "kicker" appropriately in my opinion. I've done a lot of studio portraits over the years, both two and three light. There were times that schools stuck me in a tiny room and I was unable to put the light far enough back, I thought you handled that aspect extremely well. If I had one piece of advise it would be to block some of the light from the boys shirt on your kicker.

On another note, I use the FA 77 for portraits. I see good results from the 28-105, but I don't own one to try it. But I did shoot most portraits around f/5.6
09-25-2017, 06:18 AM   #12
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Thanks Tony, I appreciate the feedback. I have certainly taken on board some ideas ....they were a bit rushed in the set-up, but given the space and equipment available I am pleased with them in general. But at least the models will be around another time for a reshoot.

Perhaps I would have been better off using a softbox for the main light, as the shoot through umbrella has allowed too much spread probably. If I can also get the backdrop further away that will help too. And you're right that the kicker should be limited to the face, I can see that it is distracting onthe shirt.

I find F5.6 a little soft with the D FA 28-105, so usually end up at F8 or F11 for indoors portraits. My HSS shots last month outdoors with blurry background were shot at max zoom and F6.7, which gave great separation and bokeh. This is why I have so far avoided the expense of an F2.8 70-200 ....but I'm sure the bug will bite eventually!
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