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12-01-2017, 08:59 PM   #1
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Full Body Portraits - How Do I Avoid Underexposed Legs?

Hello everyone,

I've got a question that I'm hoping you'll all have an answer to. I've noticed that sometimes when using a one flash setup, the top half of the body is perfectly illuminated while the lower half ends up underexposed. It almost makes it seem as though the "model" has "dirty" legs. Has anyone else experienced this? I know that some dodging can fix this right up, but I'd love to just be able to get it as close to right in camera.

I'm assuming this is caused by having the strobe really close to the subject and therefore, not enough light is hitting the lower half of the body (Inverse Square Law?). How have some of you dealt with this problem? Moving the light source further away won't give me the soft light I'm looking for, so does this mean adding a second light source for the lower half of the body? I imagine this could cause issues with light spilling into the wrong places. I've used a 47" softbox and sometimes get underexposed legs.

I found some images on the net that seem to illustrate the point I'm making: This one's from: Portrait Portfolio | Branding Specialist & Photographer | Purple Moss Photography



This one seems to show the effect a little more. It's from DeviantArt.



Curious to hear what solutions you all have. Thanks again!

12-01-2017, 09:46 PM   #2
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If you use a flash arm (rotating flash bracket), which allows the flash to be positioned vertically when shooting full body portraits, it may help. It rotates between the horizontal and vertical positions to accommodate the vertical or horizontal position of the camera. Also you can use a wide aperture on your flash to facilitate a wider coverage. The distancing further away is also useful if you can manage it. Another flash would be a definite aid in achieving what you mentioned, but if you utilize the methods I iterated, they will help when shooting with a single flash. Below is the internet address of the flash arm I use with my K-3II and K-5IIS.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/743002-REG/Vello_CB_100_Quickdraw_Rotating_Flash_Bracket.html

Last edited by C_Jones; 12-01-2017 at 10:00 PM.
12-02-2017, 05:19 AM - 1 Like   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by reivax Quote
I've noticed that sometimes when using a one flash setup, the top half of the body is perfectly illuminated while the lower half ends up underexposed. It almost makes it seem as though the "model" has "dirty" legs.

Moving the light source further away won't give me the soft light I'm looking for, so does this mean adding a second light source for the lower half of the body? I imagine this could cause issues with light spilling into the wrong places. I've used a 47" soft box and sometimes get underexposed legs. !
Neither of the examples posted are using a single light source. Based on the highlights, shadows, and eye light, there's at least two in both those examples.

If you really want to use a single flash set up, then you just need a larger soft box:
Broncolor Softbox 120 x 180 cm (47.2 x 70.8") B-33.566.00

If that's out of your budget, then you can hang a white sheet and shoot thru it or a white bounce board like a 32x40" foam board and position the flash about 4' off the ground pointing away from the subject to the white board.

Most pro studio set ups are using powerful Norman, Broncolor, etc. monolight strobes and not portable battery powered external camera flash units....for a reason. It doesn't mean you can't improvise, but it does take more patience, time, creativity, and often disappointment.
12-02-2017, 05:21 AM   #4
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You can use a larger modifier or move the light farther from the subject.

12-02-2017, 07:52 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by C_Jones Quote
If you use a flash arm (rotating flash bracket), which allows the flash to be positioned vertically when shooting full body portraits, it may help. It rotates between the horizontal and vertical positions to accommodate the vertical or horizontal position of the camera. Also you can use a wide aperture on your flash to facilitate a wider coverage. The distancing further away is also useful if you can manage it. Another flash would be a definite aid in achieving what you mentioned, but if you utilize the methods I iterated, they will help when shooting with a single flash. Below is the internet address of the flash arm I use with my K-3II and K-5IIS.

Vello QuickDraw Rotating Flash Bracket CB-100 B&H Photo Video
I have one of those that I purchased a while ago, but don't use it a lot. Might be time to look for it and get some use out of it. Are you recommending I use it bare? Or with a softbox?

---------- Post added 12-02-17 at 06:57 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Alex645 Quote
Neither of the examples posted are using a single light source. Based on the highlights, shadows, and eye light, there's at least two in both those examples.

If you really want to use a single flash set up, then you just need a larger soft box:
Broncolor Softbox 120 x 180 cm (47.2 x 70.8") B-33.566.00

If that's out of your budget, then you can hang a white sheet and shoot thru it or a white bounce board like a 32x40" foam board and position the flash about 4' off the ground pointing away from the subject to the white board.

Most pro studio set ups are using powerful Norman, Broncolor, etc. monolight strobes and not portable battery powered external camera flash units....for a reason. It doesn't mean you can't improvise, but it does take more patience, time, creativity, and often disappointment.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find any examples that were with a one light set up. The pictures I posted aren't mine, but I used them because I wasn't comfortable posting my shots that illustrated that (they are portraits of friends and family that tend to be on the shy side). I used a 47" softbox with a Godox AD200 for my shots and I was getting those really dark leg examples. I'll be getting a Flashpoint 600 in the mail soon. If I'm using that, will it give me better results (with the same softbox) as the AD200? I also have a Westcott 60" bounce umbrella (white lining) that I rarely ever use because it is really big and when I had it I only had speedlights.

---------- Post added 12-02-17 at 06:58 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by macman24054 Quote
You can use a larger modifier or move the light farther from the subject.
Wouldn't that mean harsher light?

---------- Post added 12-02-17 at 07:03 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Brooke Meyer Quote
If all you have is one flash, you need to make it a big light source so:
1. Use a shoot thru umbrella aka light bomb
2. Use a big reflective umbrella, like a 60"
3. Bounce it off a white wall. I've done indoor family portraits by bouncing a speed light into each of the two corners of the room behind me. Eliminates the fall off issue too.

Generally, it's a lot easier with 2 flashes on a dual bracket or a monolight. An AB800 is fine, no need for ProPhoto or Broncolor. And generally, its a lot easier with a main or key and a fill.

I don't understand what you mean by "action", your examples are pretty static poses.
1) I have a 40" shoot through umbrella. Would that give me better results than a 47" octagon softbox?
2) I actually have a 60" reflective umbrella but never used it much because I only owned speedlights at the time and never seemed to get enough power. Is an AD 200 powerful enough?
3) I tried that once and the family had these weird mustardy walls. Gave me nightmares trying to color correct the skin tones because of that. The colors were really inconsistent because one wall had that mustardy color and the other was white. Any tips when that happens?

I have an Flashpoint 600 coming in pretty soon. Do you think that is powerful enough?

I also don't know why it says "actioin" in the title. I didn't add that there. I don't know if I can remove that.
12-02-2017, 09:00 AM   #6
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The position of yours one light set-up will determine how your subject will be lit. Softbox is the way to go and largest size you have. I would say that you have to experiment with large stripbox as well or just use another light to fix the shadows on lower extremities. In my opinion a large softbox slightly above shoulders pointing more down will fix the issue and also you can use another reflector that reflects on the bottom part of the body and this should be sufficient. Also if you add a large stripbox as a kicker that should fill also some shadows even from the opposite side. If you have only speedlights now just pair two of them in one modifier until you get you strobe. I am surprised that AD200 was not sufficient but it might happen that you positioned your softbox to far away or wrong. Remember that your softbox has to be very close (just out of the frame) or in frame and you have to clone it out later in PP.
12-02-2017, 09:27 AM   #7
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I use my flash arm/ bracket without a modifier. The on board flash diffuser or other flash diffuser accessories are available, and they will diffuse the light, but they also reduce light output. The accessories usually will fit on the flash head itself. Examples are pieces of molded semi-transparent plastic, and miniature softbox type accessories.

Of course, larger off camera softboxes or umbrellas on stands are going to give you more diffusion, but for on camera what I mentioned will help somewhat.

Last edited by C_Jones; 12-02-2017 at 10:05 AM.
12-02-2017, 10:03 AM   #8
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I'd say a long vertically oriented "stripbox" is something worth trying for this sort of issue. The question is of course whether a single flash head could provide fully even lighting along the whole length of the stripbox ..... No doubt there would be some fall off at the top and bottom, but it is likely to be quite a gradual and smooth thing, easier to even out in processing later if needed.

12-02-2017, 10:48 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by RAART Quote
The position of yours one light set-up will determine how your subject will be lit. Softbox is the way to go and largest size you have. I would say that you have to experiment with large stripbox as well or just use another light to fix the shadows on lower extremities. In my opinion a large softbox slightly above shoulders pointing more down will fix the issue and also you can use another reflector that reflects on the bottom part of the body and this should be sufficient. Also if you add a large stripbox as a kicker that should fill also some shadows even from the opposite side. If you have only speedlights now just pair two of them in one modifier until you get you strobe. I am surprised that AD200 was not sufficient but it might happen that you positioned your softbox to far away or wrong. Remember that your softbox has to be very close (just out of the frame) or in frame and you have to clone it out later in PP.
I think the AD200 was strong enough, but thinking about what you said I'm pretty sure that it may have been the angle of the softbox. I may have had it too high. I'm trying to remember and I think I had the softbox positioned slightly above the subject's head. I'll definitely try to lower it a bit next time.

---------- Post added 12-02-17 at 09:49 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by C_Jones Quote
I use my flash arm/ bracket without a modifier. The on board flash diffuser or other flash diffuser accessories are available, and they will diffuse the light, but they also reduce light output. The accessories usually will fit on the flash head itself. Examples are pieces of molded semi-transparent plastic, and miniature softbox type accessories.

Of course, larger off camera softboxes or umbrellas on stands are going to give you more diffusion, but for on camera what I mentioned will help somewhat.
I'll definitely try that out. I could see that being very useful in some situations. Thanks!

---------- Post added 12-02-17 at 09:50 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by mcgregni Quote
I'd say a long vertically oriented "stripbox" is something worth trying for this sort of issue. The question is of course whether a single flash head could provide fully even lighting along the whole length of the stripbox ..... No doubt there would be some fall off at the top and bottom, but it is likely to be quite a gradual and smooth thing, easier to even out in processing later if needed.
I may have to look into getting one. What size would you recommend?
12-02-2017, 11:11 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Brooke Meyer Quote
1. A 40" shoot thru will give you a larger light than the softbox.
2. The AD200 has enough power for a reflective (black backed ) umbrella.
3. My client had a white ceiling and light grey walls so I used that instead of hauling in umbrellas.
4 . The flashpoint has enough output but its a matter of how its used.

There is no book of recipes for any lighting situation. The key is to understand principles and apply them to suit the goal of the photograph. Light has 4 properties: Intensity, direction, color and quality (hard or soft). Shoot your single flash through a shower curtain liner or sheer curtain and you now have a big soft source vs a small hard source. The larger the light relative to the subject, the softer it is. A shoot thru makes it big and it goes everywhere. Softboxes and to a lesser degree black backed reflective umbrellas contain light to a smaller area. What do you want? When I make a full body portrait, lighting gear selection depends on what I'm trying to achieve. With one light source, I can bounce a flagged flash off a white ceiling or I can boom a large source overhead. Either gives me a large envelope of light. Typically, I use 3 sources for a key, fill and rim.
Thank you, that is incredibly informative. What about a situation where I don't have walls to bounce off of? For example, if I'm shooting outdoors? I have a diffuser sheet (I think it's 5' x 7') that I've thought about stretching out in front of a strobe using some light stands to hold the sheet. Would that help give me the spread I want?
12-02-2017, 11:47 AM   #11
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You're welcome.
12-02-2017, 01:40 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by reivax Quote
1) I have a 40" shoot through umbrella. Would that give me better results than a 47" octagon softbox?
2) I actually have a 60" reflective umbrella but never used it much because I only owned speedlights at the time and never seemed to get enough power. Is an AD 200 powerful enough?

I have an Flashpoint 600 coming in pretty soon. Do you think that is powerful enough?
1) The umbrella vs. softbox is dependent on the flash head, height, and distance to the umbrella on your AD200. Is it the speedlight or bare bulb? Depending on the directionality and any diffusion on the flash unit, the umbrella can both spread the light better or create drop off on the perimeter.

2) Yes, a 60" reflectasol for larger areas is better than the 47". The guide number on your AD200 with the speedlite head is GN171 and the bare bulb 197GB. That's a close equivalent to the top of the line Pentax AF540FGZ II Flash with GN177 and as a solo flash should be enough for single subjects (or married ones, but not groups, or cars, etc.

The Flashpoint 600 has a GN181, which is not significantly more powerful than the AD200. (The most powerful on-camera flash for Pentax is the Metz mecablitz 64 AF-1 with a GN210. The main advantage of the Flashpoint 600 over the AD200 is its speed for strobe work. However, with a 7" flash diffuser it could spread the light better going through your softbox and/or the 60" umbrella.

Flashpoint 7" Flash Diffuser for XPLOR 600 Monolights P.00.04

You also did not mention what camera or more importantly, lens, you're shooting with. Some lenses at certain apertures and focal lengths will vignette and you'll want to avoid that. If you shoot RAW, however, you can selectively increase your levels in the shadows.

Honestly, it's more about technique than gear, and sometimes just having a large enough room or studio or a floor to ceiling window facing away from the equator (for our friends down under) can produce beautiful natural light.
12-02-2017, 08:48 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by reivax Quote
I think the AD200 was strong enough, but thinking about what you said I'm pretty sure that it may have been the angle of the softbox. I may have had it too high. I'm trying to remember and I think I had the softbox positioned slightly above the subject's head. I'll definitely try to lower it a bit next time.

---------- Post added 12-02-17 at 09:49 AM ----------



I'll definitely try that out. I could see that being very useful in some situations. Thanks!

---------- Post added 12-02-17 at 09:50 AM ----------



I may have to look into getting one. What size would you recommend?
The strip light is an excellent suggestion. If you have some cash to toss at the problem, I wonder if LED striplights that go into fluorescent fixtures would work. A lot of them are 5000K, and I have seen them in 4000K as well. The nice thing is they are WYSIWYG. The not nice is it wouldn’t be very portable.

One thing with the soft box is keep it parallel to the subject. Avoid pointing it down.
12-02-2017, 09:39 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
One thing with the soft box is keep it parallel to the subject. Avoid pointing it down.
Slight disagreement on your last point, but this is personal choice or how you see the light and maybe personal preference. I always like when the light that comes from softbox is from last third to the edge, does not matter what side, upper, lower, left or right. To me is more flattering and light that comes from the middle wraps nicely around subject. I think that softbox pointing down or straight should be left to OP to experiment with and not simply just "avoid it". You may get surprised with the results you will get.

QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
I wonder if LED striplights that go into fluorescent fixtures would work. A lot of them are 5000K, and I have seen them in 4000K as well.
Also I think that mostly flashes have output of 5600K and it is not good idea to mix with flashes or strobes unless they are approximately same temperature...
12-03-2017, 06:42 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by reivax Quote
Wouldn't that mean harsher light?
If you move the light farther away it will become harder, but the light fall off causing the lower part of your model to darker would be taken care of. With a larger modifier (softbox, octabox, umbrella or wall) the light will actually become softer. Raising your ISO or opening your aperture would help lighten the lower parts up your models, however this will also brighten the rest of the model still giving you the uneven light on your subject. The ONLY two options(working with the gear you already have) to get the light even over your entire subject in these photos is to use a larger modifier or move the light further away.
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