Studio Portrait Night 4 with Joe Franklin

by Nov 1, 2023

This week we welcomed back Joe Franklin for a further studio based portrait photography session.  Joe has been with us three times before to provide similar evenings, on those occasions using everything from large studio strobe lighting with soft boxes to achieve his lighting effects, to far more budget friendly hardware.  Tonight the portrait lighting was based on the main illumination being from the room LED lighting fixtures, supplemented by two battery powered LED  lights on stands, each incorporating an integral domed diffuser.  These portable lights were used for infill and sculpture lighting effects only.

The battery lights were Rotolight Neo 3 units, and are fitted with adjustments for both light colour and light intensity, as well as an integral diffuser.  Joe explained that these units can also operate in conjunction with a phone app that will, when required, sample an existing colour in the space and set the LEDs to operate at exactly that colour mix.  Each unit can be found in the £320 to £400 price range, depending on the options selected.

Rotolight Neo 3

Joe pointed out that the more basic Neo 2 unit can be found on the second hand market at lower cost.  Additionally, smaller and far more basic LED light panels are available that can make a useful contribution to lighting a scene at far lower cost.

Joe set up the area using a chair and table, and for simplicity had a large black screen as a backdrop.  The room lights provided a colour temperature that reasonably matched the portable lights, but had this not been the case the portable lights could have been tuned to match the ambient to provide uniform colour.  Joe showed us a sample grey card /cloth that can then be used to adjust colours and tones to neutral, by using post-processing software.

Lighting arrangement

The primary infill light was positioned about 45 degrees above the subject eyeline and about 45 degrees to one side of the camera position.  The second light was somewhat lower and on the opposite side, providing gentle infill light on the more shadowed side of the face.

Joe briefly demonstrated some of the effects that can be achieved by moving the battery lights, and adjusting their output levels.  In particular these infill lights were used to bring improved illumination into the eye sockets. He also brought into play various reflectors, using black, white, silver and gold surfaces to show their impact.

All members were then asked to set their cameras to fully manual control, with a suggested set of ISO, shutter speed and aperture readings dialled in as an initial setting.  Joe did explain that different sensors and different lenses may require small adjustments to these initial settings due to variations between manufacturers hardware.

And then it was the turn of each member to rotate between taking pictures or posing for pictures in turn.  All the while Joe was coaching either the sitter or the photographer in the fine art of achieving a successful pose that looks both natural and relaxed for an effective final image. His advice is to move the subjects head and change their expression to achieve a wide range of shots.  Small changes to a pose can have a significant effect on the final image. Movement of the shoulders, the tilt of a head, or dropping the chin can all have an impact.

It was noticeable that not all subjects were equally relaxed in front of the camera, and not all photographers were themselves really confortable when directing the subject.  Joe did stress that it is just as important for photographers to take a turn in front of the camera as it is behind it.  Throughout the evening Joe’s effective micro-directions to the sitter, quickly achieved as effective pose in a really relaxed manner.  Not so when this photographer tried to emulate the process.

We must once again thank Joe for providing us with a useful and entertaining evening, all delivered with his trademark enthusiasm and good humour.  He was able to produce effective lighting setups from some very basic hardware, and to fine tune those effects at will.  A great learning experience which was well received by those members present

Rotolight Neo 3                       

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