Morgan on White Seamless

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Date Taken:  Monday, May 23, 2016 at 3:46 pm
Location:  Oakville, Ontario
Camera:  NIKON D800E
Exposure:  1/125 sec at f 9 ISO 200
Exposure Mode:  Manual
Lens:  AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G
Focal Length:  85 mm
Flash:  5x Studio Strobe
Software:  Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 (Macintosh)

This shot of Morgan was taken as part of a project to composite all of the family grandchildren into one tall canvas print.

All the studio equipment, except for the background paper, was packed into my SUV and taken off to Toronto for the project.  The background paper was bought at the destination.

I normally spend about an hour balancing the lighting for shots done with white background paper.  For the best image quality, it's very important that the background be precisely exposed.  It must be white.  Overexposure (blowing out the white) leads to loss of contrast and a soft milky look.

Of course, you can't underexpose.  While underexposure would leave the image with better contrast, the background would come out gray and muddy.

I start by setting up the key light.  Because this was done on the road, I used umbrellas as the light modifiers for the main lights for this setup.  With the key light set up, the fill light can be tuned.  I like 1 1/2 stops less light from the fill light.

Only once this is done, can you balance the lights for the background.  Those main lights are contributing, but they can't properly do the job.  I used two strip softboxes.  Even though they're a nuisance to assemble, they are vastly superior to umbrellas for this purpose.  They control spill much better, and allow you to shoot in a more confined space.

All the lights, except the hairlight, were fired using Pocket Wizards.

The hair light here was an unmodified Yongnuo speedlight, mounted high on a light stand, and set to fire as a slave.  To bring a studio strobe for this light just seemed unnecessary.  The speedlight had enough output.

Here are the Photoshop layers, in the order I would have created them:

* Image layer:  Minor clean-up with the Healing Brush.
* A Frequency Separation group.  Mostly this was to remove (recolour) some red marks in the skin.
* Curves adjustment layer, set to Screen Blend, to bring out highlghts in the hair; whole image masked, except for the hair.
* Copy of the Background Layer (base image), blurred to soften the rather hard shadow created by the hair light; all image masked except for the shadow.
* Curves Adjustment Layer set to darken the lower legs which were slightly overexposed by the key light; all of the image was masked except for the legs.

Posted June 05, 2016 at 5:34 pm.