Studio Session -Technical Aspects

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By Steve Russell

Two weeks ago I posted an article on my first studio session. One post to the article and a few emails and comments from friends asked for more of the technical side of the session and I decided it was a fair request. However, before I go on, let me stress that this article is not intended to be a treatise on how to set up a studio or a primer on studio lighting. It is merely a sharing of what I did during the session and, in some cases, why I did it that way. I may very well do it differently the next time.

The studio I used belongs to a friend who does quite well as a professional photographer. Additionally, because his studio is at his house there are some space limitations. The diagram provides the general location and relationship of everything but is not intended to be drawn to scale.

Studio Diagram

The key light was a 3’ by 4’ soft box, the fill light was a 4’ by 6’ soft box and the hair light was a 1’ by 2’ soft box – all rectangular in shape.

Besides the studio, lighting, backdrops, etc., I used my own equipment.

Canon EOS 7D 18 MP CMOS Digital Camera
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
Manfrotto Model 055MF4 tripod
Manfrotto Model 498RC2 ball head

I also borrowed an item from my friend that after using it moved me to utter a Will Smith line from ID4 – “I gotta get me one of these.” The item was a:

PocketWizard PW-MMAX 802-450 MultiMAX Transceiver

Granted, it was already in his studio and set up and all I had to do was remove it from his camera and put it on mine, but what an awesome way to slave all the lights.

Once we decided on the backdrop we were going to use and had that set up, I discussed with the client what we were going to do, where to sit and how, posture, etc. Next we begin adjusting the lights.

I set the camera to manual mode, ISO 100, shutter speed at 1/125, aperture at f/8 and turned off the IS (VR on a Nikon) on the lens.

Holding my handheld light meter near the subjects face, we fired the fill light and adjusted the intensity of the light until the meter was returning a reading of f/4.5 at 1/125 of a second using ISO 100. If you’re interested in my thoughts on the use of a hand held light meter, my first article posted on BeyondMegapixels was as a guest poster and was about the advantages of hand held light meters.

Next, we measured the key light (firing the fill light at the same time) and adjusted the light until it returned a reading of f/8. Here I wanted the key light to be one stop brighter than the fill light. Knowing that there would be some spill over from the key light and the hair light, by setting the fill light at f/4.5 in the first step, the spill over would raise the light intensity on that side of the subject to f/5.6.

We then set the hair light to return f/8. As an aside, I would probably place the hair light centered behind the back drop as shown on the diagram. However, because of ceiling height constraints in the studio, it was actually placed just to the right of the backdrop and, of course, angled down to light the subject’s hair and to ensure there was no light spill into the camera lens.

Once the lights had been set individually, I used the light meter to take numerous readings while firing all the lights at once. We made a few minor adjustments to the lights to eliminate any hot spots, either on the subject of the backdrop and then began shooting.

Each time the client changed clothes or she moved from standing to sitting or from “broad lighting” to “narrow lighting” we checked the lighting again. Also, when we changed from the darker back drop to the white back drop we measured and adjusted the lighting.

Since it was my first studio session, I learned a lot. I thought it was a great experience and hope to someday have my own studio. All I need is that extra room to put it in.

When I returned home I downloaded the images onto the computer and deleted all the obvious rejects – eyes closed, etc. I then provided the client with a flash drive that contained all the remaining photos straight out of the camera. After selecting six images that she wanted, we discussed how much, if any, Photoshop work she wanted on them. The result of the session and her selections are the images I used in the first article about the experience. Most importantly, she’s very happy with the results.

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  • http://www.smudgedphoto.co.uk Chris Turner

    Thanks Steve, I am clearly completely and utterly blind.nnThanks for sharing the info and photos, really useful stuff!

  • http://www.smudgedphoto.co.uk Chris Turner

    Thanks Steve, I am clearly completely and utterly blind.nnThanks for sharing the info and photos, really useful stuff!

  • http://www.smudgedphoto.co.uk Chris Turner

    Thanks Steve, I am clearly completely and utterly blind.nnThanks for sharing the info and photos, really useful stuff!

  • http://www.smudgedphoto.co.uk Chris Turner

    Thanks Steve, I am clearly completely and utterly blind.nnThanks for sharing the info and photos, really useful stuff!

  • http://www.smudgedphoto.co.uk Chris Turner

    Thanks Steve, I am clearly completely and utterly blind.nnThanks for sharing the info and photos, really useful stuff!

  • http://www.smudgedphoto.co.uk Chris Turner

    Thanks Steve, I am clearly completely and utterly blind.nnThanks for sharing the info and photos, really useful stuff!

  • http://www.smudgedphoto.co.uk Chris Turner

    Thanks Steve, I am clearly completely and utterly blind.nnThanks for sharing the info and photos, really useful stuff!

  • http://www.smudgedphoto.co.uk Chris Turner

    Thanks Steve, I am clearly completely and utterly blind.nnThanks for sharing the info and photos, really useful stuff!

  • http://www.smudgedphoto.co.uk Chris Turner

    Thanks Steve, I am clearly completely and utterly blind.nnThanks for sharing the info and photos, really useful stuff!

  • http://www.smudgedphoto.co.uk Chris Turner

    Thanks Steve, I am clearly completely and utterly blind.nnThanks for sharing the info and photos, really useful stuff!

  • http://www.smudgedphoto.co.uk Chris Turner

    Thanks Steve, I am clearly completely and utterly blind.nnThanks for sharing the info and photos, really useful stuff!