Tuesday
Jun052012

Fix It in Post

I frequently find myself having to deliver a reasonable photograph while on a shoot-- under the most trying conditions.  At times this requires finding compromising solutions to problems many photographers may never face.  

 

 

Case in point:  The Oscar Luncheon.  

We jam a bunch of lights, cameras, props and rigging into an area with a footprint about the size of a British phone booth.  In the world that I shoot in-- the video comes before stills.  I have to weight anything I do toward the television production-- then accommodate for my still camera last.  

So at the luncheon-- I didn’t have the room to use my Lastolite Tri-Grip.  Let us review:

 

Oh sweet heaven.  The Tri-Grip I use is NOT solid, it’s a shoot -through, like a shoot-through umbrella.   So an SB-900 placed about a foot behind the Tri-Grip loses 1 stop, but changes the characteristic of the small strobe head into that of a large soft box.  

Nice soft directional light producing pleasing shadows which create depth in the photo--

Nothing harsh at all in this lighting, wouldn’t you agree?  In fact, most people who aren’t Strobists would never guess that I’m shooting with a portable speedlight.  I take great pride in this!

Now-- the Tri-Grip has become my crutch-- my best friend and at times, my pillow.  The thought of harming my Tri-Grip brings the same reaction as if you threaten one of my cats-- and here’s why:

I get one crack at getting a photo with these celebrities.  I have about :15 seconds after the interview wraps-- to get the light where I want it and fire a few shots.  If it doesn’t come out well, I’m out of luck.  I WILL NOT get the star back.

What the Tri-Grip / SB-900 / Nikon CLS system gives me is a predictable, nice-looking shot.  Thank you Joe McNally.  That’s pretty much all I need-- a pretty photo I can shoot in a hurry, that works every single time.  

Set CLS, pop up the D700 flash (preset to --, Commander mode, flash on Remote) 1/250ish, f8, bring the 900 and Tri Grip in-- up and to one side, fire, and I’m good to go.  

But at the Oscar luncheon-- I had no room for the Tri-Grip.  After the first wave of panic subsided, I started weighing out options.  First thought-- fine-- go Stofen on the strobe.  Let’s give that a try:

Henry’s reaction says it all.  Look at the shadows!  Look at the wall.  Look at the hand projected on Henry’s face!  The HORROR!  Poor Henry.  Besides the harshness-- what I lose is DEPTH.  I like images I feel I can walk into-- have a stroll around-- approach from an angle-- Like this:

I want to get to know this lady (Kathryn).  But I can’t achieve this look with a bare strobe. 

Option 2: use the hot lights on the set.  I’ve done this in a pinch-- but a couple of HMI 800s are tricky.  They’re not all that bright for photography.  Plus-- I now have to consider lens length and shutter speed.  Using CLS, it’s set and forget-- let the CPU do the math on the exposure.

I’m shooting with a 28-70mm f/2.8 lens.  I’m going to need f8 to make certain both people are in focus-- they don’t always land on the exact same focal plane-- I’ve learned (the hard way) to shoot f8, in order to allow for the likelihood that my people aren’t perfectly next to each other.  

At 70mm-- the shutter speed needs to be at least 1/250 to make certain I don’t get motion blur.  This is CRITICAL.  I lost my first Jennifer Aniston shot I ever took to motion blur.  I bumped the shutter speed down when I brushed the dial with my hand-- and the shot was wrecked.  I still have nightmares over my flubbed Kate Hudson.  Lessons learned in the most painful of ways.

I bump up the ISO to 640 to accommodate-- this will introduce very little grain on the D700 but give me a few extra stops to play with.  Let’s see how Henry is doing:

Better-- but there’s no pop to this image.  The shadows are gone, but like most TV lighting-- Henry is as flat as the background.  

So what I decided is to find a place on the set where I get some dynamic lighting, turn the flat TV setup into something more interesting.  So I am going turn my subjects 90 degrees from the light-- and use the HMI’s to back and side light my subjects.  I’m going to get GREAT hair light-- but at the expense of the key lighting-- in fact-- as you see-- there is no key at all:

I’ve decided that I am going to fix this whole shoot in post.  

Not my favorite way to work-- but adding a key light and extra pop is fairly easy with today’s tools-- and my favorite is Viveza 2.  It uses control points to select a range of the luminance and allow you to brush in changes to your adjustments.  

The image above-- as shot-- looks pretty ghastly.  There is a Kino-Flo at their knees giving me some up lighting-- I just need to add the key:

It’s a bit risky to shoot this way.  People who want to look at your LCD will freak at first.  But I’ve fixed worse shots than this!  Definitely something you want to test out before you commit, but in this case-- when you weigh the options, I think I made the right choice.  I also added a vignette to help  further soften the effect.

I’ve managed to give my subjects depth, without introducing harsh shadows.  I hope you think these shots are dimensional-- it was my intent.

 

 

 

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