Saturday, December 4, 2010

High Key

high-key1, originally uploaded by LBSphoto.

I’ve got a paying photography gig next week (and this close to the holidays that is cause for a “boo-ya!”); but it’s one that going to require shooting high-key. I’ve tried this before, to varying levels of success, so it seemed like a good opportunity to work on it. As I told Robin & Abby; “I know the recipe, but I’ve never cooked the meal.” More after the jump…

How, exactly, did it ever get to this point? I got a voice mail on Thursday from my friend Mike who works for an Ad agency. I shot for them once before, and it was nice to get a call back. He told me the details of the shoot; it’s going to be fun and a lot of work. And it’s for, you know, pay; so that doesn’t hurt at all. But the client is going to want a lot of high-key shots. After the call I fired off an email to Abby & Robin pleading for some of their time so I could work out the details before I did it “for reals”. They both eagerly agreed. Which brings me back to my original question – how did I get to where hot women are happy to let me take their pictures? I honestly don’t know.

Zack’s excellent guide to high-key was my map to dry land. There were, of course, going to be some challenges. First off, I’ve got equipment issues… and that can be read “lack of”. Two SB800s, one AB1600. That’s it. I know, I know; should be enough. Just.

Zack recommends using Home Depot Bi-Fold doors to flag the background lights. I’m sure this is a perfect solution; but this gig is going to require going on-location (solo to boot) and I just don’t want to schlep 40 extra pounds. A trip to the Depot yielded these 3’ by 5’ Styrofoam insulation strips. $5.00 for a pack of six. Gaff tape to right angles. Not nearly as tall as I’d like them to be, but they are so light that with the help of clamps they can rest on the background light stands.

Ghetto flag with light stand

Closeup of clamp holding the flag

I’ve mentioned before that my “studio” is my apartment. The ceilings are only 8’ or so, and with a 9” roll of seamless there isn’t much room on either side for the background lights. Mo’ apartment, mo’ problems. It isn’t even close to an ideal set-up, but good enough for testing. SB left and right, set to 1/4th power, zoomed out to 17mm. AB up front, power and modifier to taste.

Looking at my camera display on Highlights was a little disappointing. I *thought* I was getting close but the corners of my frame (which seemed good) were always just a little… not there.

As much as I tried to avoid it, I ended up Photoshoping all my “good” images just to clean them up. But I didn’t have to do much. At the job site I’ll have a much bigger room with higher ceilings, and I’m counting on that to save my butt. I’m a little worried about the SB800s being able to give me edge-to-edge coverage of the background (they have the power, but bare the flashheads are still small). If I have the room, I’ll put shoot-through umbrellas on them and take them up to ½ power or so; we’ll just have to see.

After a whole slew of test shots (not to mention a bunch of muttering by me), we tried a bunch of different shots just for fun. Some worked, other’s didn’t (which is exactly the way it should be). But here are a few that I really liked.



I know the BG isn't right, but I like it anyway.

Abby, BTW, has asthma. So she was a peach for letting me try this.

Photoshop flare? We dont' need no stinking Photoshop flare.

Addendum: it’s been pointed out to me that “high-key” isn’t the correct term for these kind of photos. And by point, I mean poke it the eye. Sadly, it’s a well deserved poking (ew!); because these are not high-key pictures. “High key” means a high ratio between the key and fill/background lights. Not, as I had thought it meant… well, whatever I thought it meant.

Sure, this is the internet, and I could make it like it never happened. But I’m using this blog to (in part) learn. And making mistakes just like this one are – I believe – part of the process. Any dirty looks I get from the interwebs will be a good reminder to be better next time.

End of line.

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