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Portrait Lighting Walkthrough

Kyle Portrait

Let’s look at the image above for a minute. Look at the light. Study the complexity of color for a few minutes. What do you notice?

Clearly this image was shot in a studio with strobes, but, would you say it totally looks like it was lit with strobes? Why does it look this way?

Lets break it apart a bit and see how we got here.

We’ll start with a simple truth: White light is a lie. Since when does white light occur in nature? It doesn’t. What we call white isn’t actually all that white, it’s largely just a way for us provide a point of reference to describe other colors of light.

Would you believe me if I told you that the above photo was actually lit with 3 different strobes and they where all different colors of light?

It’s true. Let’s walk through it.

The key light is to camera left. It’s a pretty standard 45 degrees over and 45 degrees up. It’s a Paul Buff X1600 White Lightning strobe in a LumoPro 36 inch Octo-box. Nothing special there. Where it starts to get interesting though is that it is gelled so that the color it emits is red. Specifically, 15 units of Rosco CalColor Red.

Wait. What? Why isn’t everything red then? Well, if that was the only light being used, it would be, however, we’re mixing colors, so lets look at the other two lights.

The primary fill light is another Paul Buff X1600 White Lightning. I’ve put a 180 degree reflector on it and pointed it at the giant white wall behind the camera. I then gelled it with 90 units of CalColor Green, and 60 units of CalColor Blue. This results in a really greenish bluish color if used alone, and because of its position, it basically fills every crack and crevice with this light.

There is a secondary fill light in the form of a LumoPro LP180 speed light pointing at the white wall to the camera’s right and it is gelled with 90 units of CalColor Blue.

Where the magic comes in is how all the lights mix together, because what we’re doing is mixing colors to get a resultant color. Even though all the strobes were metered at different levels, combined with the various gel strengths (this is the reason I use Rosco CalColor gels, they’re calibrated and it’s fairly easy to figure out how much you need for a given light level) in RGB terms, the resulting color is basically 255 red, 170 green, 85 blue. If you plug that into pretty much any RGB color calculator online what you’ll end up with is what looks like about a 1/2 CTO gel.

So why not just do that? Put a 1/2 CTO gel on all the lights. You can, but it wouldn’t look all that interesting.

Why?

This is where the chromatic complexity comes in. Each color is coming from a different angle and hitting the subject at a different angle. Where all three colors are hitting the subject, you get the effect of having a CTO gel, however, in the areas where only two or one of the lights is hitting the subject, the color of the light is dramatically different.

Take a close look at the shadow side of the subject’s face. It is most definitely pushing to blue. It’s subtle, but it’s there. The shadow side is lit so that it’s 3 stops down from the key side, so even though the strength of the gels is pretty high, the effect is actually very subtle.

Now, this is how I think about light and how I light. There are many ways to Rome. You can accomplish something very similar by actually just putting a 1/2 or full CTO on the key light and a full CTB and 1/2 plus green on the fill, and in fact, a lot of very experienced photographers do just that and get more than acceptable results. I prefer the CalColor gels because it allows me to be quite a bit more precise, and that’s just how I roll.

Enjoy!

Product Photography Lighting Walk-through

Kodak TMAX P3200 Product

Kodak has re-released TMAX P3200TMZ film and seeing as I shot the images you’ll probably soon see at various online retailers, I though I’d give a brief walk through of a product shoot lighting setup. It’s not as sexy as shooting people, however, if you do it right, a lot of people see it and steal it.

I keep it extremely simple. It’s really easy to go wrong. The point of most product shoots is to accurately depict the product without anything distracting the viewer from looking at the image of the product.

For this particular shoot, it’s mostly for online catalogs, so the overriding concern is that product be on a white background and not have any weird shadows or reflections happening. Some retailers, like Amazon are pretty specific about what constitutes a valid product shot.

With that in mind, it was shot on Savage Universal super white seamless paper with one light. The light used is a Paul Buff X1600 White Lightning in a LumoPro 36 inch Octo-box placed overhead and slightly behind the subject. The super white paper acts as a light source so you don’t want to get the light too far in front of the subject otherwise the reflected light tends to wash it out a bit.

That’s it! It really is that simple. You can do a similar thing for less cash outlay by using a speedlight in an umbrella placed overhead and replace the seamless white paper for white poster board, but again, the poster board tends to have a more glossy reflective finish, so keep that in mind.

The Humble Egg

A walkthrough of how a still life composition of an egg is lit with studio strobes.

The Egg

It’s been a while since I’ve shot anything in the studio outside of film profiles, so I thought I’d spend a couple of hours today and shoot a proper fine art/still life in black and white.

This was shot digitally, however, I also went ahead and shot a number of images on Ilford HP5+ 120 roll film.

This is obviously lit, so as a learning exercise, lets walk through the lighting set up.

I used two lights. The first and most important was the base fill light. I took full advantage of the super reflective white wall behind the camera and turned it into a giant fill light by pointing a Paul Buff White Lightning X1600 strobe at it with an umbrella reflector that throws light 180 degrees. This was metered to f/2.0.

With that done, I then took another Paul Buff White Lightning X1600 strobe, mounted a 36 inch Octo-box on it from LumoPro and placed it camera left. I positioned and rotated it until I had the light feathering right across the background and then metered it to f/8.0.

For the composition, I kept it simple. A basic white egg cup, an egg, and a seamless white paper backdrop from Savage Universal.

Once that was done, I shot it at f/16.0 on a tripod with an APS-C camera and a 50mm prime lens. The camera/lens system make is pretty irrelevant as you can do this with pretty much any camera that has a flash hot shoe and interchangeable lens.

If you want to do almost the same thing on the cheap, you can substitute the real studio strobes with smaller and significantly less expensive portable speed-lights. Put the main light behind a nice big photo umbrella, though you’ll still need a white wall. For the seamless backdrop, you can substitute a white poster board for a significant cost savings, however, it tends to have a shinier almost glossy finish than the matte finish of a real backdrop paper from Savage, so keep that in mind. You may need to use a flag (black foam board) to feather the light on the backdrop.

Enjoy!

Japan Camera Hunter StreetPan 400 Film Review Published

Just a quick heads up: I’ve published the tech sheet for Japan Camera Hunter StreetPan 400 film in the Film Review/Tech Sheets section.

You can find it here.

If you send your StreetPan film in to Simple Film Lab, please refer to the tech sheet so you’ll know what to expect. It includes sample images along with downloadable DNG files to look at.

Enjoy!

Simple Film Lab Order Form Updated

Our Order Form has been updated.

There have been a couple of refinements and some additions, detailed below:

Payment Options

You can now pay via credit card, or you can pay via PayPal. Just put your PayPal address in the same spot as the credit card number, and send payment when you drop your film in the mail. I’ll correlate the payment with the email address. You can alternatively just wait for me to receive your film and send you a PayPal payment request.

Push/Pull Processing

This option has been refined to reflect a change in time (which affects film speed and contrast) in 60 second increments. If you want finer grained control over that, then you can still specify a custom time in the custom film development section.

Scanning

The default option here has been changed to develop only. If you want scans, you will have to select something. This is to reduce the amount of confusion about what type of scan you’ll be receiving. Please refer to the scan types available to see what you get with each one.

Developers

You can now request that your film be developed with a number of Ilford’s line of developers, namely, DD-X, Ilfosol S, Microphen, and Perceptol. We may add HC/LC29 in the future, but for now, this is a pretty significant increase in choice.

Lab Notes

This section is for us to communicate to you! When we send your film back to you, we also send your order form back to you. What you can expect to see here is the twin check(s) of the film you sent in, and detailed notes of your development session for future reference. This way, as you send more film in, you have a frame of reference and can request changes or tweaks from there.

Enjoy!

Ilford HP5+ Film Profile Updated

I’ve updated the Ilford HP5+ film review and moved it to its own tech page along with all the other films I’ve generated tech pages for.

Just as a reminder, if you want to use Simple Film Lab to get your film processed and scanned, please consult the published tech sheets so that you’ll know what to expect for results.

Next Up: JCH Streetpan 400

Ilford FP4+ Film Review Published

Just a quick note, I’ve completed and published the tech sheet for Ilford FP4+ Film.

If you send your film in to Simple Film Lab, you can now see what you’ll get if you shoot Ilford FP4+ film and send it in to us to process and scan in. Check the review out here. I’ve included a characteristic curve, a slideshow of sample images, and downloadable sample Adobe Digital Negatives of what you could get if your film was handled by us.

Enjoy!

Updated Film Tech Sheets

Just a quick update:

Kodak T-MAX 100, T-MAX 400, and TRI-X tech sheets have been updated to reflect development with replenished Kodak XTOL developer with Rotary agitation at 24 degrees C and scanning at 0.56 Contrast Index.

The tech sheets are located at:

I’ll be uploading new sample images and making sample DNG files available over the next few days. Any film sent in to Simple Film Lab will be developed as described in the tech sheet unless requested otherwise on the development order form.

If there’s any specific films anybody would like to see tech sheets generated for, please let me know and I’ll bump it up in the queue of films to do.

Enjoy!

2018 Changes For Simple Film Lab

2018 is going to be a great year!

We’ve updated or are in the process of updating the pages for Simple Film Lab and the new updated order form should be online and available within the next couple of days.

Here are the highlights:

Standardization

We’ve introduced a new standardized film development regime based on XTOL and standardized our scanning protocol so that film you send in to us can easily be either printed onto photo sensitive paper in a darkroom, or can be scanned in using standard contrast indexes that correlate to black and white paper grades. This makes things much simpler and leads to other things listed below.

All Black and White Negative Films

We can now develop and scan in all commonly available black and white negative films in 135, 120, and 4×5 sheet formats, so send them in and get them processed! This is huge for us and we couldn’t have been able to realistically do it without standardizing our development environment.

Custom Film Development

Yep, we do that too. In addition to XTOL, you can request that your film be developed with D76, HC110, and Rodinal with custom dilutions, development temperatures, development agitation scheme, and development times. You can pretty much go nuts, though be aware that doing so can lead to unpredictable results.

Custom Film Scanning

Want your film scanned in with the equivalent of a grade 3 paper instead of the standard grade 2? No problem. We have a range of available contrast indexes that you can have your film scanned in at. It’s the digital equivalent of printing on said paper in the darkroom except you get a Digital Negative file instead. Combined with custom film development and you can get really creative if you want to.

Other File Formats

Don’t like Digital Negatives? No Problem. You can now request other formats without actually going the custom scan route.

There’s more than this, so check the Lab pages as we’ll be getting those pages updated with whats going on for 2018!