Emil Agrell Photography

Tag: Photography

Gästinlägg – Andy Hayball

Jag frågade för ungefär en månad sedan min vän Andy Hayball om han skulle vilja göra ett gästinlägg på min blogg, det ville han. Andy har varit lite som min mentor inom fotografering, han har lärt mig nästan all teori jag kan, och nu ska han även lära er lite. Detta inlägg är på Engelska då Andy är Engelsman. Ni kan hitta mer om Andy Hayball här. Resterande text i detta inlägg är skrivet utav Andy.

– I was asked by my good friend Emil to do a portrait session and breakdown my workflow from capture to edit. I’m a sucker for BTS juicy info so I obliged and we booked a date in his studio.

We had access to some Elinchrom lights (100 watt RX1 heads and a 200 watt RX2 head with small softboxes) a white, grey and black backdrop. Simple gear but versatile enough to provide some different looks. I shot the session with my Nikon D750 and Nikkor 85mm F1.8G lens (BTS shots below are Sigma 35mm F1.4 ART lens).

The studio space was small but as the BTS shots below show was suitably equipped with the neccasery photography equipment, reflectors, baffles and and an iMac (we didn’t shoot tethered) blaring out Guns N’ Roses. Number 1 rule for me. Set the mood with some decent music.

The session thought process for me always starts with lens choice. What am I trying to achieve and how much compression do I want? A full band is different from a single person portrait shoot. In this case an 85mm lens was perfect for the size of the backdrop and compression needed to give realistic/accurate to the eye results free from distortion. I want the image captured to reflect real life, I’m not the type to shoot wide-angle on portraits. Some people do incredible work shifting perspectives and use distortion as an artistic choice and aesthetic. Broadly speaking with wide angle lens (24mm or wider) they will pinch the centre of the frame inwards (making smaller) and exaggerate the outer frame elements enabling you to drastically alter the shape of body parts relative to the camera. Objects/limbs closest to the camera will be exaggerated and larger, great for certain looks. I however personally prefer the more realistic none distorted view of an 85mm lens on portraits.

Secondary to lens choice is modifier choice. This session limited me to small Elinchrom entry level softboxes, if I have the choice I prefer slightly bigger (Elinchrom 100cm Deep Octa is fantastic) modifiers however it’s not a deal breaker. It’s far more important where you place the light than the modifier choice. All images were shot with a single 200 watt RX 2 head.

Once the lens choice and modifier is set and working I’ll position the subject into a space I think works then start positioning the lights. Shadow definition is all created in camera so lighting position is absolute key to the look you want to achieve. I wanted shadows and definition on this shoot so I started with the lights close, high and angled. An inch movement can give drastic results. A good starting point with the light is 45 degrees looking down onto the subject. This will give decent pronounced shadows and definition.

The main rules I follow with studio lights are :

1 : Closer the light source quicker the gradient between highlight and shadows (resulting in higher contrast). 

2 :  Further away the light source, flatter the image will be due to the inverse square law. Great for lighting a band when uniformity is needed. Move the light source back and high to give an even spread whilst still promoting shadows and definition (due to angle of light source) to your liking across all subjects.

3 : Bigger the light source, softer the shadows. A small spotlight will give a contrasty deep shadow quality vs a big octabox that will wrap soft light around the subject resulting in soft shadows.

4 : A light source doesn’t need to be pointed directly at the subject to illuminate/function, play with feathering as this can give the best combination of shadows and definition. One light setups can be tricky to get the correct background colour/luminosity your after. A white seamless and black seamless background will both show middle grey if your camera meters exactly in the middle. You will need to spread light onto the white background for it to become white and loose light on a black background for it to show as black. You can play with this and the more light spill that background gets the lighter it will become. Feathering will help you achieve the luminosity/colour relationship between the subject and background your after. Commonly you will see two or three light setups with two out of the three lights on the background. One light setups can be tricker to get the background colour/luminosity your after but will work just fine if lights are correctly placed. 

These rules are my own opinions and they can all be broken, that’s the beauty of Art, everything depends on the shot your trying to achieve. But they are tried and tested starting points. Super contrasty or super soft shadows, it’s all relevant within studio photography.

Images should be coming off the camera with the exact qualities in light you want in the final. It’s difficult (not impossible) to add shadow and highlight definition to the shot in post and something I personally stay away from. Small changes in the studio can save loads of time in post. Below you can see a screen capture of the settings used when shooting and any adjustments made in Lightroom. Click right for an out of camera shot, notice the light qualities will not change, all shadow and definition built up is captured in camera.

Compositionally i’m always taking note of the dominant eye in the frame. A classic compositional trick that will work every single time is dominant eye straight down the middle of the frame. I’ve demonstrated this look below and in the final images (first two). It will always work and is proven to give strong composition to your frame.

My post production is always very minimal. I clone using Adobe Photoshop CC and my RAW converter is Adobe Lightroom CC. Both excellent programs that have always given me the results needed. Everything is edited through Lightroom with basic adjustments including a simple S curve for contrast. Less is more for me when editing. For me personally editing black and white is all about relative values. You want everything to have its own space and not be conflicting with the skin tones. I try and have the skin at a different luminosity to the background to give separation and definition. You can enhance this in Lightroom with the orange luminosity slider (changing skin values only). I used white seamless to further enhance the contrast between subject and background given the models were wearing dark clothing. That separation will always result in a strong aesthetic.

I exclusively use Alien Skin Exposure for grain on black and white images. The portraits below all have grain applied. I feel grain adds a uniformity and gel to studio portraits. I’ll only add grain to black and white images as I prefer a cleaner look for colour work. ASE has in my opinion the best grain structure of anything I’ve tried, it’s very close to film in nature and and excellent product all around (I also use the tilt features often on my wedding work). Backgrounds normally get cleaned up in Photoshop CC, for this I mask the subject and paint a single uniformed colour (picked from the background close to the subject) on the backdrop so the backgrounds are all clean and uniformed. With the grain added it definitely looks natural. The out of camera image has the same luminosity in the background this is just a trick to clean it up from shadows and any distracting patterns caused by crinkles and bends in the seamless. If I require a vignette ill often add that after once the seamless is clean and uniformed, masking out the subject from the vignette.

For online use I export to JPEG from Lightroom CC at 1500PX (retina ready) on the long edge at 76 quality as research has shown this gives maximum image quality with smallest file size (for online streaming reasons you want small files). Images are also sharpened on export through Lightroom (standard for screen sharpening preset) as when downsizing an image you always want to add a little sharpening back in.

Here are the final edits from the shoot. For variation Ive included an image shot in the same session of my friend Henrik Udd (a monster recording engineer). Big thanks to Emil for the modeling and the opportunity to write this blog post for a feature on his site.

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Emil Agrell Photography

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