Friday, February 13, 2009

Let's Knock Them Out

I received a call last week from Bank of the West in San Francisco, CA. The director of communication needed a portrait of one of his bankers with a client for their annual report. The photograph was to be taken at the clients location in Westminster, Colorado.

I was provide a sample photo that was taken by another photographer in another city to match the lighting on the subjects. The background in the sample photo was not a true white, rather a dull gray... poor execution in my mind.

We arrived at our location and found the conference room filled with a large table and about 20 chairs. We spent about 5 minutes pulling chair out and placing them in the hall way and pushing the large table to one side.

We put up a 9 foot white seamless for the background which fit right up to the conference table. I used the surface of the conference table to position one of my background lights. We used a total of 3 SB-800's fired via CLS from the commander unit built in on my Nikon D700. I used two SB's for the background illumination. Both strobes where mounted on Justin Clamps, one strobe placed on the conference table and the other on the window ledge.

Both of the background strobes where set to 1/4 power group B. You can see my foam gobo's placed on the head of both strobes, these are used to prevent light spilling on my subjects. The key light was also an SB-800 on a Justin Clamp and place on the back of a large Octa box. This strobe was set to 1/2 power and was placed in Group A.

I was able to use two groups on the CLS system for this lighting set up. The two strobes lighting the background are a "matched" set. Both strobes required the same amount of power out of each strobe and therefore could be place in the same group. With the CLS system, all strobes placed within the same group, in this case group B, each of those strobes receive the same power that the command unit is set for in that group.

On both my D300 and D700 cameras, the built in command unit will only control two groups, A & B. If I needed a third group C to light the shot, I would have to use an SU-800 command unit or another SB-800 as the commander.

In order to get a clean white for easy knock outs, your background needs to be about a stop and a half brighter than the key light on the subject.

You can see here with the background lights turned off we had sunlight driving through the blinds and projecting the window on the seamless. I was able to even out the light with the power settings on the background lights. Here is what the final image looks like.

This is the layout I had to work with for the above photo. The subjects above will be removed from the background and inserted into the circled location on the layout design below.


Jonathan P. Freeman said...

You are da' man! It's post like this that make me think "this is how I want to make my living!" Thanks for sharing.

Joe Schmidt said...

David, Althogh I have been a full time photographer since 1962 I have learned quite a few things from your blog in the last few months. I do have one question about your latest assignment. Where did the guy on the right get that tie?

Joe S

Steve Mendenhall said...

Very nice, thanks again for sharing the setup...Can I ask what make the octabox is that you are using?

Debbi_in_California said...

Are the foam gobos a DIY?

Great post!

David Tejada said...

The foam gobo's are a DIY project, I give them out to all the participants of the Small Strobes, Big Results workshops.

The Octa is from

Debbi_in_California, send me an email about speaking to your class. DT

Chad Banning said...

Hello David,

Did the customer not care which direction the main light was coming from? I noticed that its coming from cam right in the sample provided and you shot with it to cam left.


David Tejada said...

Hi Chad: The photo sample was something like istock, the actual sample provide was a sample jpg from the designer. Good eye. DT

John said...

Hi David,

I'm a long-time lurker, first time commenter. I love high key portraits but they have always seemed to give me problems. Your setup seems to simple to me, but it generated a few questions.

1.) If I understand correctly, you said that to get a clean white background, it needs to be lit 1 to 1-1/2 stops brighter than your key, but wasn't your background lights at 1/4 power and your key at 1/2 power which would mean your key light was one stop brighter?

2.) Also, I've been told than one SB-800 doesn't put out enough power to use with an Octabox, but you don't seem to have any problems. Are you using a special type of Octabox?

As always, thanks for informative posts!!

David Tejada said...

John: Thanks for your comment and reading my blog. The power on the background strobes where 1/4 power due to the fact they where closer to the background and did not have to go through a Octa box.

The SB has plenty of power to travel through a softbox, I always tell students "try it" for yourself. DT

John said...

Very good to know! Thanks for the quick reply David!!!

Jon - Jon C. Haverstick | PHOTOGRAPHY said...

Nice work, as always, David.

Is this the same Amvona Octa Box that you refer to in previous posts? If so, it looks like the light shoots straight through the Amvona "box" instead of bouncing off the interior and then out the front like the (way more expensive) Elinchrome Octabank.

I presume the straight-through path would be more efficient in terms of light loss, but do you find that it makes any difference in the quality of the light? (I'm looking for a similar setup for use with the SB-800s).