lighting

Projects // V-Flats and Catchlights

I have two DIY projects I’m looking at starting and I thought if I blog about them it will help me to plan them out!

V-Flats

The first project is to find easily accessible and relatively cost effective materials to make v-flats. V-Flats are an alternative to traditionally framed and mounted backdrops. They are basically two large sheets of polyboard gaffer taped together to make a v-shape. They can be solid black, solid white, one colour on either side or can be painted (for example, using the Dulux texture paint I used for my MacGyver backdrop). They are easily moved, stored and (apparently) cheap. However, cost-effective and easily accessible in the US doesn’t always translate to here in Australia.

I first came across v-flats on a Creative Live tutorial with the amazing portrait photographer Sue Bryce¬† where she talked about being able to walk into a hardware store in the US and pick up polyboard in the home installation section to make her own v-flats. The effect was incredible, but it doesn’t seem to be as easy as that here.

 

An example of one of Sue Bryce's lighting set ups from her blog, using v-flats

An example of one of Sue Bryce’s lighting set ups from her blog, using v-flats

 

I have a few avenues that I can look into, I’m just trying to keep the costs down as much as possible. Even to buy the paint I used on my MacGyver backdrop was expensive, and that was just a small sample pot! So I welcome any and all suggestions!

 

Ring Lights / Square Lights

The second project I’m looking at came about in a roundabout way and sort of requires some explaining. You can get certain “tells” about what lighting set up a photographer uses by looking at the lights reflected in a subject’s eyes in a photo. For example, this photo of my sister you can see that I have used one relatively large key light camera right by the reflection in her eyes. These are called “catchlights” and are actually highly desirable, even when shooting with natural light. Without these, the eyes tend to look lifeless, flat and dull.

 

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One of my favourite kinds of catchlights are formed using “ring lighting”. Basically a ring of light is wrapped around the lens or the camera and causes a focused, even wash of light that has very little drop off behind a subject, but also gives this amazing ring of light in a person’s eyes.

 

Stephen Colbert by Mark Mann

Stephen Colbert by Mark Mann

 

This photo of Stephen Colbert by Mark Mann shows very obvious ring lighting catchlights in his eyes. While really effective in portraiture, ring lighting is often used in macro photography (such as close ups of flowers or small insects) as it gives such a focused, solid output. Ring Lights can be huge, highly expensive pieces of studio equipment, right down to D.I.Y versions using cardboard rings and household lightbulbs (not recommended unless you know a lot about electrical workings or an electrician).

 

Left: Canon Ring Light Macro Attachment, Right: DIY Ring Light

Left: Canon Ring Light Macro Attachment, Right: DIY Ring Light

 

Anyway, when I was in a hotel in Sydney recently for the AHBL con, the bathroom mirror had this amazing frame of solid light that gave off this warm, even light. But better yet, it made these perfect square catchlights in your eyes. It reminded me a lot of this photo of Mark Sheppard, which is one of my favourite photos of him and I wish I knew the photographer.

 

PZTupizy

 

See the very straight v-shaped catchlights (probably caused by two lights placed under him pointing upward). It was like that but perfect, straight angled squares. So now I’m obsessed with finding a similar mirrored framework, and shooting through it to cause these square ring lights. I have no idea where I would even go about finding this, but that is my second D.I.Y. project!

Both of these projects involve studio lighting and I’ve found that even though it is difficult and complex I’m really enjoying trying to teach myself. So hopefully I’ll have something to show you soon with either project!

 

 

The Incredibly Implausible Wishlist Blog

Because it never hurts to dream!

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Unfortunately when I got my camera it was body only, and so I don’t have a “standard” zoom lens at the moment. I’ve been looking at a standard lens for a long time, especially one that is “fast” and will work in low light making it ideal for cosplay portraits at conventions. It was also the most prominent lens I saw used when I was on the red carpet for The World’s End premiere.

There are two specifically that I’ve had my eye on – the Tamron SP AF 24-70mm f2.8 Di VC USD (that’s a mouthful!) and the ultimate; the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 II USM.

 

Tamron 24-70 AF 28-75mm f/2.8 Macro XR Di LD for Canon

Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 Di VC USD Canon mount

 

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8

 

 

There are pros and cons to both. The Canon is the better for build quality and image quality (especially at the edges of the frame where the Tamron can tend to be softer) but the Tamron has an image stabiliser and is about $1500 cheaper here in Australia.

telephoto2

 

I am lucky enough to have a pretty amazing telephoto lens already, that has served me very well at conventions so far. But my “Holy Grail” lens would have to be the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM. It’s an amazing lens, used by professional photographers for all different types of photography.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM

The range in the focal length means it is handy in a variety of situations (for example, 70mm for cosplay portraits all the way to 200mm for panels) and the constant f/2.8 aperture means that it is tack sharp and fast at all focal lengths. This makes it absolutely fantastic to use in the low lighting of convention halls and panel rooms. It also focuses extremely quickly and silently, thanks to Canon’s ultrasonic motor.

It is a big, heavy lens but it is well built and the Canon L series are known for their build quality (and therefore for their expense). So it is a very distant dream but a dream nonetheless!

Digital Photography Review have an excellent in-depth article about this lens here

 

lighting

I haven’t done a lot of work with studio lighting and portraiture, but it is something I would like to get into eventually. I belong to a lot of Facebook groups that talk about lighting and techniques and Elinchrom was one of the brands that was recommended, especially the “instant studio” shown here that comes with Elinchrom flash heads, light stands, softboxes, a trigger and a reflector.

Elinchrom D-Lite RX 4/4 To Go

Elinchrom D-Lite RX 4/4 To Go

 

And finally this, because I think it’s really cute!

 

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Photojojo Lens Pillow!

It’s a Lens Pillow from Photojojo!

 

 

Inspiration | EW Comic Con Portraits

San Diego Comic Con is exciting for many reasons. It’s the biggest pop culture expo in the world, with hundreds of thousands of attendees over the course of four days. Celebrities from movies, television and gaming mix with fans, cosplayers and media.

One of the things I most look forward to is Entertainment Weekly’s Comic Con portraits. Most of the celebrity guests who come through Comic Con stop by EW’s photo studio and pose for photos that always seem to reflect the convention itself – irreverent, laid back, and cool.

Hugh Dancy

Hugh Dancy

Lee Pace

Lee Pace

Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart

Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart

I find them inspiring because they aren’t your typical Hollywood portraits. They seem a lot less structured, and a lot more honest. I find that a lot of the personality of the subjects comes through, and I love that.

Misha Collins and Mark Sheppard

Misha Collins and Mark Sheppard

Norman Reedus

Norman Reedus

James McAvoy and Sir Patrick Stewart

James McAvoy and Sir Patrick Stewart

Matt Smith

Matt Smith

Jenna Louise Coleman

Jenna Louise Coleman

Cast of The Sidekick

Cast of The Sidekick

My favourite of the portraits this year was undoubtedly this shot of Matt Smith and Jenna Louise Coleman. Matt was attending Comic Con for the last time as The Eleventh Doctor. I absolutely loved his portrayal of the Doctor (he was definitely my Doctor) and his chemistry with new companion “Clara Oswin Oswald” (Coleman) was evident in the photo. It kind of felt a little like a goodbye, and it was beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. I am so sad we won’t get to see more of them together.

Matt Smith and Jenna Louise Coleman

Matt Smith and Jenna Louise Coleman

There were so many celebrity portraits this year, which really speaks to just how powerful this idea of pop culture has become in Hollywood. Events like Comic Con aren’t looked down upon – they are treated as a strong gauge of what is popular and what “works”. Blockbuster movies are announced at Comic Con (Man of Steel 2 featuring Batman). Casts of high profile television shows stage panels and drop hints about upcoming seasons. Celebs walk the expo halls (often in disguise) and mingle with fans. It’s become a huge deal.

It’s definitely my goal to attend Comic Con one day and take a million photos. But for now, I’ll have these portraits to keep me inspired.

If you would like to see more of EW’s Comic Con Portraits you can find them here

For more information about San Diego Comic Con itself, you can visit the website here