Lighting and Post Processing Portraits / headshots

Hi everyone. I am going to begin a series about my experiences using speedlights and off camera flash. I am not an expert, but I would like to share with you what I am learning and some of the resources that I have found helpful. This will be mostly geared to portraits and headshots. Also I am going to include some of my thoughts and experiences with Photoshop and post processing. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

One of the things I like the most about photography is learning about lighting. I got my first speedlight about 3 years ago. At the time I went for the best speedlight Nikon made which was the SB-910. I know now that I could have gone with a much cheaper model and maybe even been able to buy two or three cheaper speedlights for the same price. Granted they would have been manual, but I shoot manual almost all of the time anyway. I soon came to realize the beauty of the speedlight and off-camera flash. At first I used the speedlight on my camera and bounced the flash of the ceiling and walls. Even that made a huge difference in the quality of light in my photos. As time progressed, I realized that my favourite types of photography were portraits and headshots. I started watching tutorials on lighting and portraiture. It is then that I moved my flash of the camera. I started by buying an umbrella and a lightstand. It is a fairly inexpensive way to start experimenting with off camera flash. One of the resources that really helped me get started was David Hobby's site Strobist.blogspot.ca. If you are just getting into flash photography it is a great place to start.

Two Light Setup

One of the keys to learning off camera flash is to experiment and practice, practice, practice. This series is going to show you how I experiment and practice. I have been doing headshots and portraits for about a year now. Above is a two light setup that I played with yesterday. The light above is in a Westcott Rapid Box Octa. The light on the floor is in a Westcott Apollo Softbox. That bag on the end contains weights so that the light stand doesn't fall over. Most of my practice is done taking self-portraits. I will talk about the value of self-portraits in a future presentation. Below is the RAW image I got straight out of camera.

Nikon D610 Nikkor 24-70mm f/5.6 1/200 ISO 200

Now I was pretty happy with the image straight out of camera. There is no rim light for separation from the background but this is an overall dark, moody shot so I was ok with that and I knew how I was going to process this in Photoshop for the look I wanted to get. I have never used this light setup so it was interesting to see the effect. I don't think I would use this setup for a business type portrait or headshot, but it could be something I would use for a sort of cinematic actor's portrait or more fine art portrait shot.

Final Image Processed in Photoshop

Below you can see the screen capture from Photoshop. There has been quite a bit done in post to arrive at the final image but it is the initial lighting setup that let me achieve this look.

Created By
Steve Perry


Steve Perry Photo

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