Later this month, the Elite Theatre Company of Oxnard, California, opens a play called American Right. Today (Saturday the 10th of April, 2010), I went over there to shoot some lobby headshots. I also tried to get some publicity images during rehearsal, which will be the subject of another post.
Portraits got a lot easier after I started reading Strobist.com on a regular basis. Today I used an SB800 and a shoot-through umbrella as my main light, above and left of the subjects. I placed an SB600 with a Gary Fong Lightsphere behind the actors, to light the background and throw a little bit of rim-light.
In past sessions, I used through-the-lens (TTL) metering with flash value lock, but today I decided to go manual, and I now understand why David Hobby over at Strobist recommends this. Using the camera preview screen, it was easy to adjust the lights to levels that worked for me (1/10 on both of them, as it turned out). Once set, the light stayed consistent for each model, until I faced the blonde woman in the white blouse followed by the brunette in the black top. Adjustments were quick and easy because the Nikon D300 controls the external flashes from its own menu.
I still face two big problems with actor headshots. I cannot always get the eyes sharp, and I haven’t figured out why. I suspect that I have a bad habit of leaning slightly as I squeeze the shutter release. On the other hand, it might be an autofocus limitation, because it seems that I get sharper results with light colored eyes than with darker eyes.
The second problem: I usually don’t retouch the photos. One of the images posted here HAS been retouched, but I thought to do so after I ordered the prints, so once again, a local actress is going to hate me. The thing is, I don’t want to retouch photos. I think of myself as an amateur journalist, not a portrait artist or a glamour photographer, and once I start retouching, I frankly cannot figure out how to stop. Yet I also have not yet figured out how to light everyone in a flattering way.
It’s a conundrum, to be sure. What are your thoughts on retouching portraits?