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Thread: Getting "enough light" for LF portraiture

  1. #21
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Fond du Lac, WI, USA

    Re: Getting "enough light" for LF portraiture

    HP5+ for me is a 200-250 speed film. TMY is Xtol is a 500 speed film. Thus, I can use a shutter speed twice as fast with TMY than HP5+, keeping the aperture constant.
    May tomorrow be a better day.

  2. #22

    Re: Getting "enough light" for LF portraiture

    Quote Originally Posted by fishbulb View Post
    This seems fine for a head and shoulders type of portrait, but for a wider-angle, environmental portrait, I would have to light the entire scene. I have plenty of gear for it, but pretty soon I'm setting up four light stands, four umbrellas, and four flashes, messing with radio triggers or PC sync cables going everywhere, etc. Maybe it's worth it to have full control of the light and a nice sharp image. I dunno.
    I'm new to LF as well. Just recently started building out a Sinar F kit so I'm going to be going through this learning process along with you and others it sounds like! That said, I'm currently shooting portraiture with digital on full manual at base ISO (200 for the X-T1). All of that lighting knowledge will cross over since lighting is the same no matter the capture format.

    I have considered continuous lighting but decided to stick with strobe because I knew I would be going to LF at some point. I invested in several Yongnuo strobes with the radio trigger that allows you to adjust the levels right from the trigger. It's a great and cheap system. I finally added the only light modifier I now need for portraiture: the Westcott 7' umbrella. I added the sock that goes on it to make a gigantic softbox. I can light up a huge area with that umbrella and a single Yongnuo speedlight. The light it puts out is really amazing. It's so soft and wrap-around that it's similar in nature to a window light. It's still strobe light, so the farther away you move it the harsher it becomes. But it kills shadows better than any other umbrella I've used.

    Here's some examples of it in use at Prom: It literally takes less than 5 minutes to set up, even with the diffusion sock.

    I've also had great success with an extra-large 10-in-1 modifier. You can bounce off it, of course, but the best capability is the translucent part. You can filter daylight or strobe and make it smooth and diffuse. I'm also thinking about trying the Jerry Ghionis Omega shoot-through Reflector.

    The key to using strobe IMHO is to get it close and diffuse. If you need to, you may want to get a multi-strobe bracket. You can get them in 2, 3, or 4 configurations. That makes them super portable. Of course at that price you could also get the Godox/Cheetah AD-360 (which I've also considered).

  3. #23
    ghostcount's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Condado de la Naranja, CA

    Re: Getting "enough light" for LF portraiture

    Quote Originally Posted by fishbulb View Post
    I am willing to do the necessary things, but I want to explore my options first!

    Here is an interesting one - underexposing Portra 400 three stops and using it as ISO 3200 film. Now this might be worth trying. The images look pretty good actually, better than I would have thought.
    Are we still talking about strobe lighting and shutter speed?

    I must have missed the fork on the road.
    "Sex is like maths, add the bed, subtract the clothes, divide the whoo hoo and hope you don't multiply." - Leather jacket guy

  4. #24

    Re: Getting "enough light" for LF portraiture

    You could also go all out and spend an obscene amount of money for some translucent and black fabric and a couple metal poles:

  5. #25

    Re: Getting "enough light" for LF portraiture

    Quote Originally Posted by fishbulb View Post
    Here is an interesting one - underexposing Portra 400 three stops and using it as ISO 3200 film. Now this might be worth trying. The images look pretty good actually, better than I would have thought.
    I've explored this option in addition to (or as a replacement for) strobe lighting as well. Here's a good blog post on how you don't even need to adjust development time because over/underexposure can be corrected in scanning:

  6. #26
    Large Format Rocks ImSoNegative's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    McCaysville Georgia

    Re: Getting "enough light" for LF portraiture

    Lately I have been using wireless flash. Picked up some receivers and a trigger from cowboy studios for less than 30 bucks. They are cheap but so far they have worked flawlessly
    "WOW! Now thats a big camera. By the way, how many megapixels is that thing?"

  7. #27
    jp's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Re: Getting "enough light" for LF portraiture

    Exposure meters aren't film size specific, but LF is a slowdown with the thin DOF and longer focal lengths and potentially slow shutter speeds.

    If you want lots of photos of ultra fleeting expressions, a DSLR with autofocus might be a better tool.

    If you know what you want and don't need many sheets to get it and want results with wonderful smoothness and tone, LF is a unsurpassed at that.

  8. #28

    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Connecticut, USA

    Re: Getting "enough light" for LF portraiture

    Quote Originally Posted by axs810 View Post
    A strobe or flash will not help give you a faster shutter speed...You make your exposure based on two things when using flash - flash exposure with aperture and ambient exposure with shutter speed. If you use a strobe and change your settings (from post #1) to like f8, 1/125, iso 400 you will just be killing your ambient light in the exposure so while whatever is illuminated by the flash looks good any of the ambient light might be way underexposed.

    I like shooting on overcast days or in open shade. I often overexpose by 1-1.5 stops and underdevelop by 15-20%. Just make sure to remember about bellows extension when doing portraits
    This is sort of true, but since your strobe light is the one making the main exposure that's much brighter and is usually on the part of the subject that might otherwise move, you can simply drag the shutter to increase the ambient light in the surrounding areas without much if any noticeable issue with the subject themselves.

    You can also use strobe light to control the apparent ambient "look" of the scene. This is why pro's who work in studios block out all the light and create their own ambient light, to control the scene and not have to worry about the outside light changing.

  9. #29
    fishbulb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2014

    Re: Getting "enough light" for LF portraiture

    Just as an update, in case this helps anyone.

    After doing some more tests yesterday, I do believe that one powerful speedlight should be more than enough for many/most large format portraiture settings, without needing underexpose the film.

    Here was my test setup; I was able to get a good exposure with this.

    * Setting: Indoors, near dusk, low household ambient light, about 2-3 EV. Flash was lighting the entire scene.
    * Film: Portra 160 NC that I've been shooting as though it's ISO 100 (in order to account for the age, 11 years past expiration)
    * Nikon SB-910 speedlight, on maximum power, widest angle (but no diffuser), pointed into a 60" reflective umbrella, about six feet from the subject (self portrait of me on the couch)
    * Sinar F with Nikon 135mm f/5.6 set at f/16
    * Shutter at 1/30th

    If I had used ISO 400 film, I could have had the shutter at 1/125th, or clamped down the aperture to f/32, or lowered the power of the speedlight, even without underexposing the film.

    I found some pretty good tests of the several Portra films when underexposed, and developed normally, here: The results are a lot like raising the ISO of a digital camera - noise is worse, color is muddier, but the image is still there, even without push processing. This assumes of course, that you've got a good scanner operator who can set up the scan properly.

    I think my first strategy will be a single speedlight and umbrella, assuming I can carry the gear with me.
    Second best, if I don't have lighting with me, or have reached the max power of the light, I'll be underexposing the film 1 to 3 stops and living with the grain.
    If that isn't enough, or I'd rather risk blur over grain, a third option would be asking subjects to just sit still for a long exposure and hoping it works out.

  10. #30

    Join Date
    Jan 2013

    Re: Getting "enough light" for LF portraiture

    You should really look into understanding flash/ambient exposure control...once you understand that you'll be off making work confidently.

    Sounds like your flash overpowered any ambient light in your last test.

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