Studio Practice – Task 2: Portrait Pt 2

During our session on the 19th January, Zig took the class through a recap of using the camera within a studio setting. I realised that it was almost a year since I last took a photo within the studio environment so it was very helpful to get this timely reminder.

First, Zig discussed & demonstrated various lighting set ups that would be useful for this particular project. These included the two following set ups, the Rembrandt & the Split.

The first was the Rembrandt, which is named after the master painter. This is a very popular lighting set up as it produces portrait images which are both natural & compelling with minimum equipment. While researching this set up, the main characteristic of Rembrandt lighting appears to be an illuminated triangle under the eye of the subject on the less illuminated side of the face. The other tip which I’ve come across is to ensure the eye on the shadow side of the face has a spark of light (called ‘catchlight’) so it doesn’t appear ‘dead’.

This lighting effect can be achieved by either using one light & a reflector (see below) or two lights.


The next one was the split, which has half the face in light, the other in shadow.

The light is at 90 degrees to the subject, the camera in front of the subject.


Both of these techniques create quite a dramatic effect & similar to those used in classic painting to create the chiaroscuro effect.

With the basic aspects of lighting covered, the class then prepared their cameras to practice. It took little while & some instruction from Zig to actually remember what to do! This is a brief outline, plus I’ve combined some of the previous notes I made during the Level  2 studio shoots.

Firstly,  you have to use the camera on ‘manual mode’ & not rely on any of the automatic exposure modes as they won’t work with the flash in the studio environment.

Secondly, set the shutter speed. This has to be at the fastest ‘flash sync speed’ available on the camera. If the shutter speed is faster than the speed of the flash, it results in the image not being fully recorded by the sensor. This sync speed varies according to the camera model, but the majority of DSLRs it is 1/200 sec.

Thirdly, set the aperture to a ‘middle value’ such as F/8. But this can be adjusted depending on the depth-of-field effects or exposure adjustment.

Fourthly, set the ISO to the lowest on the camera, usually 100.

Fifth on the list is selecting the right focusing mode. For static objects, it’s usually best to use manual focus combined with a tripod. However, when shooting a moving subject or portraits you can use single or ‘continuous servo autofocus’. I also find using auto focus more effective with portraits as it suits my particular eye sight & style of shooting.

The sixth consideration is setting the ‘white balance’ to ‘flash’ rather than automatic plus the drive mode to ‘single shot’ so that the flash can recharge between shots.

In order to set off the lights when shooting, a flash trigger needs to be on top of the camera. If you use the built in flash to trigger, it will affect the lighting.

Zig also demonstrated how to use the light meter, which will inform you which aperture to have so that the shot is suitably exposed.

The following were taken with my 50mm lens.

Ok, time to take some pics. My classmate, Shoresh, had kindly agreed to be my model for the portrait. He had seen the image I want to recreate & agreed that the man portrayed has a striking similarity to him. It’s quite clear as to when I got the aperture suitable for the lighting!

My favourite shot taken is the following, which I then edited in Camera Raw to create quite a dramatic image. Interestingly, this was taken side on to Shoresh with the light shining towards him. It may not be in the style of a classic painting, but the dramatic contrast of light & shadow is quite striking. Plus it has the required ‘catchlight’!




The next task is to have a think about how I can interpret the original painting, build a set up (including clothing & props) then use a suitable light source to recreate the image.

Criteria Ref: P1, P4.



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