On Camera Lighting for Family Portraits | Lighting 101



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all right so case study number four I'm going to do away with the obnoxious kool-aid / slim jim man oh yeah thing and let's just talk about family portraits when it comes to shots like this well it looks very simple and it looks very natural and candid and so forth there are a lot of things going through my mind particularly because we are dealing with family portraits and we're dealing with children anytime we're dealing with children there's a lot of additional things that I'm thinking about because you don't necessarily know how much time you have when you're shooting kids if you've done a lot of family portraits you know that whenever kids are involved you're essentially on what I refer to as borrowed time you're on their time and when they decide they've had enough they've had enough that means that we need to move quick we need to do things that are very fast very efficient and we need to keep them involved and engaged at the shoot otherwise when they decide they've had enough it's over and that was exactly the case in this shoot because about 30 minutes into the shoot she did something I think she tripped or something and she kind of hit her wrist when mom and dad were holding her hand and she got upset and when Caitlin got upset she just wanted to basically stop shooting and we couldn't get her back into the shooting state and I thought you know it's really good that we moved so quickly and got so many shots at the beginning of the shoot because we actually have a lot of fantastic images for them and it was only like we only got like 20 minutes of actual photos out of them so here are some of the tips that I have real when we're doing these kind of shots we need to move quickly and one of the things that I love doing is this whole reflector bounce technique is one of my favorite techniques when shooting images like this because it is so fast and it gives you great results and it's so easy to setup and when you're in the right type of lighting situation you can get a good recycle time as well if you keep your flash powered down just a bit so how do we approach this scene well when we got here I saw this beautiful backlit area I saw the grass so and this is the funny thing if you're looking at at an area of nature if you're looking at it head-on with the light coming from behind you right so the light from the Sun is directly lighting that area it's going to look like bunk it's going to look really really crappy and really bad it doesn't look good and I always tell my clients oh don't worry you need to walk to the other side and look back towards where the Sun is and as soon as we do that like every single time you walk to the other side turn around you're like oh my gosh this is like a scene from a movie or something everything's backlit and it looks so beautiful and and then your clients will think this guy's crazy awesome he knows exactly what he's talking about this area looked like junk I would have never shot here but what soon as he walked to that other side it looked like magic these are wonderful little tricks that make you look like a magician I love looking like a magician magician pie okay so once I get into that scene we sit him down and again I look at my light I take my test shot right in this test shot I have this beautiful background and what am I thinking in my mind as far as dramatic vs. natural I'm shooting family I'm shooting candidates I want natural what does that mean the background needs to be the background needs to be a little bit brighter I'm not going to try and under expose and pull everything down and make it super dramatic because it's not going to fit the mood of our shot now depending on how dramatic you want – I'm sorry depending on how natural how bright you want the background that's really a stylistic decision that's up to you for me I wanted a little bit of richness in it I wanted some of the highlights we've blown but I also wanted to see some of the color in there so this is the exposure that I went with for my base shot what is that exposure I'm on the Sigma 50 millimeter 1.4 art this is the Canon 50mm and then I have the Canon the camera set to one two hundred of a second at f/2 and ISO 50 inside of the shaded area with where the Sun is we don't need a neutral density filter dropping the iso 50 was enough again i'm not concerned about the little loss in dynamic range because i'm letting things blow out anyway I'm not trying to capture all the detail and go for a super dramatic shot I want it to be a little bit more natural a little bit brighter so this is the exposure that we land at at f/2 I can still get them very sharp and create beautiful separation between the background but I do remind them I remind mom and I run dad just keep your faces kind of close and not in front or behind of each other or in front of your daughter okay from there all I do is I have my reflector a Westcott every one I have a white over a silver in the shot my assistants holding it off to the right side I've decided that I like the way that this looks and notice as far as lights go let's count how many different lights we have set up here we have the Sun which is coming in as a backlight on the entire scene right I've placed them naturally over the highlights in the scene you guys noticed that so the highlight areas you're kind of drawn right into this area the image there's a little more highlighting this side but that's okay we're still good at the trees on the side aren't as good which is why I'm kind of focusing them over here we have so we have our background light we have our kind of our just little rim light that's coming in on the right side of her body right there and we have a kicker coming in on the left side of his face right here we have a soft fill naturally coming in from the right front of their faces you can see it right here wrapping over each of them the only problem is that phil is not enough to be a main light right but it still has there's still a light direction present with the natural light in that shot so rather than kind of override that rather than just kind of ignore it I'm only there to kind of boost and refine that so I place my white over silver with my assistant just off to the right side of me and we're bouncing in the same direction as where that natural light is coming from so we're following the direction of existing light so we can keep the shadows we can keep the kicker and the rim and the hair lights and everything else the exact same way in this final shot we end up with this beautiful shot I'm shooting tons of different images in this scene getting different reactions from Caitlin and from mama from dad and we're getting amazing looking images I have them stand up we get shots with her holding mom and dad's hand and it's fantastic we got a beautiful scene right after that Caitlin sprains her wrist while mom and dad are holding her hand and she's basically done with a shot but we've got 20 30 great shots and this technique of bouncing we're bouncing at roughly one quarter to one eighth power I can fire quickly every single time get all the different reactions get all the different shots and not have to worry about my camera recycling now because I am bouncing so close to where the camera body is my reflector is literally just right to the right side of me I don't need to worry about my grid okay I can take the grid off and I can leave it off for the shop because it's not going to spill forward it's just going to go right to the right side I'm not trying to angle it and get any kind of super dramatic line I just want a basic loop light and that's what I have here okay again the lights coming top-down you can see as the shadows kind of extending down on each side so that we have a natural look to the shop so you can approach this scene a whole number of ways we can change the way that our background looks you want to be brighter great brighten it up slow the shutter speed down or increase the ISO and lower the flash power that mixture between well whatever you want the background to be the brightness of the background versus the brightness of the flash is going to yield the type of natural more natural or going the other way going dramatic more dramatic type image for this shot natural or more natural or even more natural is what's going to look best and because we're shooting candid then we're shooting family so hopefully that makes sense in all the kind of considerations that go into these types of shots and these types of scenes to make sure that we use all of the lights present we only added one additional light in the scene yet it looks like we have a three or four light setup with everything that's going on here and all we've really done is just thought about the light position worked with the subject placement and then add our own line on top of that that's it for this video let's handle the next one now you

34 thoughts on “On Camera Lighting for Family Portraits | Lighting 101

  1. Don't you think the bounced light is a bit harsh? Probably we are viewing this in Srgb format, I am getting that feel or the apple screen is giving that impression. I am sure the original pic must be looking much better.😊

  2. hi sir.
    Thanks for this video. I have one question. and hope u can help me. what you can say about rogue diffuser? or what u recommend for outdoor shot sir. simple setup. thanks a lot.

  3. I love photography as much as I love you when you speak! you are so stupidly sexy! and I've seen lots of your tutorials and as good as they are I have to keep re-watching them as many times, You take me out of the subject matter with your charm! Congratz… x

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