One-Light Portrait-Keiko

Hi Friends,

As a proof-of-concept for a portrait project I’m noodling, I coerced my mother-in-love, Keiko, to sit for a portrait. It’s very difficult to get her NOT to smile, but I was looking for serious expression here.  I’d asked her to pose with a favorite portrait of my father-in-law, Larry, a career US Marine.  I’ve seen this portrait featured prominently in several rooms of her home over the years, and I know it means a lot to her. She made a comment at one point that Larry’s been gone for 12 years, and we can still take a picture together! Ever the comedienne!

The plan is to do environmental portraits, and I wanted to try both indoors and out.  Since the project will potentially involve many individual portraits, I wanted to come up with a simple, but classic / elegant lighting scheme that wouldn’t necessitate a lot of fiddling with lights.

For this series, the lighting was simple: a single Nikon SB-800 Speedlight in a 3′ octagonal softbox, close to Keiko, just above head height and slightly camera left.  The primary issue to contend with was the ambient – mainly backlighting. In the image above, the light streaming through the picture window behind her rendered Keiko a silhouette. Shooting in manual exposure mode, I metered for the background, and underexposed by about 1 stop.  Then, a simple adjustment of flash output to properly expose Keiko was all it took.

Keiko spends a lot of time tending her flowers. For the image below, we moved outside to her garden area, and using a large aperture, threw the background out of focus to provide an environmental cue that wouldn’t distract from my subject.  As with the living room portrait above, I metered first for the background and underexposed by about a stop.  Then, adjusted flash output for proper exposure of Keiko.

And another in a different area of her garden:

Black and white conversion, just for good measure:

I have a few more willing subjects lined up for the next week or so, and will post as soon as possible.

Thanks for dropping by!


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