I got several comments on yesterday’s post asking how I was able to create the background color and lighting effects in my otherwise boring head shot. After all, I only used a single light for the image and the background was a blank wall about five feet behind me. The trick I used was Tiffen’s Dfx 3 software, which I think is an indispensable tool for home studio photographers.
First of all, it’s important to note that I used an 85mm lens to take this image; doing so threw the background completely out of focus. That’s desirable for head shots where you want to tweak the background color/look later. I processed the RAW image (Nikon NEF file) in Lightroom 4.2 to open up the shadows a bit (note: click on any image below to see a larger view).
Today’s digital cameras and flash systems make it really easy to set up a simple home studio. You can do really great things with just a single flash, but you’ll need some accessories to help you shoot with the flash off-camera.
While the first step for getting good portraits is to take the flash off the camera, you should also consider using a Light Modifier on your flash. Here are some common light modifiers and examples of the results they produce.
For this set-up, I put my camera (Nikon D800e) onto a tripod and I set the pop-up flash to Commander Mode. This setting triggers my main flash (SB-900) without contributing to the overall exposure. My SB-900 was set up to the left of the camera on an inexpensive light stand with a Photoflex shoe-mount multi-clamp. I then proceeded to test several lighting scenarios:
Bare Flash (no modifier)
18″ Beauty Dish (custom built as a DIY project)
40″ Umbrella with cover removed (shoot-through umbrella)
40″ Soft Box
The idea behind using light modifiers is two-fold. First, you are increasing the size of the apparent light source. Second, you are modifying the way the light wraps around your subject. Both of these factors allow you to create shots that reduce the appearance of harsh shadows with differing degrees.