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To view the entire course, upgrade to Premium or purchase it in the SLR Lounge Store.


Case Study | Quick Lighting for Family Portraits

When photographing children, you are always dancing between the fine line of cooperation and temper tantrum. In this case study from our Lighting 101 workshop, we teach you a quick lighting tip that will help you deal with the fragile time you have when photographing kids.

[REWIND: THE 3-LIGHT SETUP THAT ONLY REQUIRES ONE LIGHT]

The Scenario

family-portrait-session

A quaint little family session in a park setting around mid-day. We were off to a great start in the beginning of the session, which is when these images were captured, but 20 minutes in, our little model took a tumble and hurt her wrist. Once that happened it was hard to settle her back into shooting-mode and therefore those 20 crucial minutes prior were all we had to make it work.

The Problem

family-portraits-lighting

While location scouting we came across this patch of grass that was framed beautifully by hanging tree branches above and decided to start our session there. If the subjects faced the sun the direct sunlight would cast harsh shadows and strong highlights, so instead, we used the sun as a back-light. In doing so, we create a new issue with shadows – with their back faced to the sun the ambient exposure of the scene, when shooting at ISO 50, is way too dark.

The settings

Canon 5D Mark III Sigma Art 50mm f/1.2 at f/2, 1/200th of a second at ISO 50

Canon 5D Mark III Sigma Art 50mm f/1.2 at f/2, 1/200th of a second at ISO 50

With family portraits the goal isn’t to involve dramatic lighting techniques but more so to capture the natural & candid behavior amongst the family on camera. We aimed for the background to be a bit brighter with blown highlights, allowing the rich colors from the foliage and grass to be exaggerated. Using the Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4 at f/2, 1/200th of a second at ISO 50, we have the ideal settings to match our ideal lighting technique.

The solution: Bounce Baby, bounce

One of our favorite lighting techniques when shooting images like this (mainly to preserve the background) is to use the white side of the reflector to bounce light onto the subjects. Our flash is on our camera, angled at the white reflector, avoiding any harsh highlights that would occur from using the silver side of the reflector, creating a soft diffused & directional fill light. In the right type of a lighting situation, you can get a good recycle time using 1/4th or 1/8th power, but this will all depend on your ambient light exposure.

family-portrait-lighting

We have a background light and we have just little rim light that’s coming in on the right side of her body right there. From there, all we do is add in a Westcott 5-in-1, white over silver, to add as a kick of light from the right side filling in the shadows and following the direction of existing light. At roughly 1/4th and 1/8th power, you can fire quickly every single time and get different reactions and poses all within one scene and not worry about recycle time.

For more lighting education & case studies, check out our Lighting 101 workshop in the SLR Lounge Store. Be sure to sign up for SLR Lounge Premium Membership and gain access to behind-the- scenes tutorials and so much more!

Q&A Discussions

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  1. George Brown

    Lovely article. Seeing before & after flash is really useful!

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