We will be using two galleries, 1&2, and will have lighting setups in both, regular studio lights in Gallery 1 and Speedlights in Gallery 2.  Please assign yourself to a Group by writing your name on the sheet in the foyer.  Please remain in the foyer while awaiting your group’s turn.

We will have 3 models during the evening and aim to give everyone an opportunity to photograph each of them.  There will be no time to set up tripods so all shots will need to be taken with your camera hand-held.  This calls for careful focusing but there should be no problem with camera shake as the studio flash duration is approx 1/2000 of a second.  You will not need your own flash to trigger the lights as you will be loaned a radio trigger (which fits into your camera’s hot-shoe) for your turn, although we cannot guarantee that it will work with all camera makes.

 We have both Nikon and Canon triggers for the Speedlights.  If you have an alternative brand of camera, try both of these in the 15 minute checking period to see if either will work.  Better still, if you have a Yongnuo trigger which you know suits your camera, bring that along.

It is important that only one photographer is photographing a model at any one time, so please don’t distract the model by pointing your camera when it is not your turn, and please don’t fire your on-board flash as this can trigger the studio lights.  

Lighting Setup

We will be photographing the model against a background which we will try to keep out of focus by having it as far as possible behind the model, and free of any light spill by using something to screen it if necessary.  The backgrounds are not really big enough to allow full-length shots but we will see how we go.  It may be necessary to fall back on closer shots.

After triggering, the lights take 2-3 seconds to re-charge so please allow for this between shots.  

Shooting Position

How far from the subject should the camera be?  If you are too close (inside a metre) you may not only intimidate the subject by invading personal space, but you will also produce a distorted result eg. nose proportionally too big.  Too far away (say about 5 metres) then you will lose good communication with the subject and possibly induce featureless compression.   It helps if you talk to the model and explain to them what sort of shot you are trying to take.

In practice, you are probably confined by the limits of available space, but try to get about 2-3 metres.  The shooting distance decides the focal length of the lens you should use to get a comfortable head and shoulders photo.

Fixed focal length (Prime lenses) usually give better resolution than zoom lenses and normally can be opened to a wider (smaller f-number) aperture to give a shallower depth of field, but you will get excellent results with a modern zoom lens.

If you shoot in portrait mode you can fit larger images in the frame.  If you shoot in landscape mode then your image would need to be smaller to get head and shoulders in frame.  Whatever you feel most comfortable with.

Naturally this all depends on how much space you prefer to leave around the subject’s image but try to visualise how you will print on regular sized paper.

ISO Setting

You should use the ‘native’ ISO setting for your camera (typically ISO 100) to maximise the image quality.

White Balance

Set this at ‘Auto’ or, better still, ‘Flash’ if you are shooting jpegs.  If you are shooting RAW then the white balance can be set or adjusted when you are processing in Camera Raw or Lightroom.

Aperture (use Manual setting)

When taking a portrait shot, you should focus on the eyes and get them really sharp.  With a really wide aperture, the ears will probably be going out of focus and this gives a nice 3D ‘shape’ to the head.  In addition, the narrow depth of field given by a wide aperture will certainly help to focus attention on the subject and help to keep the background out of focus.

It’s not best practice to work with the aperture fully open as this does not usually give the best quality for the lens particularly if it is a 'kit lens' – better to close it down by sstop.  This gives the best compromise between small depth of field and lens resolution.

However, apart from changing the power of the studio lighting which will have been set up to produce a light level suitable for most, the only practical  way to control the exposure is by changing the aperture, as the effective shutter speed is the length of the studio flash.

Shutter Speed (use Manual setting)

Using studio or speed lights, you will get best results if the general room lighting is taking no part in the exposure, particularly if you are moving about with the camera hand-held, so the shutter speed/aperture/ISO combination ideally should produce no image without the studio lights.

If you check your camera manual, it will give you the fastest shutter speed you can use to successfully trigger the flash and this is the best setting to use.  It will be about 1/200 sec to 1/250 sec depending on the camera make.  The flash duration of the lights is probably shorter than 1/2000 sec and this is the real exposure time.

When you have set your f-number/shutter speed/ISO combination, take a test shot without the studio lights.  You should get a blank image.  If you don’t and you think that what you are getting will have an effect on the final image then, unless you can reduce the ambient lighting, you will need to close the aperture somewhat to compensate.

Taking the Shot

Check your screen immediately after the first shot and make sure that you are getting a complete image.  If part of it is missing, then your camera shutter speed is too short - increase the exposure time and try again.  You may need to change the aperture to compensate.