Lighting for Candids

ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovinPosts: 21,083Super Moderators moderator
edited July 3, 2014 in Technique
Rather than further encourage a thread hijack in the Cameras forum, I'm opening a new thread here. This thread is dedicated to the exploration and examples of candid lighting, in all its forms. Examples and pullbacks are welcome as well as civil discussion.

Problems with candids, along with examples relating to the problems and questions thereof, are also encouraged here.

I'll be pruning posts from the hijacked thread to post here, so it may get a little wonky at first.

Scoop flash modifier:

Scoop Modifier

Some, now admittedly poor, examples:

i-gD9mPrB.jpg

i-Dv6QHjf.jpg

i-LpCwJKX-X2.jpg

i-3pJBr5d.jpg
ziggy53
Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums

Comments

  • studio1972studio1972 Cheshire Photographer Posts: 249Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 21, 2014
    ziggy53 wrote: »

    i-gD9mPrB.jpg

    i-Dv6QHjf.jpg

    i-LpCwJKX-X2.jpg

    i-3pJBr5d.jpg

    I know this is off topic, and I'm not trying to be rude, but only offer some helpful advice. I keep seeing these images that you put online and every one of them is horribly lit with on-camera flash. It is obvious, that the flash is pointed right at the subject in every case, and most of the light is coming from it, with little ambient. It gives a really harsh look to the images.

    I think you would get a much more pleasing effect by using natural light, or if the light level is too low for that, at the very least, use a higher ISO/larger aperture/longer shutter to get a higher proportion of natural light, angle the flash to bounce of a ceiling or wall, and if possible take the flash off the camera.

    Just my 2p
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 21,083Super Moderators moderator
    edited June 23, 2014
    studio1972 wrote: »
    I know this is off topic, and I'm not trying to be rude, but only offer some helpful advice. I keep seeing these images that you put online and every one of them is horribly lit with on-camera flash. It is obvious, that the flash is pointed right at the subject in every case, and most of the light is coming from it, with little ambient. It gives a really harsh look to the images.

    I think you would get a much more pleasing effect by using natural light, or if the light level is too low for that, at the very least, use a higher ISO/larger aperture/longer shutter to get a higher proportion of natural light, angle the flash to bounce of a ceiling or wall, and if possible take the flash off the camera.

    Just my 2p

    The "scoop" flash modifier is only one of many tools that I use for candids and external, on camera, flash lighting, but I insist that it is far and away the most useful.

    Please do take another look at the above images. The scoop modifier provides a variation of "Butterfly/Paramount" lighting, which is itself a type of "loop" lighting. Perhaps you are unaware of this type of lighting but I guarantee that it is very useful for candids, toddlers and informal events, where the subject action is unpredictable and constantly moving.

    A distinct advantage of the scoop modifier, as opposed to the Gary Fong Lightsphere II (for instance), is light efficiency. Indoors it is about twice as efficient as the Lightsphere II, and it provides more lift to the light as well as a larger light for somewhat softer shadows.

    Compared to direct flash, which I agree is truly undesirable for primary light, the shadows of the scoop modifier are much softer and the angular difference from lens axis to the top of the modifier (the top of the modifier is the strongest "emitter") yields reasonably natural shadows (especially compared to direct flash).

    Unlike bounce flash with fill, the scoop modifier is not as dependent upon a white ceiling or wall, so you can be more creative with angles up and down to the subject.


    Relating to these particular circumstances, in the first image you can see the strong back and side light from the windows behind the bride. This put the sunlight in a position totally unsuitable for imaging, unless shooting for a silhouette, which was not my intent. Rather than trying to completely control the sunlight, I used the sunlight for rim lighting, and I used the flash for primary lighting, albeit with the scoop modifier. (The location was a stairwell with the bride and groom looking up from below, a shot specifically requested by the bride.) Note the rather pleasant nose, cheek and lips shadows, with no "raccoon eyes", like you might get from ambient light alone.

    The second and third images are somewhat similar, with strong back-lighting from sunlight (although in the third image I did "control" the sunlight more).

    The final image had "mood lighting" (dark ambient) in the area and a wood-colored ceiling. The scoop modifier does do some bounce light from forward spill of the flash, but the dark wood-tones absorbed quite a bit of the light. You can see how the background is just slightly less than the primary subject, so I did blend the primary exposure to use available light for the background. Note that the scoop did an excellent job of feathering the light from closest subject to most distant subject, not an easy task at all.
    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • jmphotocraftjmphotocraft GWC for hire Portland.ME.USAPosts: 2,972Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 24, 2014
    studio1972 wrote: »
    i know this is off topic, and i'm not trying to be rude, but only offer some helpful advice. I keep seeing these images that you put online and every one of them is horribly lit with on-camera flash. It is obvious, that the flash is pointed right at the subject in every case, and most of the light is coming from it, with little ambient. It gives a really harsh look to the images.

    I think you would get a much more pleasing effect by using natural light, or if the light level is too low for that, at the very least, use a higher iso/larger aperture/longer shutter to get a higher proportion of natural light, angle the flash to bounce of a ceiling or wall, and if possible take the flash off the camera.

    Just my 2p

    +1. You do a great job moderating, Ziggy, but I agree with Sarah here.
    -Jack

    An "accurate" reproduction of a scene and a good photograph are often two different things.
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 21,083Super Moderators moderator
    edited June 24, 2014
    studio1972 wrote: »
    ... I keep seeing these images that you put online and every one of them is horribly lit with on-camera flash. It is obvious, that the flash is pointed right at the subject in every case, and most of the light is coming from it, with little ambient. It gives a really harsh look to the images.

    I think you would get a much more pleasing effect by using natural light, or if the light level is too low for that, at the very least, use a higher ISO/larger aperture/longer shutter to get a higher proportion of natural light, angle the flash to bounce of a ceiling or wall, and if possible take the flash off the camera.

    Just my 2p
    +1. You do a great job moderating, Ziggy, but I agree with Sarah here.

    Thanks both for your candor.

    I would truly appreciate image examples demonstrating what you both suggest for candid lighting.

    Again, I use all sorts of lighting setups, depending upon the situation. For more candid examples:

    Sunlight ambient from window on our right, (indoors) light ceilings and walls provide fill (no flash):
    i-hhcKqgH-L.jpg

    Sunlight from multiple windows and fill flash using Demb Flip-It (original) or scoop modifier (can't remember):
    i-LwK5xDw-L.jpg

    Limited sunlight (ambient) with primary from flash and scoop modifier:
    i-4xTqQXV-L.jpg

    (Note: I do suspect that the above 2 images used a Sigma EF 530 DG Super flash, while the images in the previous post used a Canon EF 580EX flash. This may indicate that I need some negative FEC
    compensation using the Canon flash with the scoop?)
    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • jmphotocraftjmphotocraft GWC for hire Portland.ME.USAPosts: 2,972Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 24, 2014
    ziggy53 wrote: »
    Thanks both for your candor.

    I would truly appreciate image examples demonstrating what you both suggest for candid lighting.

    With much respect... well, candids and portraits are two different things. You seem to be using these images as examples of good portraiture, and I don't think they are. I've seen you do this in a number of different threads.

    i-gD9mPrB.jpg
    This is a decent candid, though a little overprocessed and crispy looking for my taste. Fine if this was your one chance to get a decent shot of the couple during their hectic day in less than good ambient conditions, but not really what I'd call exemplary of great lighting. It's well exposed and you lit up their eyes, which is great, but it's flat and not directional.

    i-Dv6QHjf.jpg
    Minimally diffused direct lighting on the child's face, made even more prominent by the bg treatment. The flash has caused so much contrast and sharpness as to make the child look unnatural.

    i-LpCwJKX-X2.jpg
    Again, minimally diffused, dare I say harsh direct lighting.


    i-3pJBr5d.jpg
    This one looks like an impromptu group portrait. You were armed with the right tools to obtain a decent shot on the spot, vs. not getting a shot at all, but otherwise it looks like a poached snapshot taken by someone other than the hired/designated pro. They're not even looking at you, so I'm not sure why you bothered to lift your camera at that moment, much less post it online as an example. If I were the designated photog, or if the other photog was someone with a phone or p&s, I would have let them have their turn and then asked everyone to stay put for another shot by me, taken from directly in front of them. If the other shooter was the designated photog with appropriate gear, I wouldn't have had the audacity to take this.

    I understand sometimes all we can do is be the "roving reporter" with an on-camera flash. We do our best and play the cards we are dealt. In these cases we need to position ourselves to make the most of whatever ambient light, then try bounce or fill flash, and lastly, direct flash with a modifier. In the cases with flash, I think it's important to set ISO in order to balance the ambient light with the flash better, and reduce the density of shadows. The benefits of this will far outweigh any noise penalty.

    You asked for examples of candid lighting. I assume you mean with flash. Here are a few of mine...

    On camera flash, Fong Lightsphere (yes, I know they're inefficient and distasteful to photography's elite, but I'm liking mine better than a scoop):

    5D3_0789-XL.jpg

    5D3_0805-X2.jpg

    ceiling bounce:
    5D3_0720-XL.jpg

    wall/ceiling bounce:
    O1-X2.jpg

    window light:
    5D3_8885-X2.jpg

    As for portraits, I'm no Hackbone, but here are some I'm pleased with:

    5D3_8221-Edit-X2.jpg

    IMG_7621-X2.jpg

    5D3_5786-X2.jpg

    5D3_8465-X2.jpg

    OP, sorry for being an accomplice in hijacking your thread.

    EDIT - I would say the photos in post #11 in this thread are much better examples of your work.
    -Jack

    An "accurate" reproduction of a scene and a good photograph are often two different things.
  • Brett1000Brett1000 Major grins https://www.flickr.com/photos/photoscw/Posts: 816Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 27, 2014
    With much respect... well, candids and portraits are two different things. You seem to be using these images as examples of good portraiture, and I don't think they are. I've seen you do this in a number of different threads.

    This is a decent candid, though a little overprocessed and crispy looking for my taste. Fine if this was your one chance to get a decent shot of the couple during their hectic day in less than good ambient conditions, but not really what I'd call exemplary of great lighting. It's well exposed and you lit up their eyes, which is great, but it's flat and not directional.


    Minimally diffused direct lighting on the child's face, made even more prominent by the bg treatment. The flash has caused so much contrast and sharpness as to make the child look unnatural.

    Again, minimally diffused, dare I say harsh direct lighting.



    This one looks like an impromptu group portrait. You were armed with the right tools to obtain a decent shot on the spot, vs. not getting a shot at all, but otherwise it looks like an unplanned snapshot taken by someone other than the hired/designated pro. They're not even looking at you, so I'm not sure why you bothered to lift your camera at that moment, much less post it online as an example. If I were the designated photog, or if the other photog was someone with a phone or p&s, I would have let them have their turn and then asked everyone to stay put for another shot by me, taken from directly in front of them. If the other shooter was the designated photog with appropriate gear, I wouldn't have had the audacity to take this.

    I understand sometimes all we can do is be the "roving reporter" with an on-camera flash. We do our best and play the cards we are dealt. In these cases we need to position ourselves to make the most of whatever ambient light, then try bounce or fill flash, and lastly, direct flash with a modifier. In the cases with flash, I think it's important to set ISO in order to balance the ambient light with the flash better, and reduce the density of shadows. The benefits of this will far outweigh any noise penalty.

    You asked for examples of candid lighting. I assume you mean with flash. Here are a few of mine...

    On camera flash, Fong Lightsphere (yes, I know they're inefficient and distasteful to photography's elite, but I'm liking mine better than a scoop):



    ceiling bounce:

    wall/ceiling bounce:

    window light:

    As for portraits, I'm no Hackbone, but here are some I'm pleased with:

    OP, sorry for being an accomplice in hijacking your thread.

    EDIT - I would say the photos in post #11 in this thread are much better examples of your work.



    I'll agree, a mix of ambient and bounced flash is best.
    as to whether a "scoop" or flash bender or a Gary Fong lightsphere or an ebay imitation is better when you can't bounce, there are comparison tests at POTN or googling.
    Gary doesn't fair too well against the cheaper alternatives !
  • studio1972studio1972 Cheshire Photographer Posts: 249Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 27, 2014
    ziggy53 wrote: »
    Thanks both for your candor.

    I would truly appreciate image examples demonstrating what you both suggest for candid lighting.

    Again, I use all sorts of lighting setups, depending upon the situation. For more candid examples:

    Sunlight ambient from window on our right, (indoors) light ceilings and walls provide fill (no flash):
    i-hhcKqgH-L.jpg

    Sunlight from multiple windows and fill flash using Demb Flip-It (original) or scoop modifier (can't remember):
    i-LwK5xDw-L.jpg

    Limited sunlight (ambient) with primary from flash and scoop modifier:
    i-4xTqQXV-L.jpg

    (Note: I do suspect that the above 2 images used a Sigma EF 530 DG Super flash, while the images in the previous post used a Canon EF 580EX flash. This may indicate that I need some negative FEC
    compensation using the Canon flash with the scoop?)

    I much prefer these to the original set. Also agree with a lot that JMP said. As requested, here's a couple of shots to show how I would do things (not claiming they are anything special):

    p1060386896-5.jpg

    This was in a very dark hallway, lit by a single off camera flash with a small popup soft box on a stand, to my left.

    More typically, I'll just use the natural light for candid shots:

    p2096301460-5.jpg

    For evening candids I use several flashes around the room:

    p1026421424-5.jpg

    I always have the flashes set manually, I find that much more reliable than TTL systems, and the radio triggers are much cheaper too!

    Hope that's of some help.
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 21,083Super Moderators moderator
    edited July 2, 2014
    With much respect... well, candids and portraits are two different things. You seem to be using these images as examples of good portraiture, and I don't think they are. I've seen you do this in a number of different threads. ...

    I absolutely agree, that formal portraits and candids are two different entities. "Informal" portraits can be from candids, however. Reviewing the OP's websites appears to show informal portraits only.

    Their equipment list only indicates a singular flash. Unless using a few reflectors, a single flash, even with a flash modifier, probably won't produce more than candids (with the exceptions of silhouette and true Rembrandt style lighting.)

    I do agree that my first examples don't show the scoop modifier at its best. They do show some of the potential of the scoop modifier under difficult and even adverse scenes. I have better examples, which I'll post in a different thread so we don't totally destroy this thread,
    ... i-gD9mPrB.jpg
    This is a decent candid, though a little overprocessed and crispy looking for my taste. Fine if this was your one chance to get a decent shot of the couple during their hectic day in less than good ambient conditions, but not really what I'd call exemplary of great lighting. It's well exposed and you lit up their eyes, which is great, but it's flat and not directional. ...

    I realize now that without showing a pullback of the surroundings you can't know the scene which caused me to use the scoop modifier.

    This was the very last shot of the day and the bride really wanted the shot. I already had most of the equipment packed, when the bride approached me with the request for a shot, looking down upon the couple, themselves in a narrow stairwell, but with a fully daylight lit window high and behind the bride.

    With no chance to use a bounce device effectively (geometry was completely wrong for bounce from a single flash), the scoop was my best tool for getting light of sufficient strength to offset the sunlight.

    I will grant you that the scoop alone is not a replacement for multiple lights in a true portrait setup, but I'm honestly still pleased with that image, and it does show cheek, chin, nose and eye modelling, distinguishing it from direct flash.
    ... i-Dv6QHjf.jpg
    Minimally diffused direct lighting on the child's face, made even more prominent by the bg treatment. The flash has caused so much contrast and sharpness as to make the child look unnatural. ...

    I don't know why I didn't see it before, but I don't see the characteristic "butterfly" shadow pattern under the nose that the scoop can provide. I now believe that this is due to my misuse of the system for this image.

    Part of the problem too is my laziness with regard to posting an overly sharpened smaller version of the images due to my SmugMug settings. I'll have to look at the options and try to strike a better compromise for the smaller images.
    ... i-LpCwJKX-X2.jpg
    Minimally diffused direct lighting on the child's face, made even more prominent by the bg treatment. The flash has caused so much contrast and sharpness as to make the child look unnatural. ...

    Mostly the same problems as above. Mea cupla.
    ... i-3pJBr5d.jpg
    This one looks like an impromptu group portrait. You were armed with the right tools to obtain a decent shot on the spot, vs. not getting a shot at all, but otherwise it looks like a poached snapshot taken by someone other than the hired/designated pro. They're not even looking at you, so I'm not sure why you bothered to lift your camera at that moment, much less post it online as an example. If I were the designated photog, or if the other photog was someone with a phone or p&s, I would have let them have their turn and then asked everyone to stay put for another shot by me, taken from directly in front of them. If the other shooter was the designated photog with appropriate gear, I wouldn't have had the audacity to take this.

    I understand sometimes all we can do is be the "roving reporter" with an on-camera flash. We do our best and play the cards we are dealt. In these cases we need to position ourselves to make the most of whatever ambient light, then try bounce or fill flash, and lastly, direct flash with a modifier. In the cases with flash, I think it's important to set ISO in order to balance the ambient light with the flash better, and reduce the density of shadows. The benefits of this will far outweigh any noise penalty. ...

    The backstory is that I was simply a guest of the wedding with a camera. The reason that I brought the camera was to cover the wedding for my father, who could not attend the wedding. The groom is one of my nephews, so a grandson of my father.

    I asked permission of my nephew, and of the photographer, before the wedding, and everyone was cool with the proposition.

    My goal was to photograph the family that my father would know, with a heavy emphasis on photographing our direct relatives (so dad could see who came and who they were with).

    The sole reason I posted that particular photo is to demonstrate the feathering ability of the scoop modifier. It's really pretty amazing, compared with other photos of the same scene (which I can't show because they aren't mine to show). The light drop from the closest individual to the farthest individual appears to be about 1.5 stops different, which is highly unusual for a compact flash modifier of any kind.

    The scene was a covered corridor, made to look like a tiki structure (I suppose). It was also painted/stained a color not conducive for bounce, even if the structure had been more suitable otherwise.


    Enough excuses.

    I found an image which shows the proper use of the scoop modifier, "and" it shows a reflection of the modifier clearly enough so you can see the scoop system working properly. I'm actually in the photo, because someone else took the shot, and the scene is in an attorney's office at a closing event.

    I'm blurring everyone but myself, but you can clearly see the "butterfly" pattern under my nose, as well as the light off the scoop (in the reflection).

    I'll have the image posted tomorrow, as well as detail images showing my nose and the shadow, plus a detail image of the reflection in a TV/monitor showing the total light sources for the image (effectively a "pullback" of the light sources).

    I'll start a new thread, but post the link for the new thread here.


    To the original poster:

    I hope that you begin to appreciate the diverse and different possible lighting treatments available to photographers. Lighting is both a science and an art, and one's learning never stops. Never hesitate to ask questions of our forums, and never stop growing and learning as a photographer.
    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • jmphotocraftjmphotocraft GWC for hire Portland.ME.USAPosts: 2,972Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 3, 2014
    I fully sympathize with all of those excuses, often we just have to do the best with the situation we are dealt. I especially love the one, "hey, take our picture here, in this cave, with our backs to the entrance! Won't that be great?"

    However what I think Sarah and I were saying was that we seem to have noticed over time that you have brought out these same images in several threads as examples of good lighting technique or good portraiture, and they're not. It's just surprising because we know you are a capable photographer and esteemed moderator. It doesn't matter what the backstory is for any photo when you use them as examples, unless of course someone is specifically asking how to take pictures in that cave.
    -Jack

    An "accurate" reproduction of a scene and a good photograph are often two different things.
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 21,083Super Moderators moderator
    edited July 3, 2014
    Thanks to Sarah and Jack for posting their thoughts and some examples of different lighting and techniques. It is truly appreciated. thumb.gifthumb
    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 21,083Super Moderators moderator
    edited July 3, 2014
    The following is a snapshot, but it demonstrates a proper use of the "scoop" style flash modifier. It also shows, in a reflection within the image, how the scoop modifier works on a fairly typical environment, i.e. a room with a suitable ceiling upon which to bounce the spill light from the scoop modifier and flash. (A secretary used my equipment to make the image, so that I could be in the image.)

    i-cK4TWZf-X2.jpg

    The following details from that image show the telltale "butterfly" nose shadow pattern from the light system:

    i-B7gh865.jpg

    ... and the reflected image of the flash (pointed up) with scoop modifier attached, and the spill light pattern on the ceiling:

    i-5WVL7Dk.jpg

    The room lights were turned off, and the blinds were drawn, but leaked a bit of fill light into the room, probably additionally softening the shadows.

    All faces but mine are blurred, because I definitely don't have any permissions for this image (although it was a happy event).
    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
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