Christmas Candids

pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooterwestern IndianaSuper Moderators Posts: 14,620 moderator
edited March 12, 2008 in People
I shoot candids of the family at Christmas. Totally uncontrolled and sometimes, unwelcome shooting. The lighting usually just sucks. Dim incandescent, or a bizarre mix of incandescent and flourescent. Always after sundown. I have tried available light with high ISO in RAW. Yech. I have used flash - looks like flash at its worst.

I'll bet there are a lot of other folks here who do the same. I just want to capture some decent images of the family members at the festive occasion.

This year I took a 580ex flash off the camera, and set it in a corner of the living room with the cheap, foam, flash diffuser described in this thread by Gus.

I used an ST-E2 controller on my camera to retain ETTL control of the flash lighting and shot in Manual Mode on the camera. I also used the ST-E2 to aid in focusing in the dim light. The lens was a 135 F2 L.

The images were captured in RAW and processed in PSCS2.

I think I am beginning to find a solution to lighting for candid shots at our disorganized, family gatherings.

Here are some of the shots - more can be seen here

Do these look like they were shot with electronic flash?? Remember, this was only one flash unit and totally unposed, uncooperative family snapshots.

118561390-L.jpg

118561727-L.jpg

118561969-L.jpg

118561687-L.jpg

Comments and critques are heartily encouraged.

Thanks Gus for the tip about the foam diffuser - it works great.

Happy Holidays to All!!
Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin

Comments

  • SkippySkippy Forensic Wannabe Registered Users Posts: 12,075 Major grins
    edited December 25, 2006
    pathfinder wrote:
    I shoot candids of the family at Christmas.




    118561687-L.jpg

    Comments and critques are heartily encouraged.

    Thanks Gus for the tip about the foam diffuser - it works great.

    Happy Holidays to All!!

    Ummmmm you sooooooooo need to send this young man to my work nod.gif
    Yep he'd look just fine all wrapt up in Christmas Paper for sure :D

    I'll tell the girls someone sent us a Gift from USA rolleyes1.gif Skippy
    .
    Skippy (Australia) - Moderator of "HOLY MACRO" and "OTHER COOL SHOTS"

    ALBUM http://ozzieskip.smugmug.com/

    :skippy Everyone has the right to be stupid, but some people just abuse the privilege :dgrin
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaSuper Moderators Posts: 14,620 moderator
    edited December 25, 2006
    You didn't even comment on the lighting, Skip!!rolleyes1.gif
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • saurorasaurora Major grins Registered Users Posts: 4,320 Major grins
    edited December 26, 2006
    Great lighting...not a bad shot in the gallery! You had better luck than I did...I haven't quite got the flash down yet! :D
  • FlyingginaFlyinggina To see and not be seen Registered Users Posts: 2,639 Major grins
    edited December 26, 2006
    I love all of these shots and agree with Skippy - and Saurora for that matter. I hope some of the technical gurus will give you comments on the lighting, but I just see wonderful captures of people without the distraction of odd color casts or obvious artifacts of a flash. You have a handsome family and do a wonderful job of photographing them.

    Thanks for sharing the technicque you used to handle the flash. Maybe next year I can give it at try. This year I was so busy following around a 2 1/2 year old or cooking that I only got 3 snaps on Christmas Day and no one else took pictures. :cry

    Happy New Year!

    Virginia
    _______________________________________________
    "A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you, the less you know." Diane Arbus

    Email
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Super Moderators Posts: 22,399 moderator
    edited December 26, 2006
    Jim,

    Yes, that looks like a good solution.

    I love the soft shadows with the glint (catchlight) in the eyes. Several other shots in your gallery deserve attention, like those of multiple people. Groups can be tough, because the shadows from one person can cast on another. This form of light control handled that situation nicely.

    Of course, it helps that your subjects are so photogenic. :D

    Can you give some hints as to how the setup was arranged and oriented, and what role the ceiling and walls played? Were there any downsides to the setup, like recycle times, etc.?

    ziggy53
    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • Scott_QuierScott_Quier Lovin' It Registered Users Posts: 6,524 Major grins
    edited December 26, 2006
    I looked at all the shots in the indicated gallery and ...

    Do they look flashed? nod.gif
    Do they look flashed - bad? NO, these look very, very good!

    Would I recommend you do this again? Oh, heck yeah!:ivar
  • thebigskythebigsky Cloudbusting SE EnglandRegistered Users Posts: 1,052 Major grins
    edited December 26, 2006
    They are fantastic images, which direction was the flash pointed?

    Charlie
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaSuper Moderators Posts: 14,620 moderator
    edited December 26, 2006
    ziggy53 wrote:
    Jim,

    Yes, that looks like a good solution.

    I love the soft shadows with the glint (catchlight) in the eyes. Several other shots in your gallery deserve attention, like those of multiple people. Groups can be tough, because the shadows from one person can cast on another. This form of light control handled that situation nicely.

    Of course, it helps that your subjects are so photogenic. :D

    Can you give some hints as to how the setup was arranged and oriented, and what role the ceiling and walls played? Were there any downsides to the setup, like recycle times, etc.?

    ziggy53
    Thanks for your response and your questions, Ziggy, Virgina, Saurora and others. I think you are seeing what I was pleased with - soft shadows, balanced accurate color, and catchlights as well.

    I used a 580ex on ETTL with a 6 inch high foam (white card) style diffuser on the back of the flash head. I oriented the flash head so it would shoot straight up, or slighlty forward for more reach if needed. The ceiling in the room was a nice white, which helped a great deal. I used ISO 400 and shot in manual at 1/160th at f4 or f3.5. Shooting manual gives control of the balance of flash versus ambient. Varying the shutter speed will give more or less ambient light. I placed the flash on the little stand that comes with it, at table height so it was just about eye level for folks sitting down.

    Generally the family - about 35 people of various ages 2 - 83 - are milling about and moving in a 20 x 25 foot room with pink and green metallic floral wallpaper. I have shot in this room before and know to avoid the walls if possible as background. I chose ISO 400 to give me enough light from the flash anywhere in the room, and allow a short shutter speed to minimize ambient light ( higher shutter speed will lessen ambient light) and a large enough aperture for nice bokeh with acceptable DOF.

    Shooting in RAW allowed me to find an acceptable white balance in processing, and the same value worked for most of the images in that room.

    I use Lithium AA cells in the flash and I think it never really dumped the entire capacitor at one shot, because recycle times did not seem to be any problem. If I were to try to shoot at ISO 100, I might not have been so fortunate re: recycle times though.

    One downside, is that folks sitting right next to the flash, can get blown out, but I did salvage one shot of my sister in that situation.

    The next step is to add a second flash similarly controlled and diffused at a 2 or 3 to 1 ratio and give that a try - the ST-E2 allows you to vary the balance between the two flashes set opposite each other across the room. I did that the next day.

    The ceiling was higher the next day and the walls were olive greenish brown. I tried to use a custom white balance, but could not get acceptable jpgs. But in RAW, I captured this.....

    118657210-L.jpg

    I should add that it was dark enough in this room that I had difficulty with autofocus with my 5D and an f2.0 lens - that is pretty dark. Credit goes to little Ellie and her choice of a whi-balance shirt.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • wingerwinger Major grins Registered Users Posts: 694 Major grins
    edited December 26, 2006
    Skippy wrote:
    Ummmmm you sooooooooo need to send this young man to my work nod.gif
    Yep he'd look just fine all wrapt up in Christmas Paper for sure :D

    I'll tell the girls someone sent us a Gift from USA rolleyes1.gif Skippy

    i was thinking the same, just dont tell my boyfriend!!!

    Overall on the photos I would say a great job using bounce flash to great a natural lighting sceme.

    The last two are my favorites with the excited look in the boys eyes and then the interesting shadow on the last photo.
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaSuper Moderators Posts: 14,620 moderator
    edited December 26, 2006
    One other comment in regard to Ziggy's questions.

    I processed these in RAW, using a neutral or white point in the image, to set the color temperature in ARC. I found a color temp of about 5200 K was about right. That is considerably warmer than flash by itself - Many flash manufacturers say they are about 5600 K, but others are much bluer than that. I suspect the 580ex is bluer than 5600 also, so 5200 represents the warmth added by the ambient light.

    With folks moving about, with a fixed broad light source in the room, shadows are not easy to anticipate, but can be very satisfying. I liked the my nephews image also, ladies.thumb.gif

    With two flashes on opposite ends of the room, you can dial the ST-E2 back and forth to control the direction of the lighting in real time as you shoot. Takes about 5 seconds to alter.

    One could set up a large studio flash with an umbrella to achieve similar soft lighting, but my aunt would have shot me if I tried that, and not invited me to Christmas next year also!!:D:D
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Super Moderators Posts: 22,399 moderator
    edited December 26, 2006
    Jim,

    Thanks for the explanation. I remember, years ago, of folks using bare bulb flashes, set in the corners of rooms to use the ceiling and walls as large reflectors to diffuse the flash.

    Your setup reminds me somewhat of a similar type of light.

    I hope your images are representative of the great time people seemed to be having.

    Best,

    ziggy53
    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • salazarsalazar Major grins Registered Users Posts: 392 Major grins
    edited December 27, 2006
    I've tried bounce flash off the ceiling in the past and while I've found it to be a huge improvement over flash straight on, I've often found it to be too soft with no highlights in the eyes. Your setup seems to work very well. I often find myself in the same situation at family gatherings and think your solution may work very well for me. Thank you for the detailed explanation of the setup.
    Please feel free to retouch and repost my images. Critique, Suggestions, and Technique tips always welcomed. Thanks for your interest.
  • firedancing4lifefiredancing4life drinks your milkshake Registered Users Posts: 550 Major grins
    edited December 27, 2006
    I like candids. Great job.
  • DavidSDavidS Major grins Registered Users Posts: 1,279 Major grins
    edited December 28, 2006
    Nice shots. Thanks for the explanations.
  • Jeff FillmoreJeff Fillmore Florida Grins Registered Users Posts: 411 Major grins
    edited December 28, 2006
    I looked thru the gallery- I like the lighting throughout. Nice work.
    Thanks!
    Jeff

    flickr

  • El KiwiEl Kiwi Major grins Registered Users Posts: 154 Major grins
    edited December 28, 2006
    Fantastic, thanks for the write-up. I'm in the midst of learning about my flash at the moment, this is great stuff. I wish I'd been able to read it before Christmas! Did you have many problems with your subjects shadowing one another as you moved around the room? Also, how does the ST-E2 perform in this sort of situation? Do the people interfere with the line of sight?

    Thanks again, and nice shots!
    Constructive criticism always welcome!
    "Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it." - Confucius
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaSuper Moderators Posts: 14,620 moderator
    edited December 28, 2006
    Thanks guys. I am glad you liked the shots and the description of how they were obtained.

    I think shooting in Manual Mode is part of the secret, as well as the use of the flash with the reflector in ETTL. Manual Mode gives you control of the balance of ambient versus flash, which you give up with Av or P.

    You certainly can get shadows if someone is between the flash and the subject, but fortunately that did not seem to occur that often. Might be more of a problem on a dance floor where lots of people are in closer proximity.

    As for line of site issues with the ST-E2, I have not had any, and find it pretty reliable in home type situations. In gmynasiums or other large rooms it might be more of an issue. I actually can use the ST-E2 around corners successfully in my home - I would not want one to take this as a guarentee - just my experience. I think it has to do with distance from the transmitter and reflectance of the wall surfaces some - more of a problem with lots of dark curtain perhaps. It has more difficulty in bright sunlight, but that is where there is a lot of IR radiation also.

    A 580ex could probably be used in lieu of the ST-E2 as a controller, but the ST-E2 is a lot smaller, and does not catch the eye of the subject like a big electronic flash does.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • El KiwiEl Kiwi Major grins Registered Users Posts: 154 Major grins
    edited December 28, 2006
    Fantastic stuff, thanks for the write-up! Definitely something to try, once I've splashed out on the ST-E2 or similar.
    Constructive criticism always welcome!
    "Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it." - Confucius
  • SenecaSeneca Majorette Grinner Registered Users Posts: 1,661 Major grins
    edited December 28, 2006
    I do the same with the flash...

    I must say you do good work.
  • NimaiNimai Grin there, done that Austin, TXRegistered Users Posts: 560 Major grins
    edited March 6, 2007
    Thanks everyone in this thread! It's been very encouraging. I have one 580EX but I need a way to control it now, so it doesn't have to be straight-ahead all the time, even with a diffusor or ceiling-bounce. I've gravitated in to using Manual when indoors as well, for consistant control of ambient light intake. Now I need to learn more about Flash control. I posted something [thread=55691]here[/thread] about my mistakes. :(
  • photogmommaphotogmomma Enormous giggles Registered Users Posts: 1,644 Major grins
    edited March 6, 2007
    Skippy wrote:
    Ummmmm you sooooooooo need to send this young man to my work nod.gif
    Yep he'd look just fine all wrapt up in Christmas Paper for sure :D

    I'll tell the girls someone sent us a Gift from USA rolleyes1.gif Skippy

    rolleyes1.gif Hilarious!!! Let me know when you get him. Hope he's everything you expect! mwink.gif


    Awesome lighting! I'm checking out that link to try that NOW! Great job!!!
  • cmasoncmason Old dog, new tricks Raleigh, NCRegistered Users Posts: 2,506 Major grins
    edited March 12, 2008
    pathfinder:

    I realize this is an older thread but another one on a similar topic brought it up. I got an ST-E2 now, and have tried this approach with two 430EXs in corners of the room, and generally it worked well. I did find that I mostly turned to "P" mode out of frustration.

    Tell me how you did manual? When I did manual of course, my lightmeter reads very dark. I really have no way to judge how the light will be working, except for chimping after the fact. Are you simply taking test shots to dial in the room, and then guesstimating speed adjustments based on how near or far you are from the flash?
  • Antonio CorreiaAntonio Correia Always learning Setubal - PortugalRegistered Users Posts: 6,172 Major grins
    edited March 12, 2008
    Jim, let me try to answer and please, correct me if I say something wrong.

    The way I did / do:
    I place one flash high at the corner of the room - where there are mainly white areas - and pointing to it. It will work as a large soft box.
    I hold the other flash in my left hand or I could use a flash bracket if I had one.
    I point this flash to the ceiling with my arm as up as I can and shoot at 1/60s f/3.
    I look at the histogram and mainly at the picture.
    I tune up the power of the flashes through the ST-E2 until I get a good picture.
    When people are near a wall - white or mainly white - I bounce the flash to the wall so the light comes back from the wall towards the persons.
    If I want to enhance the persons I place this flash - the one which was on my left hand - behind them and move until I don't see the flash and shoot.

    I hope I have explained myself.

    Thank you for correcting me or adding something more, Jim.

    Use cross lighting and be careful about blurring pictures. Use always the same or a higher shutter speed than the mm of the lens you are using.

    Remember that the speed controls - within certain limits - the light from the background and the aperture controls the flash.

    ISO can also control the light from the background.

    :Dthumb.gif

    Now that I re-read the previous post I am sure Jim will add something better than what I have written
    All the best ! ... António Correia - Facebook
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaSuper Moderators Posts: 14,620 moderator
    edited March 12, 2008
    I think you did a great job, Antonio.

    There are a few tricks that can help, I think.

    First, set one flash up 3 - 5 feet off the floor near a corner, with the flash head pointed vertical or almost vertical, and use the foamie diffuser to help throw some light straight forward, for catchlights in the eyes. This is assuming you have an 8 foot high white ceiling to bounce off.

    Start with just one flash at first. in ETTL of course.

    Set your ISO high enough that you can easily balance flash with ambient. Try ISO 400 or so to start, this last Christmas I shot with ISO 1600.

    Now, set your camera in Manual Mode, and start with say f 4, 1/160th at ISO 400 or 800. Shoot a few frames, and adjust to taste. Need more light? Open the aperture or raise the ISO? Too much ambient light, raise up the shutter speed, remembering that higher than 1/250th requires engaging High Speed SYnch on the flash. Too little ambient light, slow the shutter speed to 1/60th or even 1/30th. Might switch to second curtain synch at these speeds though.

    The reason for manual mode, is that the camera does not try to correct your exposure of the background for you. The subject in the foreground is illuminated correctly via ETTL and the flash, and the background depends entirely on your choice of aperture and shutter speeds.

    Once you switch to P, the camera will make all exposure choices for you, and will expose the forground subject correctly, but you have lost control over ambient/flash ratios in the background. Av mode will try to expose the background with ambient, but that can lead to shutter speeds less than 1/15th which won't float if shooting handheld.

    Once, you begin to get images that you like with one flash, you can then add a second one on channel B with the ST-E2, and begin cross lighting. One strobe is the main light, and the second strobe becomes the fill light about 1 stop less bright. The ratios are adjustable with the little slider on the back of the ST-E2.

    You can learn to check the lighting out pretty quickly, between chimping the LCD and looking at the histogram. For shooting candids at family gatherings, this technique works nicely.

    Don't be afraid to raise your ISO way up. This is hard to do at ISO 100, because with typical indoor home lighting the poor little speedlite will be dumping its entire capacitor charge for each shot. At ISO 800, the sppelite merely blinks and recharges immediately.

    Here is a couple frames shot at !SO 1600 with a 40D - If they are not under exposed, noise is manageable, and minimal



    [imgl]http://Pathfinder.smugmug.com/photos/237220152_UY5S5-M.jpg[/imgl][imgr]http://Pathfinder.smugmug.com/photos/240040567_hxhry-M.jpg[/imgr]

    cmason, you said it is very dark. Shooting in homes after sunset is frequently very dark, I agree. It does help to try to raise the ambient illumination if you can so you can focus more easily. Turn on a few extra lights, or put in larger tungsten bulbs. The more ambient light you include, the warmer your images, and you may have to adjust the color temp in your steps in RAW conversion a bit to re-balance. I think I used 5200 Kelvin, which is a little warmer than flash which is usually called abut 5600 Kelvin.

    Some of my family shots were shot at f2.2, so it was pretty dark for me also shooting at ISO 1600.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • Antonio CorreiaAntonio Correia Always learning Setubal - PortugalRegistered Users Posts: 6,172 Major grins
    edited March 12, 2008
    Great, great clap.gifDthumb.gif
    Many miles better than me. :D
    thumb.gifbowdown.gifD
    All the best ! ... António Correia - Facebook
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaSuper Moderators Posts: 14,620 moderator
    edited March 12, 2008
    You did great, Antonio.

    We just have to get them to turn off "P" and move into Manual mode and all will be wellthumb.gif
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • cmasoncmason Old dog, new tricks Raleigh, NCRegistered Users Posts: 2,506 Major grins
    edited March 12, 2008
    pathfinder wrote:
    You did great, Antonio.

    We just have to get them to turn off "P" and move into Manual mode and all will be wellthumb.gif

    Ha! well at this point, I do something similar to what you suggest. I put the camera on 1/60th, (old habits), f/4, and start shooting. In general it turns out ok. I suspect that what you pointed out is what is going on: E-TTL is compensating, and perhaps the result is my flashes are pumping out tons of light. I will try other settings and see what happens.

    Since I prefer Av/Tv modes, I often find myself shooting in it with flash, which has odd results. Av of course is difficult, even with an f2.8 lens. Tv on the other hand, actually works. I put my camera on 1/60th, and yes the aperture flashes in complaint, but I am able to take the shot all the same, and typically, it turns out fine, similar to the use of manual. However, now I have gotten used to manual with flash, and am OK with it.

    I guess what I am looking for, really, is a handheld lightmeter, one that will work with E-TTL and trigger my flashes.

    But, chimping works too

    littlechimp.jpg
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaSuper Moderators Posts: 14,620 moderator
    edited March 12, 2008
    There are numerous handheld flash light meters - I use the Sekonic 358, but none of them are any help with shooting in Av really. They are only useful, I think, when shooting with a manual speedlite that does not attempt any exposure modulation.

    Av mode ,with ETTL, works pretty well out of doors - I use it for fill light very frequently. But in the dimmer light of indoors, particularly after dark, higher ISOs and Manual mode with flash in ETTL will give much more predictable results, without the dreaded too slow a shutter speed caused by shooting flash in Av mode.

    The ability to shoot your subject with proper lighting, and to expose the background 1/2 to 1 stop darker really will give your shots nice impact.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
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