While visiting friends in Charlottesville over the Holidays, I shot this portrait of their three daughters. I’ve taken pictures of the two younger ones before, the most recent for the family’s Holiday card. But directing three subjects at once requires skills that I am still in need of and it’s even harder when trying to control the lighting, wrestle with the camera and exposure and keep the subjects in frame. Fortunately for me, the models performed as if they’d done it all before…which, of course, they had.
Since we always travel to Charlottesville with a full lighting set up, we were able to create a studio environment in their garage. They graciously moved two of the cars out to give us some elbow room, allowing us to hang a background, position lights and have enough distance to use the longer focal length lens.
I had a brand new Einstein monolight to use and set it up behind a 3′ x 6′ diffuser hung above and to the rear of the subjects on two C-stands with boom arms. This created a wide source, simulating a skylight. It provided a nice hair light, giving separation from the background for all three without having to deal with multiple gridded lights. To concentrate the light and keep it from bouncing off the low ceiling, I mounted the Einstein in a Lastolite EZ-Box, but without the diffusers; essentially a large, square reflector. Key light was a small flash through a 48″ umbrella almost directly in front and just out of frame above them. A white reflector just out of frame below provided fill.
The small flash was triggered from the camera via an extension hotshoe. This allows control of the key light from the camera menu without having to use infrared or wireless control. Now that I’ve learned not to snag the cord as I stumble around the set, it is a great set up. The Einstein has a built in optical trigger. So as long as the small flash is being used in manual mode (i.e., no pre-flash signaling) it works great and syncs at the camera’s max sync speed. And anyway, Syl Arena says to start learning flash in manual mode in his new book, “Speedliter’s Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites“.
The Einstein did what it was supposed to do. Provide as much or as little light as needed, be easy to position and control, allow attachment of modifiers and provide a pretty cool digital interface. Which is on the back of the unit. Which is on a boom arm 8 feet up and sort of over the subjects. Behind a diffuser. So the next thing I need to get is the Cyber Commander remote control unit for it which, in addition to allowing control of up to 16 Einstein or other studio lights, will (as I understand it) also trigger and maybe control small flashes.
We were going for the sepia effect from the start and I was able to get it in Lightroom using split toning after applying a minimum of beauty retouching. They are all young and naturally beautiful women, so not much was required. I also applied a negative vignette to fade the edges and give the image an older feel. The family and the subjects seemed quite pleased, so it was all worth our collaborative effort.