Friday, September 4, 2009

Jessica Just: Beauty Dish + Ray Flash

This is the first time that I've used this combination of light/light modifiers. The original idea was to create a dramatic high contrast image with my 22" beauty dish mounted on a single AB800. The problem with only using the beauty dish is that the darks/shadows were too dark and ironically the image came out "too contrasty" (I never thought anything could have too much contrast).

The troubleshooting analyst in me initially tried to resolve this issue by using my trusty reflector to bounce some of the beauty dish light back into the shadows. This proved to be somewhat challenging because the reflector didn't bounce back enough light at the distance I needed to allow Jessica her necessary range of motion ("degrees of freedom" as I sometimes call it). So what now?

In a moment of brilliance, I remembered that the Ray Flash adapter could also be used to fill in shadows from an on-axis plane. So I grabbed an SB-800 and mounted the Ray Flash adapter and the result was pure magic. The contrast were there and the shots looked fantastic. The "secret" (not really a secret since I learned this from David Hobby) is to dial in your fill flash first, then add your main light to the shot. If you do this in reverse order, you'll wind up having to adjust your main light again anyway after you see how the fill light adds to the main light in the bright areas and highlights.

In post processing a lot of magic happened as well. Jessica is first of all a fantastic model. Very commercial, very fluid in her movement and poses, very aware of her body and her face, very relaxed, very energetic, very everything. Probably the only downside with Jessica is that she gives you so many looks and poses and your camera can't keep up! I have a memory buffer of 14-15 frames on the D3, which is to say that I can pop off 15 frames in a row before I am limited by the time it takes for the camera to write the files onto the CompactFlash card. Jessica is the only model that I've ever shot where I encountered this limitation. With Jessica, I'd could go 100 frames in probably about 3 minutes. Shooting this many frames in sequence before "coming up for air" also means that you have to have your settings dialed in pat otherwise, you'll discover 100 frames later that "something's wrong"... which means you just lost 100 frames.

Where was I? Oh yeah, post-processing. I really pushed the highlights and shadows. By "pushing" I mean really cutting off the ends in Photoshop's Levels adjustments. I find that by doing so, we achieve an image with much greater contrast with darker darks and brighter highlights. The downside is we lose some detail at the extreme ends such as the blacks and the highlights but I find that these sacrifices must be made in order to put the focus where the focus ought to be, the face. If the adjustments aren't made with the face as the focus, then sure we'll have better detail overall but the viewer's eyes might start to wander and the face won't make as much of an impact as it would otherwise.

In Lightroom, I played around with the colors, vibrance, and saturation to achieve a more dramatic effect. Really nothing out of the ordinary. Just looking for the right balance of saturation and skin tones.

There you have it, the first of Jessica's retouched pictures. Now that my color ordeal is over I might actually have time to look at and process the other sets.

Strobist info: SB800 with Ray Flash adapter as fill lighting. Main light is a 22" beauty dish in AB800 from camera upper left about 45 degrees down onto the face. Triggered wirelessly via Cactus V4

Camera info: D3, 24-70mm, 1/200th, f/9, ISO200, 70mm

Model/Wardrobe: Jessica Just

Makeup: Alyssa Fong

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