Portrait 1/52 - Jeff

For my first portrait of my 52 Portraits project, I coerced my brother Jeff, who was visiting for the weekend from Southern California, to be my first subject. We didn’t have a lot of time, so we took only about 10 shots in one setup that I had worked out before he arrived. 

My favorite shot is this one where he was trying to give me a serious look but couldn’t help himself from smirking just a little:


I also liked these two in color:


In the last one I decided to expirement with the background color a little and settled on a nice muted green to tie in with his shirt.

Technical Details

The setup consisted of three lights with the subject (Jeff) sitting on a stool in front of a tan painted wall. For the main light, just above and slightly camera right to the camera, I had a flash and white shoot-through umbrella with the flash set at 1/2 power. The second light was a rim/hair light slightly behind the subject at camera left. It was an 8x36 gridded strip box with the flash set at 1/4 power. Finally I had a bare flash just behind the subject on the stool for the background light. It was set at 1/2 power. To help fill in the shadows on the face just a bit, I had Jeff hold a reflector just under the camera’s view. The camera was set at ISO 100, f7.1, and 1/160.

I started with the camera set to the maximum sync shutter speed, 1/200, but was having trouble getting rid of a pesky dark area on one side of the frame. No matter what I changed with the lighting, I always ended up with a dark bar. I finally figured out that my triggers must introduce just enough delay to not allow a fully exposed frame at 1/200. I dropped the shutter speed down to 1/160 and everything was suddenly fine.


For my first attempt, I’m pretty pleased with the results. I liked the lighting setup pretty well but I intend to keep experimenting with the technical details. However, my biggest area of improvement is probably the social part — working with the subject, getting good expressions/poses, and the myriad of other non-technical things that make a portrait great. I’m hoping that the experience of the following 51 weeks will help with that!

Part of this project is soliciting feedback. So if you have any thoughts or suggestions, leave them in the comments. I’d love the hear them.

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