Keep it Simple, Student

The other day, when teaching a class on studio lighting, I decided I may as well be the model. So here it is: my portrait, shot by a student. Sharper than any I have ever had.

Michael Willems - August 2009

Michael Willems - August 2009

Students were shooting with a classical setup. Classic does not have to be expensive. This is all we used:

  • A paper backdrop behind me.
  • Three affordable studio strobes (Key, fill, and hair light)
  • Three light stands
  • Two umbrellas on main and fill light
  • A snoot on the hair light
  • To set it off, two pocketwizards
  • A light meter to measure.

But at last they were using 1Ds Mark 3 cameras (or their Nikon equivalent) and “L” lenses, yes? Right?

No. While there was a wide range of equipment, the picture here wsa taken with a Canon Digital Rebel XS (the cheapest Canon DSLR) and a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens – the cheapest Canon lens. If you could see the picture full size as I am seeing it, you would be amazed (and perhaps a little depressed at the million pores we all have).

That 50mm lens (available for Canon, Nikon and several other brands) is one of the sharpest, and a great lens for these portraits. It used to be a “standard lens” but it is now, with crop factor cameras, a great portrait lens (50mm is now equivalent, on those cameras, to 75-80mm). And very affordable – well under $200.

It is really all you need for this type of professional studio portrait.

Note the way I am leaning forward. That makes a portrait more dynamic. And note the catch lights in my eyes – those are necessary in a portrait.

If you want to learn this type of photography, take a course. Worth doing and worth spending a few dollars on – especially since one thing you may do not need to do is to spend lots and lots of money on expensive equipment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *