Tutorial Portraits as they used to be

Garry Edwards

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Garry Edwards submitted a new resource:

Portraits as they used to be - I tend to poke my nose in on the Lighting Forum when there are real questions about lighting

I tend to poke my nose in on the Lighting Forum when there are real questions about lighting and to leave it to others to answer those interminable questions about the flashgun settings that are usually buried deep within menus and sub-menus. I sometimes wonder why people even bother about these things, because they’re usually just marketing features (rather than real benefits) that contribute little or nothing to the real-world situation of taking shots in a pressured shooting environment...

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That was a really interesting read, thank you, she had a lovely bubbly smile.
 
I'm not into portraits or lighting at all but I enjoyed the story and the insights.

Thanks for posting.
 
As someone just starting to learn about flash photography, this was a great and informative (and unexpectedly emotional at one point) post, thanks @Garry Edwards.
 
As someone just starting to learn about flash photography, this was a great and informative (and unexpectedly emotional at one point) post, thanks @Garry Edwards.
Yes, there was some emotion there, I posted that thread just a few days after her funeral
 
GARY -- YO !! Brings back 'MEMORIES' !! YES I had only Pocket Money to spend on Photography so tried to Make Gear Myself and I made a PhotoFlood set up from old Biscuit tins as reflectors and often used to FUSE the House Lights but MUM was very understanding and used to hold up a blanket covering the door to the indoor Coal Cupboard while I was inside loading film into Dev Tank and DAD used to come home from Liverpool St Station and gingerly open the door asking " is it SAFE to come in Winnie as the Boy is in the Cupboard"
 
GARY -- YO !! Brings back 'MEMORIES' !! YES I had only Pocket Money to spend on Photography so tried to Make Gear Myself and I made a PhotoFlood set up from old Biscuit tins as reflectors and often used to FUSE the House Lights but MUM was very understanding and used to hold up a blanket covering the door to the indoor Coal Cupboard while I was inside loading film into Dev Tank and DAD used to come home from Liverpool St Station and gingerly open the door asking " is it SAFE to come in Winnie as the Boy is in the Cupboard"
Pretty much the same as me, except that I didn't have the benefit of a coal cupboard - well, I did, but it was full of coal . . .

For me, it was the kitchen or scullery that was my darkroom, but it could only be used at night. It was also between the living room and the back door, and people had to go through it to get to the outside toilet. My poor old mum had to put up with a lot, including the smell of the sulphuric acid that I used to process negative film into transparencies:)

The working conditions, lack of equipment, lack of money and lack of resources were normal at the time but, looking back, it's a wonder that we managed with what we had.
 
The article's closing paragraph said, "And I still tell people in the Lighting Forum to use flash for still photos, not to use continuous lighting."
I agree about dazzling the subject. But there is very real value to using continuous light sources, while learning Lighting...
I also counsel,
  • "Use a continuous light source when you are LEARNING the placement of lighting...
  • MOVE the source around the face of your willing subject (various positions around the clock and immediately to the sitter's side vs. closer to lens position (and in betweeen) --, and SEE immediately what the different positions of light do to the face of the subject, to flatter them or even to make they appear hideous! Flash will not educate you about source position as fast as using a continuous light source, both about shadows and about how the lighting position can emphasize some features and make some things less apparent in the photo.
  • Learn to FLATTER with light, not merely to ILLUMINATE...those are two very different things that lighting can achieve. Most folks merely ILLUMINATE. The artist flatters the subject.
The very readily attainable inexpensive flash turns the learning process into,..
  1. Place light
  2. Shoot subject
  3. Process film/digital image
  4. See a not-fully satisfying result, so try again...(return to step 1)
...and there is not a lot of learning, and it happens much more slowly. Because you do not SEE what happens until the very brief flash of light, and later examination of the photo.

Use a continuous source especially at the beginning of your learning process, THEN get yourself some flash units, and place THEM where your eye has taught you will more likely flatter your subject. A flash that has continuous modelling light will help to refine the placement of the source to best advantage, without dazzling your subject.
 
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The article's closing paragraph said, "And I still tell people in the Lighting Forum to use flash for still photos, not to use continuous lighting."
I agree about dazzling the subject. But there is very real value to using continuous light sources, while learning Lighting...
I also counsel,
  • "Use a continuous light source when you are LEARNING the placement of lighting...
  • MOVE the source around the face of your willing subject (various positions around the clock and immediately to the sitter's side vs. closer to lens position (and in betweeen) --, and SEE immediately what the different positions of light do to the face of the subject, to flatter them or even to make they appear hideous! Flash will not educate you about source position as fast as using a continuous light source, both about shadows and about how the lighting position can emphasize some features and make some things less apparent in the photo.
  • Learn to FLATTER with light, not merely to ILLUMINATE...those are two very different things that lighting can achieve. Most folks merely ILLUMINATE. The artist flatters the subject.
The very readily attainable inexpensive flash turns the learning process into,..
  1. Place light
  2. Shoot subject
  3. Process film/digital image
  4. See a not-fully satisfying result, so try again...(return to step 1)
...and there is not a lot of learning, and it happens much more slowly. Because you do not SEE what happens until the very brief flash of light, and later examination of the photo.

Use a continuous source especially at the beginning of your learning process, THEN get yourself some flash units, and place THEM where your eye has taught you will more likely flatter your subject. A flash that has continuous modelling light will help to refine the placement of the source to best advantage, without dazzling your subject.
Good points. (y)
 
The article's closing paragraph said, "And I still tell people in the Lighting Forum to use flash for still photos, not to use continuous lighting."
I agree about dazzling the subject. But there is very real value to using continuous light sources, while learning Lighting...
I also counsel,
  • "Use a continuous light source when you are LEARNING the placement of lighting...
  • MOVE the source around the face of your willing subject (various positions around the clock and immediately to the sitter's side vs. closer to lens position (and in betweeen) --, and SEE immediately what the different positions of light do to the face of the subject, to flatter them or even to make they appear hideous! Flash will not educate you about source position as fast as using a continuous light source, both about shadows and about how the lighting position can emphasize some features and make some things less apparent in the photo.
  • Learn to FLATTER with light, not merely to ILLUMINATE...those are two very different things that lighting can achieve. Most folks merely ILLUMINATE. The artist flatters the subject.
The very readily attainable inexpensive flash turns the learning process into,..
  1. Place light
  2. Shoot subject
  3. Process film/digital image
  4. See a not-fully satisfying result, so try again...(return to step 1)
...and there is not a lot of learning, and it happens much more slowly. Because you do not SEE what happens until the very brief flash of light, and later examination of the photo.

Use a continuous source especially at the beginning of your learning process, THEN get yourself some flash units, and place THEM where your eye has taught you will more likely flatter your subject. A flash that has continuous modelling light will help to refine the placement of the source to best advantage, without dazzling your subject.
Garry’s post assumes (maybe asserts, it’s a while since I read it) the use of modelling lights, which obviously does all of that but without being bright enough to create a decent image and dazzle the subject.


And of course when learners are talking nowadays about continuous sources they’re likely to be purchasing cheap led panels, which create a light that’s completely different to what we would get when we upgrade them to a decent flash in a good sized modifier. To the point where a new user is unlikely to be able to create something ‘attractive’.
 
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The article was about the time when flash (as we know it today) simply didn't exist. What we did have back then was extremely low-powered and very expensive electronic flash, and flashbulbs. From memory, the early electronic flash units cost a minimum of 4 weeks wages although, to be fair, as a young trainee photographer, my earnings were low.

Continuous lighting was all that we had, and all that we could afford was those horrible Photoflood lamps. "Movie lights" were available but at unbelievable cost, and domestic electricity supplies couldn't handle the amperage. At the time, I was a trainee photographer working for a large studio, and we only had Photofloods. Even David Bailey, hugely talented and successful, used them.
Garry’s post assumes (maybe asserts, it’s a while since I read it) the use of modelling lights, which obviously does all of that but without being bright enough to create a decent image and dazzle the subject.


And of course when learners are talking nowadays about continuous sources they’re likely to be purchasing cheap led panels, which create a light that’s completely different to what we would get when we upgrade them to a decent flash in a good sized modifier. To the point where a new user is unlikely to be able to create something ‘attractive’.
@Phil V is right, people tend to go for useless continuous lighting that cannot be modified, it's made down to a price, it's OK for video but unsuitable for nearly all still photography.
The article's closing paragraph said, "And I still tell people in the Lighting Forum to use flash for still photos, not to use continuous lighting."
I agree about dazzling the subject. But there is very real value to using continuous light sources, while learning Lighting...
I also counsel,
  • "Use a continuous light source when you are LEARNING the placement of lighting...
  • MOVE the source around the face of your willing subject (various positions around the clock and immediately to the sitter's side vs. closer to lens position (and in betweeen) --, and SEE immediately what the different positions of light do to the face of the subject, to flatter them or even to make they appear hideous! Flash will not educate you about source position as fast as using a continuous light source, both about shadows and about how the lighting position can emphasize some features and make some things less apparent in the photo.
  • Learn to FLATTER with light, not merely to ILLUMINATE...those are two very different things that lighting can achieve. Most folks merely ILLUMINATE. The artist flatters the subject.
The very readily attainable inexpensive flash turns the learning process into,..
  1. Place light
  2. Shoot subject
  3. Process film/digital image
  4. See a not-fully satisfying result, so try again...(return to step 1)
...and there is not a lot of learning, and it happens much more slowly. Because you do not SEE what happens until the very brief flash of light, and later examination of the photo.

Use a continuous source especially at the beginning of your learning process, THEN get yourself some flash units, and place THEM where your eye has taught you will more likely flatter your subject. A flash that has continuous modelling light will help to refine the placement of the source to best advantage, without dazzling your subject.
You've made some valid points, continuous lighting (when fitted with [for example] a S-fit mount that allows flash modifiers to be fitted) is an an excellent learning tool because it shows, very accurately, where the shadows fall and the depth of those shadows - and it's the negative lighting - the shadows - that are important. In theory only, studio flash modelling lamps do the same thing, but they are never bright enough to make the ambient light irrelevant, which means that the room needs to be in near-total darkness, and very few people see the need to darken the room.

But, if the room isn't darkened, although the modelling lamps will show where the shadows fall, they won't show the depth of those shadows.

But, I stick with my statement that people should use flash for still photos, not continuous lighting. Even hotshoe flash produces better results than continuous lighting, but the modelling lamps and much higher power of studio flash is in a different league entirely.
 
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The biggest problem with continuous lighting IMO is that it reduces the pupils to pin pricks which significantly affects how the viewer
relates to the subject.
 
The biggest problem with continuous lighting IMO is that it reduces the pupils to pin pricks which significantly affects how the viewer
relates to the subject.
And indeed, when o did my first ‘portrait lighting’ course they covered touching up pupils actually on prints. Felt mad at the time.
 
And indeed, when o did my first ‘portrait lighting’ course they covered touching up pupils actually on prints. Felt mad at the time.
We did that too, it was totally normal at the time.

When I started out as a trainee, very young, I worked for a very large Company in central London, I had no experience of photography or anything else.
Our main studio camera was a 15"x12" plate camera, nearly all of the retouching was carried out on the glass negatives, very highly skilled work that was farmed out to a specialist retoucher. For the first year or so I was the youngest and most junior, so was the messenger. I had to take the plates to the retouching firm and collect from them. They were just around the corner, in Soho, which was and may still be the sex area, and you can guess what the retouchers specialised in:)

I didn't know where to look, the girls who did the retouching were always laughing at me, and I don't blame them :help:
 
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