Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Backlit self-portrait

20/52 Backlit
Originally uploaded by hpebley3

This self-portrait was inspired by a scene in a movie I saw recently. (I don't remember which one; it was something based on one of Jane Austin's works.) It took a bit more work than I expected; here's what it took.

I knew I only needed one light and a dark background. I had my backdrop setup to use the white side so I set a moderately high aperture of f/13, turned off all the ambient lights and set the chair about 8 feet from the backdrop. This made the white canvas appear black. I already had the monolight setup with a soft-box from some previous work and started by setting it directly in front of me.

A test shot resulted in the whole front of my face being lit. It was a nice effect with some potential but not what I envisioned for this shot. There was too much light and the falloff from light to dark was more gradual than I wanted. The soft-box was doing it's job and giving me a nice soft light. So I took the soft-box off and blinded myself with a bare flash.

The shadows changed from soft to hard, eliminating the gradual drop-off from light to dark. But I still had more light on the front of my face than I wanted. Next I moved the light back next to the backdrop pointing towards the chair.

Test shots with this setup produced a light on me close to what I wanted. But it lit the background enough that it changed from black to grey and introduced lens flair. I grabbed the barn doors and put them on the light. I adjusted the vertical doors to have a very narrow window, lighting only the chair and eliminating the light on the camera and backdrop.

This setup, with a bit of tweaking light power, was what produced the final shot.

Here's a diagram of the final setup (produced using the online tool at
20/52 Backlit setup

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