Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Portraiture session: Don Derrick Ng

© 2010 Martin Liew Photography

Don Derrick Ng is a local talented singer/song writer who has been playing music for many years and recently he takes part in NEA Eco Music Challenge 2010, a song writing contest. He wrote this song titled, A Little Dose of Happiness. You can check out his DIY music videos here. If you like his lyrics and music, please vote him here.

More inside after the jump.

I approached Don and ask if I can take his pictures as I'm inspired by his songs which portray positivity and love. Nice melody and easy to listen to. He agreed and I arranged for the date, time and location for the portraiture session. I chose to do it in the park because of the song he wrote for the contest. So we're going Green and I think the location is perfect and ideal for Don.
The session turned out great and ran smoothly despite of the hot afternoon weather. We arrived too early at about 4:30 PM. As I didn't want to waste our time waiting for the cool evening, I went ahead to shoot. The session lasted slightly more than 2 hours and we all enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.
I was fortunate to have my friend Brenda to assist me during the session. I taught Brenda on the operation of Nikon speedlights prior to the actual day session, to get her familiarized with the functions and lighting set-up. Without her help carrying the equipments and holding the light stand and reflector, I wouldn't be able to make the pictures I wanted on that day. Thank you Brenda!
I would like to thank Don, for his time and patience, for staying with me through out the portraiture session despite the hot weather and me directing him to pose. Thank you very much Don!
The main reason why I want to do his portraitures is not only inspired by his songs, but at the same time to create photographs/portfolio for him to use for his future CD album artwork, or press kit so as to portray him as a musician; a singer, a song writer. Lastly it is to expand my portfolio as well. I hope the pictures I made of him may help him got signed by record label one day. Keep it up Don!
2 Lights and 1 Reflector

OK here's the lighting set-up part you have been waiting for.

Basically I used 2 lights for this shot; one for the shape and the other for shadow detail. The main light is placed on camera left, facing the subject almost full front. As the setting sunlight is too strong, using a shoot-through umbrella or softbox doesn't help creating soft light, even at full power. I can open up my aperture to control the flash exposure with smaller flash power but what I want is a longer depth of field i.e. to make everything clear and sharp.

First I switched to Shutter Priority mode and set the shutter speed at my flash sync speed which is 1/250th second. From there, I would be able to determine the right aperture which is f/16. This is to get my exposure correctly balanced for the background. Next I switched back to Manual mode and set accordingly with zero E.V. compensation in Daylight WB at ISO200. Before I took a test shot to check and ensure the main light position and exposure are right, I estimated the flash power and set my SB-800 at 1/2 (half) power without any light modifier; just bare bulb. Another test shot and the exposure is slightly under, so I opened up my aperture by one f/stop i.e. f/11.

I want to use this main light to mimick the setting sunlight coming from the background, hitting onto the subject's face. At the same time I want to achieve the classic Rembrandt lighting effect and to balance the whole exposure. Yes it certainly creates harsh shadows falling on the tree trunk. I got Brenda to hold a light reflector with the silver side, to bounce the sunlight on the subject's shadow area. Well, at 1/250th second f/11, it's not that significant. Therefore I used a ring flash on my SB-900 with 1/4 flash power (1 stop lower than the main light). With the ring flashlight I was able to throw enough light for shadow detail.

Here's the lighting diagram to illustrate what I've just said.

Below is a wide angle full body shot I took with the same lighting set-up, but I closed my aperture back to f/16, set the main light to full power and ring light to 1/2 power as I was shooting against the sun, in hope to get some interesting lens flares. But it didn't seem to work. Anyway I ask Don to shift a little more inwards facing the camera. By changing Don's position, I have had eliminated the harsh shadows on the tree trunk and removed more shadows on his face and neck area.

© 2010 Martin Liew Photography

I didn't try any black and white conversion for these two pictures as they look good in color. I like the warm tones with the blue sky sitting on the background. For other shots I made during the session, Don played and sang his original songs on his guitar. Well, it did draw some attention from the park visitors. But hey we all enjoy his music and it helped to get him in the mood during the portrait session.