Cheapskate photoshoot
August 7, 2007 6:42 AM   Subscribe

Help with photo-shoot on the cheap!

I am my company's resident photographer, if only because I am the one with a digital SLR (Nikon D50). I need tips on creating a simple backdrop and creative (cheap) lighting for photographing employees. We are using a conference room with dreadful flourescent lighting. We just don't have the budget to buy pro gear...but we have photoshop to make tweaks in the end.
posted by punkfloyd to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Strobist has tutorials on the technical aspects of just this sort of thing. They focus on using cheap off-camera strobes (flashes) in creative ways -- the author recommends a $85 vivitar as a good, cheap strobe. The blog also has walk-throughs of creative feature photojournalism lighting setups and background setups that address this sort of situation.
posted by Alterscape at 6:50 AM on August 7, 2007

Believe it or not, Previously.
posted by anaelith at 6:51 AM on August 7, 2007

Cheap lighting: Go to Home Depot and buy work lamps. Imperfect but cost-effective ($30-ish), and miles better than flourescent - and Photoshop can tweak the white balance.

For a backdrop, well, are the walls white? There you go. If not, well, colors other than white should be fine too. If you don't like the actual background for whatever reason, a roll of appropriate paper will get the job done.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:52 AM on August 7, 2007

Is this just for mugshots for work badges? Assuming you have a usable background (preferably a white wall) and facing windows allowing diffuse light (not direct sunlight), just use the soft natural light. Use no flash. Use a tripod to compensate for the low shutter speeds. I used a similar setup to take some passport photos a few years back and they turned out nice. No need at all for the usual flash/umbrella/backdrop setup.
posted by DarkForest at 7:12 AM on August 7, 2007

Oh, and position the person enough in front of the wall (if you have room) so that the background is blurred and so that no distinct shadows are cast on the wall from the subject. 3 feet is good if there's room to manage it.
posted by DarkForest at 7:21 AM on August 7, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks DarkForest. I failed to mention this is for our intranet site. Not badges and not a corporate bio page. Just a get to know your fellow employees sorta thing.
posted by punkfloyd at 7:23 AM on August 7, 2007

Just a get to know your fellow employees sorta thing.

OK, then informal shots in their cubicles/offices. Work lights and creativity. Sounds like a fun learning exercise. Shoot a couple and see how they turn out, go back and try again.
posted by DarkForest at 7:37 AM on August 7, 2007

Backdrop isn't necessary. Just blur the background by using a f1.8 lens wide open. Keep it far enough away from the subject so that the blur is pleasant.

I actually like the soft qualities of fluorescent lighting but that was using it with TMAX100. The only thing you need is a slight fill for the shadows in the eye sockets. Make sure you either use a foam core board to fill the shadows or use correct filtration on your camera mounted flash. If you don't use correct filtration on the flash your color balances will be hopelessly screwed up.

IMO work lamps are too harsh for portraiture. Even using them bounced, they are a PIA to work with. Ambient light will always be preferable.
posted by JJ86 at 9:53 AM on August 7, 2007

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