During this senior shoot I used a one light setup with the Orlit Rovelight as my primary light. Later I'll share my opinion on the Rovelight. But first let's talk about the shoot!
SETTINGS: 1/400 sec at f/2.0, ISO 100
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My main camera body at this time is the Canon 6D. It's reliable and it's affordable compared to it's big brother the 5D Mark IV. While I would love dual card slots available in the 5D, I prefer to spend the $1000 saved on other photography equipment or an entire backup 6D. The 6D is also a little smaller and easier to handle. At some point I might pick up a Canon EOS R because of it's features and ease of use, but the 6D battery life beats the EOS R all day long.
For a headshot or portrait at this distance, I choose a lens between 50 and 85mm. This allows some breathing room between myself and the subject. In this case I went with the Canon 85mm 1.8.
I love to use strobes and softboxes all day every day. I love a well lit subject. It's just my preference. And maybe I love playing with all the gear that comes with it. Since I'm shooting outside in the afternoon, I needed a more powerful light so I used a monolight. Speedlites are strong, but I wanted wiggle room in case I am shooting in the sun. Rather than use my normal 600EX-RT, I used the Orlit Rovelight. To soften and provide direction to the light, I used a Westcott Apollo Medium 28" softbox. There are cheaper softboxes available, but Wescott products are good quality and dependable.
To learn more about using speedlites for off-camera flash, check out this post: Intro to Speedlites, Modifiers, and Off-Camera Flash.
ISO: Low ISO will always produce the cleanest, sharpest image. Unless you're trying to add grainy effect or compensate for a low light situation, use a low ISO between 100-400. Try different ISO settings on your camera to learn how they effect the images. You can always add grain in Lightroom or Photoshop later if you want.
SHUTTER SPEED: For clean, sharp images, faster shutter speed is better. At minimum, use the rule of matching shutter speed to focal length. This means if you are shooting with an 85mm lens, your shutter speed should be 1/85th of a second or faster. 1/85th isn't a normal shutter speed option, so round up to 1/100th or faster. Since we were outside on a sunny day I was able to shoot at 1/250 and 1/400 for most of these images which is ideal.
APERTURE: During this shoot I changed my aperture a couple times for a couple reasons. For full length portraits, I want my subject to be in focus and I want to blur the background. I don't necessarily want it creamy, but artistically blurred. You should adjust your aperture until you see the type of style you want. I found that f/2 was working great for me. Many photographers have the tendency to open as wide as possible (lower f number) but it doesn't hurt to be conservative to make sure your subject is sharp. Any movement between focus and capture can cause blur.
Any time I a shoot against a solid background I stop down to somewhere between f/5 and f/8. This focal range will generally produce the sharpest images. They are the "sweet spot." Since my subject is the only visible thing in the photo other than the background, I want to make sure she is sharp.
Scout your location! I had been looking for a location that would provide a wooded, hilly background. A friend of mine had recently purchased some property with several acres of grass, trees, and hills. I went to the location beforehand and took some photos to get an idea of what my background would look like. I focused on the grass 6-7 feet from me and then recomposed as if there were a subject standing in front of me. After taking 15 or 20 photos, I had an idea of where I wanted to take these portraits.
Discuss outfits ahead of time to talk about what your subject likes to wear and what will match your location. Solid colors are usually safer. Multiple outfits can be a life saver as you can switch things up depending on your background.
Try different poses. I usually do a smiling photo and a not smiling photo and take photos both of my subject looking at the camera and to the right or left at a 45 degree angle depending on the lighting. If a pose doesn't look good, provide specific instructions to your subject where to move/twist, turn.
Here is a lighting diagram (behind the scene) that shows the basic setup for most of the photos I took during this shoot! Unless I'm creating a dramatic photo, I usually place my light in the direction that my subject will be facing.
For our first photo I head to one of my pre-scouted locations with some foliage and grass in the background. My subject is in the shade in this photo and lit by the Rovelight from the right. My subject has an athletic figure but her loose fitting dress did not portray it in the photos. To give her more figure, I placed my subjects hand on her hip. We also tucked some of the dress back behind her left hand. It's easy to get caught up focusing on camera settings. Remember to spend a minute looking at your subject to make sure dresses/shirts are even and flattering.
SETTINGS: 1/400 sec at f/2, ISO 100
SETTINGS: 1/400 sec at f/2, ISO 100
The property owner had a burn pile (big pile of sticks) in their yard which made an interesting background for some of our photos. At each location, we try a couple of different pose: Look at me, look at that tree to our right, put your hand on your hair, tilt your head etc. Don't hesitate to try things. If something doesn't look better, ask your subject to shift back.
SETTINGS: 1/250sec at f/2, ISO 100
A gravel road on the property made an awesome backdrop for this photo!
SETTINGS: 1/200 sec at f/2, ISO 100
If time permits, I like to try fun things during my shoots. For this photo, I posed my subject in front of a white reflector that I clipped onto a light stand. Since the only thing in the photo is my subject, I stopped down to f/5 in order to have her face and hair all in focus.