May « 2009 « Jurgen Doom

Studio lighting for portraits

26 May 2009 om 10:40 door Jürgen geplaatst in de categorie Flashlight,Portrait,Studio

Recently I did a studio portrait session with a pregnant couple.  The lady was about 36 weeks so it was a “now or never” shoot.

A studio session usually takes about an hour.  Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less.  During such a session, I use different types of lighting, which means that I can go from very soft, elegant light on a white background to hard, contrasty light on a black background – within minutes.  

A good example to illustrate this are the shots of the aforementioned portrait session of the pregnant couple.  The first image shows a typical example of relatively hard lighting by using 1 strobe (Elinchrom Style 600RX) fitted with a gridded spot.  The spot naturally throws a restricted beam of light and the grid channels it even more.  The result is an image with very directional light, hard shadow, a lot of contrast but also with a lot of emotion and mood.  Also, because of the restricted light, the background doesn’t receive any light and stays black (although a light grey background had been used).


The image has had post-production in Lightroom where I opted for a sepia look.  In my opinion, sepia works very well as skin tones (most of the times better than black and white), hence my choice for sepia.

On the other end of the lighting spectrum we have a lighting setup consisting of 3 Elinchrom strobes.  Two strobes were placed on either side of the couple and were fitted with large Chimera sofboxes.  These softboxes make for large and soft light sources, allowing for the light to wrap around the subject and thus creating soft shadows.  The 3rd strobe was used to illuminate the background, which was exactly the same grey background as in the previous image.  This time, by over exposing the background, it is rendered as pure white.  I balanced the two soft light sources in the front against the background in such a way that the couple was also a little overexposed, in order to get the desired image.  Post production in Lightroom (sepia toning).



These two photographs, taken within a few minutes from each other, illustrate the fact that lighting – and not the camera  – does most of the job in a photograph.  It’s the photographers’ task to postion its lighting in such a way that he or she obtains the desired effect.  And this skill is still the reason why photographers exist, because no camera can do this for you.

Jürgen Doom


18 May 2009 om 15:41 door Jürgen geplaatst in de categorie Commercial,Flashlight,Portrait,Uncategorized

For Linea Recta Media, a Dutch media agency specialised in corporate magazines (amongst other things) commissioned me to do a shoot of a girl who does salsa dancing.

The editor wanted a full length photograph of the girl dancing alone and dancing with a partner, with her face visible (or at least recognisable to the readers of the corporate magazine, in this case One! for Unilever Benelux).

In order to do so we met on a Sunday evening in “La Tentation“, a Brussels centre for dancecourses where we set up for the shoot. During the shoot, the salsa dance was in full swing, with litteraly thens of people dancing the night away.

As it was impossible to obtain the desired images with dancing people around my dancer, we had to move to a corner in the room.  Another problem is the fact that you cannot just photograph people and publisch them in a corporate magazine.  Should you want to do this, you would need a model release from everybody present in the room, which is practically impossible.

For the shoot I used two Nikon SB900 speedlights with a full CTO color filter, in order to balance for the avaible (warm) light in the room.  I also used a long lens (2.8 70-200mm VR ) and shot at high ISO levels in order to capture the ambient light.  My settings were ISO 3200, f/5.6 at 1/50sec.

Using the speedlights I was able to sculpture the lights on my model without altering the light on the background.  I used two stands to put on my flashlights and angled the at about 30° towards the dancer.  The lefthandside speedlight was about 1 stop brighter than the righthandside speedlight (in order to keep depth and dimension in the face).









Anyone for a dance?

Portrait photography – on location shoot with Myrte – part 3: flashlight

om 11:25 door Jürgen geplaatst in de categorie Flashlight,kids,Portrait

This is the last post of the shoot with Myrte on location (a field at midday in bright sunlight).

After having used flaslight to brighten up the shadow side of Myrte and to balance it against the harsh sunlight coming from the back, I wanted a few shots of her where the flashlight became the predominant light, hence underexposing the sunlight.  This would give a totally different feel to the image than what we saw in the previous posts.

In order to do so I had to set the flashlight to almost full power so that the flash could overpower the sun.  Using f/14 at 250 I dialed in an exposure setting into my camera that effectively would create an underexposed image, but the use of the flashlight added enough light on Myrte to get a correctly exposed image on her.

The result was about 1 usable photograph because Myrte got bored of being a model and wanted to enter her airy fairy princess world …..


Portrait Photography – on location shoot with Myrte – part 2: natural light with flash light

14 May 2009 om 12:26 door Jürgen geplaatst in de categorie Flashlight,kids,Portrait

In the previous post I explained how I photographed Myrte, a 6 year old girl, in a field on a bright sunny day.

After the initial shots without flash, I decided to use a flash (Nikon SB 900, triggerd with pocket wizards) to brighten up the shadow side of Myrte.  Since the sun was coming in from behind her (at left), I had to lighten up the right side of her face and body.  In order to do so, I choose to balance the light from my strobe (speedlight) against the sun so that the amount of flash added to Myrte would compensate for the loss of light on her shadow side.

This was done by adjusting the level of the speedlight.  It was aimed directly at Myrte (no use of any translucent material such as umbrella, ….).

The images were downloaded into Adobe Lightroom 2, where I adjusted the image to my liking (by boosting the blacks, exposure and by bringing back the saturation).



This next image was converted into black and white (with boosted highlights and blacks, in order to keep a balance in the image).


After about 10 minutes into the shoot, Myrte wanted to wear her “princess” dress.  So after a change of clothing we continued the shoot.  Notice the very light sky which, in effect, had a rather deep blue appearance.  But by overexposing a bit I rendered the sky lighter than it was in reality.


Finally we had some action going.  I asked Myrte to turn around a few times in order to get movement in her dress.  Due to the fact that I used a flashlight I was able to “stop” the action without getting blur in her face.


Portrait photography – on location shoot with Myrte – part 1: natural lighting

5 May 2009 om 20:09 door Jürgen geplaatst in de categorie Portrait

Myrte is a 6 year old girl whom I photographed on location – in a field – during a bright sunny day.  We had loads of sunshine during the shoot.


In order to take full advantage of the sun and still be able to control my lighting, I positioned Myrte in such a way that she had the sun coming from behind her.  Hence, her face and most of her body was in the shade.  By exposing for that part, I overexposed the sun-lit part of her body but rendered everything else as correctly exposed.  It’s also the reason why the sky is for the most part totally washed out.

portrait outdoor kids

portrait outdoor kids

It doesn’t take long for children of this age to get bored with what’s going on, so I shot a relatively quick succession of images.









Images were shot with Nikon D3 en 1.4 50mm and 1.8 105mm fixed lenses and post-production was done in Lightroom.

Next post will illustrate the addition of flashlight to the same setup.