When I completed Strobist as a project in 2021, I promised to check back in when I had something worth sharing. Today, I’m announcing my new book, The Traveling Photographer’s Manifesto, which seeks to do for traveling photographers what Strobist always tried to do for lighting photographers.

Thanks for giving it a look—and for your comments and feedback.

Shoot the Bloggers: Gus Sentementes

Local tech blogger Gus Sentementes popped down to The Cave for a headshot recently. And that was a good excuse to play with some atypical (for me, anyway) light.

Keep reading for some thoughts on working with differently shaped faces -- and taking the final display size into account, too.

Take a Walk on the Wide Side

Facial shape is something you really do need to take into account when designing your light. To that end, there are a standard list of pat solutions for just about any variety of face.

Problem is, I hate standard, pat solutions.

What they are really doing if you stop to think about it, is using light to push us all toward some idealized ratio. And who wants that?

As far as I am concerned, any time someone give you the "if they have this kind of face, light them in this way" speech, you can be pretty sure they are trying to cram you into some standardized portrait box.

Seriously, what's the point in that? If the goal is to make everyone look the same, just use the liquify filter in Photoshop and be done with it. Everyone will come out looking like the Dove Lady.

That said, there are some lighting styles that will give you problems with some face types. I just like to try to find more interesting (and varied) solutions when practical.

Here is Gus, with beauty dish + ring lighting. It is similar to the AscendOne shots I blogged about a little while back, but without the rims. This lighting makes his face look pretty wide. And the effect would be enhanced if I added the rim lights.

Another thing you may be noticing is the reddish tones on Gus's face. This is (as far as I can tell) a byproduct of the combo of my D3, which tends toward warm/red, and my AB's -- which do the same, but in an inconsistent way.

Shooting in RAW, I still have not been able to tweak things to a tone I am happy with. But I am not exactly thrilled about it and I am doing some testing with other platforms to see how to best swap out to correct it. More on that soon.

Anyway, back to the lighting position. In the pic above I have a AB in a beauty dish top/front, and a ring (a couple of stops down) for fill. There is an SB-800 on the background, and another SB-800 up top in a scissor-clip for a top light.

And this light really does not do anything for me, to be honest. It's a headshot, but it really does not bring anything special to the party. But it is a start.

Lately, I am trying to approach each headshot as more of a unique experience. And that means working with the light as a variable to add interest or visual focus. And in this case I wanted to draw some interest to the center of Gus's face with some restricted light.

Normally, I'd head straight to the grid spots for this kind of thing. But I already had the strip boxes out from another shoot. And besides, they had egg crate -type grids on them anyway.

So I killed the dish and the ring and brought the strips in very close -- aimed at each other. They were right in front of his face. The falloff from each gridded strip light kept it from creeping around to the side of Gus's face, which created a neat focus in the front.

The lights, of course, fall off kinda gradually, which accounts for the fact that there is some detail going back around his head. You can vary this falloff from how you aim the lights. Point them more toward the camera for a faster falloff, and aim them further back for more light on the sides.

To me, this light has way more interest than does the beauty/ring light above. It's certainly not a pat response to a wide face, either -- nor is it ever to likely be one. But playing around with different solutions is what makes tight portraiture so interesting to me. For something that is very standard in general shape and scale, there are still lots of creative possibilities.

Here's a pullback so you can see just how tight those gridded strips were. His face is really just a few inches from the edges of the boxes, and that is the key to getting the control on the front of his face.

The SB up top is gobo'd with a strip of gaffer's tape, and the (unseen) background light (another SB) has a dome to make that little separating glow.

You can modify how fast the gradient occurs in the background with the dome (180-degree light) and varying the distance to the wall. In this case, it was about a foot away.

Size Matters

As I said, my strong preference is for the shot with the more interesting light. But when we saw it avatar-sized (~50 pixels) it kinda made Gus look like, um, The Devil.

See what I mean?

Having worked with Gus for the better part of 10 years, I am pretty sure he is not, in fact, the Dark Lord Mephistopheles. (Although, to be fair, I don't socialize with him that much at night.)

But for very small (i.e., avatar) usage, we both agreed it was better to go with the other pic. Interesting, as I think the more dramatic light kills the standard-lit stuff at any other size.

Valuing Experimentation

This was a collaborative shoot -- no money involved either way -- so there was plenty of room for trying new things. And next time out, I will have that extra lighting technique in my bag of tricks and will be comfortable using it.

And that's what makes those kinds of shoots both interesting and valuable. I get to experiment and Gus gets new photos for his various social media channels. It works for both of us.

For his part, Gus is in at an interesting intersection for a newspaper guy right now. He is working in traditional media, but his blog's subject matter means that he has strong visibility into both print and new media/tech.

Gus is a fairly young guy, and no doubt realizes that newspapers will not be a dominant information channel going forward. Fortunately, the people who work in newspapers are very well suited to transitioning to new media formats as individuals.

The printing presses, trucks, newspaper racks and dead trees -- not so much.

Next: Earth Treks Pt. 1


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