Shedding some light on the subject

Always good to get a photography pun in there.  I’ll let you use that one yourself if you like too, I’m nice like that.

A couple of weeks back now I had wedding/function/event band “The Night Do” in the studio for their first promotional shoot. We had a really fun evening and got some really good results so I thought I’d share a bit about how we got them.*

I’m not going to go through everything step by step as that could be rather boring but I’ll go over things as quickly as I can from the set up and editing through to the final product.

First up, lighting –

The Night Do Lighting

Nice and simple. A softbox either side positioned to light the backdrop and have a bit of fall off onto the band as well. Combine that with a 80cm Octobox at the front and we’re good to go. Lighting diagram via by the way, great little tool with the app on your phone or via your browser.

I feel I should probably point out that although I do have a studio space it isn’t the world’s biggest and it does have a few limitations (these still haven’t stopped me to date though, a will and a way and all that new age freestyle jazz) namely two big pillars right in the middle of the room and not a whole lot of depth wall to wall.

Luckily there is literally just enough space between the two pillars to pull out a nine foot wide seamless backdrop but from wall to wall there’s only just enough space to use a lens up to about 100mm on individuals but with groups I always have to switch to something a lot wider to be able to fit them on a full length shot which usually ends up in the group overhanging the backdrop itself and quite a lot of the surrounding area ending up in the shot as well (if anyone has tips to help negate this I’m all ears) so they end up looking a bit like this straight out of the camera…

The Night Do OFTC

I’ve always underexposed my portraits, be that a good or bad thing, so it gives me a bit more headroom to edit with – it’s easier to brighten shadows than it is to dim highlights. That’s probably not the most technically correct way to shoot but I’m rarely technically correct anyway.

Once I have the RAW shots in Lightroom I go through the basics and the obvious bits; lens corrections, details (sharpening edges and any noise reduction although most of the studio stuff is shot at 100-200iso so this is extremely minimal if needed at all) and then onto exposure, black point, white point, raising shadows and taming any stray highlights. I will then crop down the edges so I’m not having to fill in ridiculous gaps. All of this usually ends up with an image like this I can then open up into Photoshop to do the bulk of my editing.

The Night Do LR

Obviously there’s a big gaping hole on the right hand side of the image so my first job is to fill and blend that in. A lot of work with the pen and the clone stamp tools to get all that right but once I do I can expand the shot out using the crop tool and content aware fill. The majority of the time this works perfectly fine but there has been the odd time it’s produced some absolute howlers too. With a bit more finessing and playing with the whitepoint in a levels adjustment layer and a range mask, the backdrop looks like it was always there.

Once I have the filled in and expanded backdrop, and it’s looking the way I want it, the rest is a pretty bog standard portrait edit (for this one anyway, I have done others where I’ve gone into the likes of colour grading, colour look ups and textures but maybe I’ll cover that in another blog at some point) starting with some frequency separation, dodging and burning where needed, a bit of curves work for an exposure boost or contrast.

My last two steps in Photoshop are always to go over the whole image looking for marks or dirt on the clothing or backdrop before a final layer of slight sharpening using a high pass filter all of which, on this occasion, produced this final image…

The Night Do

I’m fully aware this may be a very convoluted way of editing and maybe not very technically correct but it’s definitely the way I’m used to now and I find it works for me so I’m happy with that. If anyone wants to compare editing notes or has any suggestions on how to possibly do things a little easier though then feel free to get in touch and start up a conversation.

For now, that’s about all I can think of to talk about on this edit without boring the pants off you (if you even have pants on to begin with). If anyone wants some more details about different techniques I’ve talked about here then again, just drop me a message and ask a question.


*I’ve learnt quite a bit of my lighting and editing techniques from watching YouTube videos over the years so this is my attempt at giving a little bit back without looking and sounding like an idiot on video. I’m much better at typing than I am at talking. Apologies if you prefer listening over reading (like me).