February 18, 2017 at 18:45 #27309
“Lauren Louise by Candlelight” is a beautiful set of a beautiful model. These days I often find myself spending more time looking at lighting and camera aspects of RE photosets than at the model and bondage, but I judge this one as first rate on all counts.
I imagine it is another example of the low light qualities of the Sony a7rII that Hywel has commented on before. I guess there was some additional lighting too, though. The highlighting on Lauren’s left side doesn’t match what I would expect from just the two table lamps – but the way the candles stand out suggests to me a general low light level.
I hope Hywel will correct me if I am way off in those guesses and I would also be interested in the answers to some other questions. I hope they are of interest to others too.
1. Was a tripod used? I know Hywel has also previously commended the image stabilisation on the Sony. I also realise that a professional of his experience undoubtedly has a steadier hand than I have. So perhaps the question should be, at what shutter speed would you recommend we clumsy oafs use a tripod with the a7rII?
2. Were there any problems getting auto-focus to work in the low light? As a follow-up, are there any tricks for focussing in low light? The set makes very effective use of shallow depth of field and no doubt the wide aperture used to create that was also helpful in the low light. But getting the focus where you want it is crucial. Any problems? Any tips?
3. Was the colour adjusted afterwards? I love the look of this set and someone who sees colour better than I do tells me is has a lovely, warm look to it. Is this just the candlelight and the way the Sony camera deals with it or have you enhanced it somehow (filter on a light somewhere or in “post production”)?
AndrewFebruary 23, 2017 at 20:17 #27316
Glad you liked the set! I’ll try to reconstruct from memory… IIRC this one required quite a bit of fiddling around to get the lighting right, so I’ll have to try to distinguish between what I remember setting up first and what I finally ended up with!
I had warm fill from LED panels down on the floor, and a cooler light coming in from over Lauren’s shoulder to camera right (her left). I wanted the candles to register and I wanted the light to stay looking very warm, so I set the white balance to daylight. That’s why the bedside lamps have gone very yellow (they are warm white LED’s- about the same colour temperature as Tungsten, but with a green spike which means they register as yellow rather than orange, intensified by the yellow lightshades).
I shot wide open with f/1.4 lenses for the shallow depth of field, at ISO100 to keep a silky smooth look without grain or noise in the shadows. That required a shutter speed of 1/40th of a second which would normally be out of my ability to hand-hold… but the lens and sensor stabilisation of the Sony A7RII and 85mm/35mm lenses dealt with that fine.
I *think* this was before my new Arri lights arrived, so I probably used the old Kelvin tile LED panels. Probably two together to give the warm fill. And I think I used a flash as the “white” key light off camera right, which will have encouraged me to be brave with 1/40th shutter as it would at least freeze some detail. For the later shots I turned the flash off, turned the ISO up, and the shutter speed a bit shorter because I couldn’t rely on that flash to freeze any detail.
To answer your specific questions:
1) Nope, no tripod. I hate them. They are necessary for astrophotography, I barely tolerate them for landscape photography, and I totally cannot be doing with them for people photography. They slow me down too much and slow the photo taking down as well, which is in general a bad thing when the clock is running with a tied up model. I probably should have used one for the later shots without flash.
In the days of film the rule of thumb was shutter=1/focal length, so with a 50mm lens you can hand hold at 1/50th of a second. In theory one can do much better with modern image stabilisation systems, but that’s counteracted by the MUCH higher detail recorded by a 42 megapixel sensor compared with fuzzy, grainy, forgiving film. So I try to stick to 1/125th where I can or even 1/200th in the ideal case. But the IS is really good on the 85MM GM 1.4 so I felt brave and it seems to have worked OK, especially with the bit of flash to freeze some crisp detail. One still needs really good technique to hand hold, and you have to beware of subject movement as well.
2) Autofocus was OK-ish. Fast lens and reasonable amount of light from the LED panels. It would lock on reasonably well, but not always lock on to the correct thing- one flaw of the Sony (and in all honesty all camera systems I’ve tried except the latest Canons with dual pixel focussing in live view) is that if the camera does pick the wrong thing to focus on, it’s very difficult to override.
Tips: only use f/1.4 if you want a headache and are willing to shoot more than you need and throw shots away. The eye focus feature of the A7RII works well when it works at all- I have it set up for the “AF/MF” button on the back of the camera. I use AF-C rather than AF-S in really challenging situations too as it shows you exactly which PDAF point on the sensor it is using to focus. Overall though I’d say my number one complaint with the A7RII is the difficulty of nailing focus when shooting wide open.
3) The colour was adjusted afterwards because I shot in RAW as I always do. I will have dragged the colour temperature slider around to get a nice warm look without losing the “Correct” white of the flash- which I know from memory is around 5000K. Then I will have set the tone curve to a more S-shaped curve to lighten highlights and darken blacks, probably upped the constrast a bit too. Perceptually that will increase apparent saturation but I probably dialled in a bit more saturation and possibly vibrancy. I always do a little dance between colour temp, saturation, tone curve, and vibrancy to get it where I want it.
But I committed to the very warm look deliberately at shoot time, choosing very warm light (probably 2800K or so) for the fill panels, plus the candles, and really the post-processing was just applying my usual “stock look” and fine tuning it- it wasn’t anything unusual, most of the look was right there in the in-camera JPEGs. I find it useful to shoot RAW + JPEG with the Sony as it gives me a starting point for the look and reminds me what I was thinking of when I shot it originally.
The one tip I have for colour on the Sony is that red tone curve greatly benefits from pulling up the reds in the mid-tones just a little. I usually add a point in the middle of the curve and drag it up a few percent. That just seems to give nicer skin tones to me with my default RAW processing software (Aperture). Other RAW processors will have different default renditions, but I like to pull the red mid tones up a bit in Capture One on the Sony too.
So basically I built the look on set, fine tuning the light using the JPEGs on the back of the camera at the time, and just fine tuned it in post.
Hope that’s of interest!
Cheers, HywelFebruary 23, 2017 at 20:19 #27317
P.S. all of which reminds me I should probably start taking wide shots of the whole room for behind the scenes so we can see what lights are where- useful for me and hopefully interesting for others! Will try to remember to do that from now on as a matter of principle actually… Not always possible to do 100% (the dungeon will defeat me for example) but worth aiming for.February 23, 2017 at 22:51 #27318
Yes, I’m one who would appreciate seeing some wide-angle behind the scenes shots. In fact, I may have asked you earlier about doing this.February 24, 2017 at 11:36 #27319
Thank you, Hywel, for the detailed and helpful response. There is a lot for me to think about and I hope some is also useful to others who can make more of the comments on colour than I can. There is even a bit for my wife to ponder as she tries to learn all the features of one of the latest Canons she has recently acquired.
I’ll add my vote for a wide angle behind the scenes shot. I recall you occasionally put drawings of the layout in photosets (possibly only when the set was from a tutorial). I really liked them and I am sure they played a part in inspiring me to get serious with photography.June 23, 2017 at 11:49 #27435
I had to return to this topic to thank you, Hywel, for including the lighting diagram and shots of the actual lights when Lauren Louise returned to “Shoulder the Rifle” – 12th June. I hope these things in no way deter any members who are only interested in the BDSM and they definitely add even more to the site for those of us also interested in photography.
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