We live in a neighborhood that’s quite friendly for trick-or-treating, and we have two boys who love dressing up, so Halloween is a big deal in our house. Getting them in their costumes on Halloween night is easy; getting nice pictures is more difficult when excitement, adventure, and candy are beckoning, and it was not until the end of November last year that I could get some costume portraits.
I had a complex three-light idea in mind:
- Blue (CTB) fill, either bounced off the ceiling or through an umbrella on-axis.
- Snooted ungelled light for the face.
- Orange candy basket with a well-diffused light inside (dome + printer paper), as both a compositional element and a neat little accent.
With squirmy kids, the only way to make 2) work was to be my own VAL (Voice-Activated Lightstand), with my camera on a tripod, triggered by a wireless remote.
Leading off we have
Thomas Johnny the Tank Engine. John wasn’t really into giving me a good expression that evening. Note how the raw (white) spill from the hole in the top of the pumpkin becomes a little accent on his hat and shoulder. Totally unplanned but quite nice.
Darth Joey is batting cleanup. To fit the composition he needed to stand on something, so my wife used a black cloth to cover a stepstool. It also served the secondary but essential function of keeping him from wandering all about the room. 🙂 I got many fewer shots of Joey than I did of John, but by way of compensation I got this fabulous expression.
I think my idea here was sound, although I goofed the implementation in two ways. First, I should have kept or used an exposure without one of the boys to composite out the shadow/spill of the snooted face light on the wall and floor behind. Second, the fill light needed to be brighter by about a stop. As it was, I had to use Lightroom’s Shadows slider almost at maximum, which had the unfortunate effect of exaggerating some very bright noisy pixels in the shadows of Joey’s costume. It’s hard to see except at 100%, but it wouldn’t be there if I had gotten the exposure right the first time around. As many wise men have said, never do in post what you can do in camera.