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Q&A: Margo Seibert

You had a lot of good questions after the Margo Seibert shoot last week, even to the point of telling me I was breaking a Scott Kelby Rule. (For the record, I lurve breaking Scott Kelby rules.)

(And who is he to say you shouldn't shoot a portrait with a 50mm, anyway?)

Besides — and believe it or not — that lens selection was totally driven by the light. No joke. That, and more of your Q's answered, below.

Mike Scott asks:

"With the sun shining in your face did you need a Hoodman in order to chimp or did you work more by the numbers?"

Chimping? What's that? Actually, I did have a giant white foamcore I could duck behind to kill the sun and chim confirm all of my predictions.

"How did you meter/check exposure? D3 Histogram/camera meter?"

It's available light, man. I just went through the lens, in-camera meter and tweaked it until it looked good.

"About your post production/white balance - how did you process your files to retain that golden hour warmth rather than 'fixing' the colors?"

Funny one, that. I shot on daylight balance and let the warm sun do what it wanted. This is what I got. (Talking about the lead photo on the original post here.) When I tried to tweak it, or "fix" it in post, it would never look as good. So I pretty much left it alone. It is very close to straight out of camera.

Robert Davidson asks:

"For your sun/flare shot you made with you x100s, I'm assuming you removed your UV filter, or did you leave it on?"

Hmm. Didn't even think of that. I might have taken it off, if I'd thought about it. But since that UV filter is on the X100s full-time for protection, I splurged and bought a good one. A B+W UV in 49mm is not very much money — and great glass.

Babylon asks:

"On the last photo, was the street naturally wet or watered down on purpose to be used as a fill and to make it look better?"

Well, given my entire lighting kit was a couple speedlights (of which we only used one) and some white foam core, you'd probably be pretty safe in assuming we did not bring a water truck. Or even a bucket. And you'd be right. We were dodging rain. Lemons -> lemonade, right?

Dylan Alvarez Asks:

"I was just wondering if you could drop a bit more context into this shoot. How many people did you have with you?"

1. Three: me, Margo and her sister, who did her hair. You know how Annie Leibovitz' 13th assistant is in charge of spontaneously starting the applause at the end of a shoot? We don't got that.

"How did you carry around stuff like the umbrella, PWs, foam core, tape, aluminum foil, etc, especially when this shoot was more spontaneous and improvisational?"

2. Dude, I did not even pull out a speedlight until it got dark. This is super-lightweight stuff. And I assembled the foamcore reflector a couple hours before the shoot on a whim. Traveling light like this makes it much easier for a shoot to be fluid and improvisational. The ideal gear pack is: A camera and a lens. Everything added to that will introduce some friction into the process.

"Why Howard County?"

3. 'Cause it was for the Howard County Arts Council.

"How did you do outfit changes on location?"

4. Actually, I wore the same clothes for the whole shoot. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) We would shoot for five minutes, then I would scout/set up for five minutes. So figure ten mins total per setup. She'd take the five-minute scout to change outfits. She is a stage actress. They change clothes like a NASCAR pit stop.

Taras asks:

"Anybody here knows how to move the focus point on x100 manually?"

Can't remember on the X100, (seem to remember it is on the buttons on the left) but is much better on the X100s: Just rock the top of the input wheel with your right thumb and dial it wherever you want.

Luthman Photography asks:

"Could you have shot the first shot (the one where you shot through the reflector) with a ring flash instead? I'm guessing you could, but would the light quality be different in some way(that I don't understand)?"

It would look totally different. This is actually more of a faux-clamshell than a ring light, and that's all down to where you put the lens hole. (I left more reflective light above than below by moving the hole below center. That was by design.)

Aaladexter asks:

"Can you please tell us what white balance settings you are using?"

Unless I am purposely shifting colors, I tend to hang out on daylight. This is to let the light do what it is gonna do, and look at it. Then augment with flash (which is consistent with daylight settings) and gel the flash if needed to blend or accent.

Ivan Boden asks:

"David, I've heard some people say that using a 50mm is not a good choice for portraiture. I don't know why and I was wondering what your opinion is on this, and why they think it's not a good choice. Based on this shot, it sure looks fine to me. Ideas, thoughts?"

Looks fine to me, too, Ivan. First off, I love a 50 for portraiture. It is the perfect tight horizontal portrait lens as far as I am concerned. And shooting a head-and-shoulders horizontal keeps you far enough away so they don't go all bulbous on you. In fact, a head-and-shoulders 50 is very 3-D feeling and intimate, as you can see.

Plus, the 50 was driven by light. I wanted the foam core reflector in as close as practical, both for intensity and size of light source. An 85 or 105 would have forced me to move the camera (and light) back, and would have made for a lesser image IMO.

Ivan Boden goes on:

"I've heard some highly regarded photographers say they will never shoot a portrait with a 50mm lens."

Seriously, what bonehead is telling people not to shoot portraits with a 50? I mean, it can be a beautiful lens for that. Not to mention fast, sharp, light and cheap…

Ivan finally names names:

"I agree. It was Scott Kelby during one of his blind critiques that said, 'Never shoot a portrait with a 50mm lens.'"

Oh, Jesus, Mary Joseph and The Saints. If Scott Kelby told you to jump off of Adobe Bridge, would you? And besides, any time someone tells you to "never" do something in photography, it is probably a good idea to think about exactly doing that thing.

And never forget that.

Finally, Nathan Johnson notes:

"Love it. And I'm sure you saw her website featuring your image with the direct sun in it."

Yes, I did! Doesn't she look great? Make sure to go see her in Rocky on Broadway starting in February.

Next: Loren Wohl's Chokra and Awe


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