How I photographed Comic Con portraits using only one light source

Apr 18, 2017

Jon Erlien

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

How I photographed Comic Con portraits using only one light source

Apr 18, 2017

Jon Erlien

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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Back in December my brother asked me if I would be interested in going to Comic Con in Indianapolis, IN, and I immediately said absolutely! In his mind, he was excited to see what comic books he could find or the hard to find vinyl POP figure or possibly a GI Joe collectible, but in my mind I knew I was going there to photograph people in their costumes.

These couldn’t be just any images though… I mean come on, the lighting at the event is going to be gross, the crowds will be huge, I’ll have to fight for space… This seems like 360 degrees of complexity. So, I start thinking to myself “how can I make the subjects stand out from the crowd?”, I got it! I’ll do one speedlight in my 26″ Westcott Rapid Box attached to my mono pod, I’ll expose for the environment to be dark and then have the light just kiss the top half of the subject. There was one issue though, I needed someone to hold the light. I was in luck! My younger brother who lives in the area was also attending Comic Con and he is a photographer too. I reached out to him, told him what I was thinking, and he was in.

I had so much fun doing these images. Everyone person I asked to have their picture taken was an absolute yes every time and was gracious and honored to be asked. I highly recommend any photographer who is wanting to learn more about lighting to try to tackle this exercise of one light portraits on the go. How often do you get the opportunity to photograph Deadpool, Harley Quinn, Batman, The Riddler etc… It was worth the price of admission for me.

All images were edited in Lightroom CC. I wanted to keep it as simple as possible… I created a preset in LR and then applied to all. I went through each image and adjusted the crop and the radial gradient.

Overall the project was as success and the images below prove it. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask. Below are details on gear and my favorite collection of the portraits that were captured.

THE LIGHTING GEAR

Let’s go over the gear. I wanted something light and mobile and the first items that came to mind was a speedlight. I also knew I wanted a lighting modifier that would give me a nice soft light but was small enough to carry around. I came up with using my 26″ Octa Westcott Rapid Box with a Canon 600EX RT attached to my Oben monopod, the speedlight was triggered using the Canon ST-E3-RT transmitter. This setup allowed me to treat the light as if it was on a boom and I was the c-stand.

THE GLASS AND THE BODY

I wanted a shallow depth of field for these portraits so the subjects could standout and be as sharp as possible, and what lens to execute this with? The new SIGMA 85mm f/1.4 ART lens. I’ve had this lens for a few months now, and can personally tell you it’s worth the investment. Camera body is my trusty Canon 5D Mark III with the battery grip holstered with the Rapid Strap sport edition

All of the images taken had the settings of 100 ISO, F/1.4, and the shutter ranged between 1/320 – 1/1000. Everything depended on the lighting, and it seemed easiest to control the exposure with just the shutter speed.

COSPLAY PORTRAITS

About the Author

Jon Erlien is a photographer, retoucher and designer based in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. If you’d like to see more of his work, check out his website, like his Facebook page and follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Behance. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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22 responses to “How I photographed Comic Con portraits using only one light source”

  1. Belinda Edwards Avatar
    Belinda Edwards

    Brilliant

    1. Jon Erlien Avatar
      Jon Erlien

      Thanks!

  2. Kay Crayton Avatar
    Kay Crayton

    This is impressive.

    1. Jon Erlien Avatar
      Jon Erlien

      Thank you! It was a ton of fun

  3. Jared Youtsey Avatar
    Jared Youtsey

    Denver Comic Con won’t let me bring a softbox anymore. :(

    1. Nino Avatar
      Nino

      Yeah I was surprised that we got away with it. Security did seem lax.

      1. Jared Youtsey Avatar
        Jared Youtsey

        It wasn’t security. They are protecting their REVENUE. They don’t want me to sell prints back to cosplayers. If I want to do pro photography, I have to volunteer and work for them and give them my images. Want pro? You have to go outside to shoot.

  4. Alvaro García Avatar
    Alvaro García

    Thanks a lot for this and all the articles all of you post here. Im trying to get this mood in my pics and learning to use a speedlight.. This is sooo educational. Thanks!

    1. Jon Erlien Avatar
      Jon Erlien

      You bet! Glad I could help.

  5. Gvido Mūrnieks Avatar
    Gvido Mūrnieks

    Awesome!
    I have wanted to do something similar for some time now.
    I will definitely try something similar on next local con…

  6. Steven Ferguson Avatar
    Steven Ferguson

    Recently shot Belfast comic con with one light, Godox ad360ii and it’s small pop up beauty dish.

  7. SpecRider Avatar
    SpecRider

    As both an amateur photographer and a cosplayer, I really enjoyed this post. I don’t do portrait photography so this will be very helpful for when I try it out at a Con. I like that you listed your exact equipment including camera body. Many guides that I read just list the lens but not the body so it’s hard to tell whether it’s full frame or crop which obviously makes a difference for focal length. Your portraits look great and it gives me something to aspire to!

    1. Jon Erlien Avatar
      Jon Erlien

      Thank you for the compliment. I appreciate your comments.

  8. Suzi-Pratt.com Avatar
    Suzi-Pratt.com

    Nice work! I have all of this exact gear too, but never considered sticking my Octabox on the monopod. Gonna have to try that out sometime!

    1. Jon Erlien Avatar
      Jon Erlien

      :)

  9. Alex_L_H Avatar
    Alex_L_H

    Nice result in a challenging environment!, so many con cosplayer photos are so flat, as a result of the aforementioned terrible lighting, nice job indeed!

  10. picforest Avatar
    picforest

    Did you use highspeed flash, according to the shutter speed?

    1. Jon Erlien Avatar
      Jon Erlien

      I believe so… Not sure on your question… I had HSS activated with the speedlight, and I would control the exposure adjusting the shutter speed.

      1. picforest Avatar
        picforest

        yes hss is what i meant :) thx

      2. John HFH Avatar
        John HFH

        Had to look up how HSS works, don’t have it, to understand how you controlled exposure, other than ambient, with shutter speed. Makes sense to me now that I know. Great shots by the way. Did you return the favour to your younger brother?

        1. Jon Erlien Avatar
          Jon Erlien

          Of course!

  11. Graeme Simpson Avatar
    Graeme Simpson

    brilliant! Not sure I’d be brave enough to try this at my next con at the end of the month but wonderful shots