Strobist + HDR: Ultimate Buzzword Compliant Portrait

Street Fighters, Eight and Fets in an Alleyway

Street Fighters, Eight and Fets in an Alleyway – Austin, Texas


In my previous post, I talked about a wide-angle HDR portrait that I created in downtown Austin. For this post, I decide to one up my earlier post by adding yet another trendy photographic buzzword, Strobist, to the already “trendy” HDR photography. This is all in good fun but I’m not doing this just to throw in buzzwords. I really wanted to use these techniques to create an interesting image. I’ve talked a lot about HDR on this blog. Strobist, is something new that I’m starting to dabble in. It refers to a photographic technique which uses small battery-powered strobes (Flashes) to take portraits. The strobist movement, made popular by the strobist blog, has gained a large following since it attempts to eliminate big and bulky studio lights with portable flash units.

I took the photograph above on the same night as the photo that I featured in my previous post. I shot it about 1 hour and 20 minutes later in a different alleyway, 2 blocks away. We had the same cast helping out. Mike was also shooting that night but was assisting with this shot. We have Model Eight doing the Street Fighter scene. And the wild and colorful makeup was created by Allie. What differed in this photograph was the use of the flashes. We used two of them, radio controlled, on either side of the models, just out of range of the camera’s frame. While the earlier HDR portrait was done purely in existing light (both natural and man-made street lighting), I enhanced this image with the flashes which lit up the models.

The technique used to capture the images as well as the post processing work is exactly the same as described in the blog post: Going beyond the ordinary with HDR Portraits. Because it was a lot darker in this scene, I decided to use the strobes to light up the models. Other than using the flashes, the same considerations and techniques were applied in creating this image. In this case, I photographed the models at ISO 800 at 0.4 second and blended that image into my 3 exposure HDR to create the final look.

I like this image for several reasons. First, because of the way it is framed, both models do not show much wide-angle distortion. They are both kept in the center of the frame and since their arms and legs are also near the center, they don’t have any limbs that are wildly exaggerated in length. I also like this gritty alleyway and the contrast of the old brick walls to the modern skyscrapers in the distance. The tall building, called the Austonian, is the tallest building in Austin. It acts as a visual anchor at the end of the alley. Finally, purely by accident, model Eight’s purple wig nicely matches the purple neon and purple reflections on the walls.

Lets contrast this portrait to the previous. Certainly, the location is not the same but more importantly, the two styles of lighting gives a completely different feel. This image is darker and the flash gives it a sharper, chiseled photographic look. On the other hand, the ambient light of the earlier image has a more subtle, moodier feel, looking almost like a painting. What do you think? Which do you like better?

Note: Please click on the image above to see a larger version.

7 thoughts on “Strobist + HDR: Ultimate Buzzword Compliant Portrait

  1. Nice post Andy, and ironic as well, I just tried a shot a couple weeks ago using my 580 and AEB flash bracketing, I was surprised how well it worked, either that or I just got lucky

  2. Looks good Andy, and though I am not up for any portrait stuff, you have inspired me to go shoot some alleys downtown. we should get a group out soon! nice work Jim

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