Laser Background Portrait Shoot: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey


In this video I turn my small home studio into a laser field mini disco. Hello I’m Gavin Hoey and you’re watching AdoramaTV brought to you by Adorama the camera store that’s got everything for us photographers and today you join me in my small home studio. Except this isn’t going to be a studio for long because I’m going to turn it into a mini disco. Now for disco we need things like smoke, that’s coming and of course lights. I’ve got lots of lights to play with I’ve got the excellent Flash Point Evolv 200. We’ll use that towards the end. I’ve got smaller lights as well like this little guy. This is my pocket LED torch which is rather good fun but the thing I’m really excited about is this. This is a small home laser system. Yes sounds exciting watch this. Wow look at that effect. Yeah good innit, however what we’re going to do is fill the room with smoke, we’ll beam the laser through and we’ll use this as a laser background and it should look amazing. Now you might have noticed I said the word laser in there and that might be worrying however there’s lots of health and safety information printed on the laser and in the box. Read it. It’s really good advice. This laser is 17 milliwatts in power. Well technically there’s two a red and a green one. Having said that it’s split into hundreds of small spots so each one is pretty low in power. Nonetheless there’s no way of knowing whether the power that it’s claiming to be is accurate so my advice is to buy from a brand that is known from a supplier that you trust like Adorama for example. Now there’s still somethings I would not do I would not stare straight in from close range to the source of the laser that’s not going to end well and I wouldn’t put my camera this close pointing into the laser either. Now I have pointed my camera at the laser and it’s been fine but my advice would be make sure you have something between you the laser and your camera. That’s what we’re going to do when we shoot these pictures. So having said that lets get a model in, let’s get a light in and lets get shooting. So to help me with this shoot today I’ve been joined once again by Beth who’s going to be the model for this and as you can see we’ve got the studio set up as a really dark black background in fact for this shoot to work you want your studio not to have just have a black background but it needs to be dark, really dark. A bit like this, but as you can see if we do that well it doesn’t work well for the video. So what we’re going to do is we’ll shoot the video with the lights turned on and then I’ll shoot the photos that you see on screen with the lights turned off. So let’s talk about camera settings. I’m using my Olympus E-M1 mark II and I’ve got a wide-angle lens but the key for this is the fact that it’s an f/2.8 lens. I need as big an aperture as possible to gather all of the lights from this fairly dim laser. I’m going to use an ISO of 400 and that leaves me one more thing, the shutter speed which will be a quarter of a second or there abouts. Now a quarter of a second means that I need a tripod to get a stable shot and it also means that Beth can’t move during the shoot. I need to get her to stay still when I press the shutter otherwise she’ll come out soft and blurry. Okay, that’s everything set, let’s get some smoke in this room and we’ll start taking some pictures. So Sam’s ready to put some smoke in the room but a word of warning, you want to build your smoke up slowly. don’t just suddenly fill the room with smoke and that’s quite a powerful smoke machine for a small studio. Also I’m not looking for textured smoke I’m actually looking for haze so I don’t know shoot straight away I want the smoke to dissipate and that should give a much better look to the laser beams. So Sam are you ready? Okay let’s try a bit of smoke. So that’s perfect just enough smoke to get us going. Okay let’s turn the lasers on. So I need to make sure that Beth is blocking the path of the laser back to my camera. So this laser wants to be right in behind Beth’s back, like that. I’m going to try and center it up the best I can on her which is tricky to see from this point of view so let’s go around the back of the camera see how that looks. Yeah that looks really good okay let’s take a test shot like this to check the exposure. That looks perhaps just a little bit underexposed so I’m going to bump up the ISO and try again That looks much better. However do bear in mind that when we add more smoke and we add in more lights that the exposure might change so be prepared to adjust your exposure as the smoke in the room changes. So this laser has very limited controls but one of the controls is the ability to make the lights move or stay static. Now at the moment I’ve got the lights static. Let’s have a look at this. Here we go Beth and that looks really nice. you get very sharp edge lines from the lasers, however with a long exposure like a quarter of a second I can actually change the settings here and make use of that exposure time by getting the beams to move around. Now the way this particular laser is designed some of the laser lights move and one or two are static. Watch how this changes the shot. okay Beth once more. As you can see what we have is some sharp lines and then during that quarter of a second exposure we have some blur from the moving laser lines as well and that works really nicely. Okay, so let’s take some shots Well the fog is really starting to build in the studio which is exactly what we need for the laser although it might make it a little bit more difficult to see us in the video. However I’m going to add an extra light so we’ve got the laser going I’m also going to turn on the little LED torch in the background and put that on a nice low power and that should give a lovely kind of glow to go with the lasers. Okay let’s take these pictures. So far we’ve shot silhouettes and we’ve had to ask Beth to say absolutely still but that’s how much fun as a model, we like a bit of movement in our pictures. However if she moves she’s going to be blurry and I could put more lights into the shots for example the eVolv 200 here has a built-in LED that would put some light on to Beth’s face so we can see her but it’s not enough to freeze the movement. If you want to freeze the movement you need flash. Now I know what you’re thinking flash isn’t that really really bright, well yes it is. But we’re going to have the eVolv 200 on its lowest possible flash power 1/128th and hopefully that should be enough with the ISO 400 the f/2.8, the shutter speed, well that’s going to give us a combination of both flash and ambient and should give us some really good moving pictures. Okay let’s take a few pictures like this, see how it goes. It has taken quite a while to get the smoke out the studio but it was worth the effort because the pictures, well they were great fun to shoot and they look amazing. Now if you missed it don’t forget to watch the health and safety advice at the beginning of this video if you want to have a go yourself but more importantly of course if you’ve enjoyed it leave me a comment below and subscribe for more videos to myself and the other amazing presenters right here on AdoramaTV. I’m Gavin Hoey thanks for watching.

72 Replies to “Laser Background Portrait Shoot: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey”

  1. Gavin – Love your video's but I do have one question. Have you used the new canned smoke that I've heard about.  Can't remember the name/brand but I hear it's easier to use than a smoke machine (which I don't have).  Not sure if it's good or not but I'd trust your thoughts on it.  I'd love to do this but that smoke is my weak spot. Thanks.

  2. I like how the photoshop plays an important role in the final result without taking away any merit from Gavin skills as photographer. I know there's no photoshop in this video, but is a part of his work that I really apreciate.

  3. just bought AD200 and really love it. and to know one of my best mentor on youtube is also using it.. is a pleasure bonus. Nice video as always Gav!

  4. first!! 😀 excited to see what you got for us Gavin! EDIT: Ha, I recognize the theme music for Matt Granger's intro in the dance scene at 8:00. Can't wait to try these laser photos at home. Great vid!

  5. I've been following you since the early days of the magazine 'Photo FX' and I'm still enjoying everything that you produce. You have, without doubt, the best photography channel on YouTube! Fantastic work Gavin.

  6. Took me about 30min from this video to spend $250'ish on fogmachine and laser ^^ Luckily found some "local enough" shop nearby here in Norway ^^ This was pretty damn cool. Thank you for showing me, Gavin! Great video as always 😀

  7. Gavin is the man. Love all his videos. Just wish he wasn't required to say "Adorama, the place that has everything…for us photographers.." It's silly.

  8. Just bought an LED strip last night based on the video you did with Mark Wallace about a year ago I saw yesterday. But now I see I will have to save for a laser! Thanks for the tutorials Gavin. Also, Beth is fantastic!

  9. Great Video. I absolutely hate howto videos, with the exception of yours! Keep up the great videos! When are we going to see another 15 minute challenge! 🙂

  10. Very cool effect! I have a couple of lasers of this type already for Christmas decorations; I'll have to try experimenting with photographing with them. 🙂

  11. I had found the laser light sells about 20USD and the smoke machine sells about 30USD in local market. I would like to try this one.

  12. its just amazing low cost tricky ,wel i wana know can we little bit more freeze the subject by decreasing shutter speed, if not bother laser light effect.

  13. Hey Gavin… thanks for this, great idea (and love the series btw).
    Quick question – did you use 2nd curtain flash for this? Would be interesting to see the different effects between the two settings.

  14. Great video. I love your videos and have learned a great deal plus love your enthusiasm for the work.. You are may favorite of the Adorama video learning series.

  15. hello Gavin I have nt been watching your video for over an year or so. Noticeably you have moved to Olympus from Canon. Is there any specific reason for this ?

  16. Hi, I'm Enrique
    I love your videos I have been a fan for a long time and I would like to at least try to ask if you could put the subtitles in Spanish because my English is very limited and as they are very technical and specific aspects of photography I can not follow them if they were so kind I would appreciate it very much.

  17. just use a blue laser directly in to your CCD sensor instead to get a right results 🙂 NO Absolutely not , just kidding

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