Originally Posted by sukotsuto
Just a guess, but he probably cranks down his ambient exposure (maybe small aperture or the addition of a ND/variable ND filter) and is close to maxing out the power output on his flash(s).
pretty good guess! I set the camera to block out most ambient by maxing my shutter speed to the flash sync speed* and using a low ISO. I don't think I stopped down the aperture too much, probably around f/4 to f/5.6 if I remember right. I did buy a 3-stop ND right before the con; I had been looking for an excuse to pick one up, and this was as good as any. For the flashes, I was usually running them at 1/16 to 1/4 power when using direct flash, but I had to turn up to 1/4 to full power when shooting in the reflective umbrella, especially when I had the ND on.
For the three shoots on Friday (Xena, Mortal Kombat, and Werewolf et al), it was already dark outside so I didn't need the ND.
For the Bioshock shots on Saturday, I didn't use the ND; it was dim indoor lighting at the aquarium so I again was able to block it by using the camera's settings. On most of these, I did do a little bit of cleanup in the top edges of the images to get rid of some distracting hot spots in the background.
For the Soul Calibur shots, I used the ND for all of them. We were originally going to shoot in the Sheraton pool area - but as we were setting up, the hotel staff said we couldn't use light stands. A couple of the other photographers (Kayhettin, I think? And Jayce Williams) got some shots there, but I didn't get anything worth keeping. So, we moved back to the parking deck across from the Sheraton where I had done, and I set in the same style as the Friday night shoot, using the ND to block most ambient.
For the Once Upon a Time shots, I used the ND for some of the individual shots, but as it started getting dark, I had to take it off and turn my flashes back down.
Most of my lighting gear is "cheap stuff" but it works. Two Yongnuo YN-560s, Cactus V5 triggers, PBL light stands ($40 for the pair), cheap reflective umbrellas. I think the most expensive thing on there is the Manfrotto umbrella adapters. I also have a 430EXII but with the number of times I was setting up and taking down, I didn't feel like carrying and dealing with yet a third light. I think next time I may set up camp in one spot with three lights, and have several shoots scheduled back-to-back in that same area.
I only ever used one umbrella. The back-lit silhouette shots are two bare Speedlights, the front-lit shots are one umbrella in front and one bare Speedlight in the back. I think my next gear investment will be a stripbox (or two) for a nicer quality of rim/side light.
My only complaint about the Speedlights is the lack of a modeling light. For shots like these, where shadows and highlights are so important, it's essential to know where your light is going to hit. With a little practice, I've gotten reasonably good at predicting and educated-guessing, but sometimes it's just trial and error - especially when shooting weapons where everything has to be lined up juuuuust right to get the glint of light off the edge of the blade. I have a shot of Scorpion with both his swords out - I don't think I've processed and posted it yet - but it took about eight tries to nail it. Take a shot, see where the reflections went, twist the sword in your hand just a few degrees, take another shot. With modeling lights, we could have gotten it on the first try.
* On max sync speed. I usually just put it at 1/200, but I seemed to be getting a little bit of rolling shutter visible in the frame, even at that speed. I wish I had backed it down to 1/160. Had a couple shots where I accidentally bumped it up to 1/250 and the shutter obscures about a third of the frame.
One other note: Practically all of my processing is done in Lightroom. I used Photoshop for only a handful of shots out of the 350+ that I've posted from D*C: (1) In the shot with Kitana throwing the fan, I moved the fan to the right by about a foot; it was just barely leaving her fingertips in the original. (2) In the face/eyes shot of Kitana, I removed the seam in her mask, and a stray hair across her forehead. (3) In the face shot of Sonya Blade, I did a tiny amount of skin cleanup and a basic glam/beauty process. (4 & 5) In the front-lit face shots of the Drow, I cleaned up her forehead where her wig had sagged back on her head by about a half-inch and her real hair was showing. (6) Assembled the Werewolf triptych and added the grunge border. (7) In the antiqued Bioshock shot, I ran a couple of actions that I had previously developed for a silent-movie-style photo shoot, plus a couple of additional little tweaks to the tones...still not super happy with that one yet. (8) In the Once Upon a Time shoot, there's one where I combined two shots that I bungled the aperture and missed focus slightly in each one (if I had been paying better attention while shooting I wouldn't have needed to do this).
Everything else was done in Lightroom - though I have about a dozen more that will need Photoshop to clean up the backgrounds and add some "fun" stuff. Kitana and Sonja Blade pulled off some finishing moves that will be fun to edit, but I had to shoot wide and there's more background clutter than I can handle in Lightroom.
I've typed way too much, now back to your regularly scheduled Photo of the Day.