Maternity + Family

Shaping Light for Black-and-White Family Shoots

May 22, 2017

By Quin and Dave Cheung

Photo © DQ Studios

For over 15 years, we’ve been photographing weddings around the world but for the first time ever, we are focusing exclusively on shooting black-and-white portraits against a gray backdrop in an actual photography studio.

Perhaps it’s because it’s the complete opposite of what we’ve become known for—colorful, environmental wedding photography—that black and white has wholly captivated us. Without the distraction of color or space, our goal is to make timeless portraits that reveal character, emotion and relationships in images that draw you in and welcome a longer gaze.

For us, the key to great wedding photography and studio photography is the same: to always focus on the client experience and earn deeper levels of trust before, during and after the shoot.

As a husband and wife team, one of us shoots and engages the subject while the other sees the images on a tethered computer and controls the power and position of the light. This allows the photographer to fully invest in connecting with the subject while freeing the other to focus on perfecting the light.

Our gift is both relational and technical; having shot weddings around the world, we have an uncommon understanding of light. But our focus has always been on the client experience.

All Photos © DQ Studios

Sister Bond

Mason and Logan are very different in character and personality, yet their bond is unquestionably strong—love and respect for each other runs deep. Conceptually, we wanted to display both their similarities and differences in a single frame. Quin approached this by arranging them at 90-degree angles at different distances from the camera. Even with the relatively small aperture of f/8, her close distance to the subjects created good separation between the sisters. Dave then positioned a single Mola Euro dish to light them uniquely: One is side-lit while the other is rim-lit. We’re glad the resulting image appears as artistic as the family they come from, and we had fun exploring different compositions with them.

Camera: Nikon D750 Lens: Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G
Exposure: f/8 at 1/200th ISO: 800
Lighting: Mola Euro circular 33.5-inch dish (main modifier)

Parents To Be

As long-time wedding photographers, nothing makes us happier than to see our former couples growing their family. It’s an honor to capture this part of their journey.

When Maria arrived in the flowing gown, we knew we wanted to capture the movement of it. The top-down light—a perfectly circular 33.5-inch Mola Euro, used as the main modifier, above Maria and angled slightly toward Gavin—accentuates her baby bump best, and Maria’s downward gaze to her unborn child perfectly documents a mom-to-be’s hopes and dreams. Her husband, on the side, adds a helping hand, a little mystery and an element of the unknown to captivate the viewer. We added a 7-foot Photoflex Octodome off to the left, about 5 feet in front of Maria and Gavin, to serve as fill.

Camera: Nikon D750 Lens: Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G
Exposure: f/8 at 1/200th ISO: 80
Lighting: Mola Euro circular 33.5-inch (main modifier), 7-foot Photoflex OctoDome (fill light)

Play It Out

There’s a special place in our hearts for photographing families. As parents, we know the incredible urge to distill and capture every stage of the amazing journey as our children grow up.

Lighting multiple people is challenging enough, but when you add a toddler and baby to the mix, any semblance of control is thrown out the window. We prefer to let the kids (and parents) be who they are. Throughout the madness of it all, we continually tweak the light and shoot freely to best capture the essence of what makes the family them, now and forever. We’re so pleased this image—without anyone looking at the camera—is meaningful enough to not only be featured in this fine publication, but on our client’s feature wall.

This was a three-light setup: the main modifier (a 33.5-inch Mola Euro) was placed above at right; the hair light (a Paul C Buff 10 x 36-inch strip light with a grid) was behind them, high up on the left; fill light was achieved with a 7-foot Photoflex OctoDome, placed slightly off center to the left and about 8 feet from the subjects.

Camera: Nikon D750
Lens: Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G
Exposure: f/8 at 1/200th ISO: 800
Lighting: Mola Euro circular 33.5-inch (main modifier), Paul C Buff 10 x 36-inch strip light with gride (hair light), 7-foot Photoflex OctoDome (fill light)

Quin and Dave Cheung are a married duo that make up DQ Studios, based in Calgary, Alberta, in Canada. Starting over 15 years ago, they’ve said their gift has been making people comfortable in front of the lens.

Related: Shaking Up The Traditional Family Portrait

The Brood in Black and White