View Full Version : Photograpy of Tatoo's

05-17-2009, 03:09 PM
Hello Photosiasts,

I have just asked someone to model for me or model his Tatoos for me.
He has got some on his arm and shoulder and it is black and white. His skin is light coloured.

Can you help me in setting up lighting for this to start. In this I must say thay my resources are very limited. I have a desent flash with the special diffuse and tele covers, but that is not dedicated to the camera.
Secondly posing conditions so I will get the best out of it. Would it be something to be posing to a black background or better to a light background.
I have a 18-70 lens 3.5-5.6 for the camera that I will use as my 70-210 is old and not good in low light. O to be complete I have a Sony A-200 so basic.

Also on the use of the tripod should I use it or will this only impede the getting the correct composition.

On top of this all, it will be my first official portrait kind of pictures specially set up. Never done a portrait other than candid work on birthdays and holidays. My goal is to improve my knowledge and skills so I can climb in the line of Photography so your help will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your feedback,

05-19-2009, 03:08 PM
Everyone is avoiding your question because it is such a difficult one.
I shoot most of my portraits with a 28 to 75. So your 18 to 70 will work fine.

Do not use a tripod. It is really going to limit you moving around and will take a lot of time to set up for each shot. People get bored fast...

Personally If I were you, I would shoot outdoors. To me a first portrait try with an on camera flash indoors would be difficult. The big problem shooting portraits out doors is getting a background that is not cluttered. I would pick an interesting street scene. Shoot right around sunset or a cloudy day with diffused light.

You can only shoot and learn from your mistakes to keep improving.

Good luck

05-19-2009, 03:22 PM
I don't really have the technical abilities to answer your question in detail but I would suggest that any hints and tips about portrait photography would apply here regardless of whether or not it's just a part of the body.

So, generally, a little backlighting is nice. Main light (or flash) above and to the right of your subject (your left). Reflector on the right to avoid any deep shadows. Work on ensuring the white balance is set correctly and that should allow for some decent shots. Anything better than this and the experts will have to chime in.

05-19-2009, 05:21 PM
Thanks folks,

I must say that I have looked arround to the subjkect on the WWW so your help confirms my findings and outdoor is the suggested best option without a flash and when the tatoo is smaller with a Ringflash. (there are many low budget DIY ringflash adapters to be found on the WWW google and you find plenty)

I have been thinking on the outdoors and what an interesting background would be. I think that to a mostly black and white Tatoo will not be brought to correct shine whit any living, busy background of most kinds. That is the reason I probably will go outside and drop a white or evenly (light) cloured bedsheet over the whasing line and shoot the arm and shoulder of the model like that (There is the tatoo) possibly with the face whole or partially. (The model is not too sure as it's a first also for him) That way I do not have to worry about the floor and have a clean background.

The sheet I thought would also help with the lighting a bit when shooting half from the side having the bedsheet partially as backdrop and partially as a reflector from the side.

Anyway, thanks for your help.

If you are feeling like a Photowalk July 18th look at http://worldwidephotowalk.com and join for a great day of photowalking all arround the world.

05-20-2009, 01:51 PM
I agree. Given your lack of studio experience or equipment, outside sounds like a great idea.

Choose a neutral background like a wall and avoid direct sunlight. Shade or cloudy day is easiest. Get them to stand a good 5-10 feet in front of the wall. Maybe choose a larger F-stop so that the wall blurrs in the background. A reflector like white cardboard can help if needed.
Hope that helps - Marko

05-22-2009, 04:03 AM
Thanks Marko,

You say a wall what would you say is the best colouring to nicely contrast with a black an white tatoo.
My preference goes to a dark background but sureley that will give some lighting issues.

The large F-stop that will cause the background to be out of focus (if I understand correctly) well that is a good tip that I will take into account.

Thanks for the advice all and when the photo's are taken I will post something to show to you all.

Jantheo (TJD)

05-22-2009, 11:22 AM
I'd have to see what the guy was wearing and his hair colour before commenting exactly on the wall colour, but a light grey cement wall should be fine. Any brick wall should also be okay if the F-stop is large and the model is 5-10 feet from the wall. Hope that helps - good luck and please do post a shot or two.


05-22-2009, 05:09 PM

The guy is black haired and light skin, the tatoo is black he will be bare skin top half and possibly jeans foir the rest.
What my idea at this moment is that the wall should not be visiable preferaby concentrating on the subject.

As I want to focus on the tatoo I want to position the subject so the the arm and partial back will be visiable. Head I want in the photo and mildly in focus. Anthing else like the other shoulder should already be out of focus. So that is why the F-stop should be at 3.5-5.6 you say a distance of about 5 to 10 feet..... 1.5-3 meters.... Ok I assume that can be done in the 18 to 40 mm area that will have the better F-stop of 3.5 so that is good for the depth of field.... (I hope that is correct)

OK I think I get it and with this as base for sure will experiment outsidew this area. As the subject is living about 100 miles away (family) I will have to plan this shoot in a couple of weeks so please don't hold your breath waiting for the results...LOL

Thanks again and if anyone get's a bright tatoo moment or can point me to some sample pictures of more artistically shot tatoo's I would appreciate it.

Kind regards,
Jantheo (TJD)

Like joining the World Wide Photo Walk on July 18th come and see if your city is there for you to join in at www.worldwidephotowalk.com (http://www.worldwidephotowalk.com)

09-16-2009, 04:56 PM
Oops on the reply, Curious to know if you have results yet:D

Dark Woods
10-07-2009, 10:16 PM
You can do indoors, however, you have to get a mono light to go with your flash. Any mono will do.. find one of those cheap aluminum shop lights.. it is stationary and you can usually squeeze mount them on anything.. Put this above your subject. This will be used as a main light source that is NOT Tungsten light.. (which is what most light is that is artificial and usually has an orange or green glow) IF you get a bulb that is true light or transparent, then that will work..)

Then if you can get a cord for your non-TTL flash to get it off your camera, this will help. You can hand hold for positioning or you can mount it on another area using light stand or flash shoe stand. Put it as a secondary light.. you can use a white piece of poster board to bounce the flash with above your subject. and diffuse the flash so it is not soo harsh (can make a DIY milk jug diffuser for your flash, cheap and easy to make) or bounce the flash off the ceiling..

Hang you a black sheet on a wall and you are set.. Just remember that no tripods are good ONLY if you are comfortable enough and steady enough to keep your hands steady otherwise if you increase your aperture to like F2.8 and decrease your ISO to under 500 you will get the shakes.. You must be steady.. Also keep your ISO to a min. of 500 or else if you go too high you will get "noise" in your photos, they will look grainy.

Hope this helps with the next DIY home studio project.. Make sure to get even lighting on the tattoo and accurate white balance or else his colors will look to vivid or too bland..

Good Luck!!!

Here are some photos I took of my brother and sis-in-laws tats.. check out my website under artistic tab, tattoos.

Vladimir Naumoff
11-14-2009, 01:49 AM
I never had a Sony camera in my life but with the Canon I will use this:

Standard light topography for the beginner with one flash.
2 lights and one reflector. Just goole "Lighting setup for a portraits" you will find a lot of staff. Here is a Flash chit sheet for you (Flickr Photo Download: Portrait Lighting Cheat Sheet Card (http://www.flickr.com/photos/udijw/2590072645/sizes/l/)), very handy, a lot of people just don't know how to use their flash.
Make a nice background. (I have made mine out of chip PVC pipes which I got in the local hardware store and my wife gave me one of our old sheets. Actually it was my son's.)
At the beginning I was using two halogen construction lights and I made softbox out of paper, make sure lamp is not overheating a lot it can cause a fire. You can find some white plastic it would work too. A milk plastic bottles are really good too.
Reflector you can get for $5 dollars in a car supply store, the one that goes against your windshield to protect your car from heating. The whole lighting kit shouldn't cost you more then $45.00 and milk you can drink yourself during your brakes.


As at was already said you should use what "doctor" prescribe with your camera. Again I don't know Sony technology myself but something tels me that Prime 30mm, Prime 50mm, Prime 85mm, Ranges 24-70, 18-85, and so on, something between 18 and 100mm. Also you could use Macro 100mm and Macro Telephoto 150mm and 180mm. Some people use 135mm to make portraits. This may be related to the size of the shooting stage and distance. In my personal opinion primes and 24-70 is excellent choice for the Canon portrait technology.

Positioning lights:

Put one light above the subject at 20 minutes, it called hair light. One almost strait at the subject at about 28 minutes, assuming your subject at 12 o'clock. Put reflector at about 40 minutes play with the angle this depends on subject size. Set you flash to bounce of the wall or of the celling in direction that you need light to be shot and each shot if you changing position keep an eye on the flash. That should do for the beginning. As you will shooting you will understand the game a lot faster.

Hope it helps, good luck!