Friday, May 25, 2007

Perfect Light

Get creative with your lighting technique with some inspiration from these case studies by a master of illumination

Euro Blonde

I booked a model with an Eastern-European look—a face with sharp features—and I wanted the light to emphasize this. I was looking for illumination that would create rather dark contours on a white background.

Like most times when I shoot on white, I started with the background. I illuminated it as evenly as possible to a gray and then brought it up to white. Shooting digitally, I made the exposure about 252 Red, 252 Green and 252 Blue. (When shooting tethered to a computer, it's simple to take precise readings of an area and use the Eyedropper tool to see the value on the 0-255 scale.) With this technique, I can ensure that my background turns out a clean white, but not overexposed, and I won't get any disturbing effect on the model's contours. I used two Pulsoflexes EM 80x140 for the background.

To control the light, I made a first exposure with the background light only. I wanted to see the perfect white and an absolutely black head. If the strong background light affects the face, I would have increased the distance of the model to the background and maybe placed some flags close to the model as well. As a main light, I used a Litestick at a very short distance—maybe some 60 cm from the model. This close distance is the reason why the light from the Litestick didn't reach her entire head, but left some dark contours on both sides of the face. And because of the very small dimensions of the Litestick, the light's falloff was very harsh.

I used a medium-format camera with a 22-megapixel digital back at ISO 50, ƒ/16 and 1⁄125 sec. The lens focal length was 250mm.

Still Life With Head

A still life with a head! I wanted to create a rich and different look with the lighting. This model had perfect skin, so I could use rather hard lighting, which generally is easier to control and shows the structure of the skin better.

Left and right of the model's head, I used two Striplites as the main lights. They were directed to the camera and therefore created a nice gradation from the eyes toward the ears with a rather dark contour all around the head. As these two Striplites were placed a little behind the model's eyes, the center of the face showed a fine gradation, too.

A dominant fill-light was placed just below the frame as close as possible to the body. This light is best seen on the upper body, where the main lights don't yield much illumination. The power level of this fill-light had to be very low to avoid an unpleasant effect on the face. I used a piece of small white cardboard above the model to bring a little more light onto the hair. The brightness of the background was controlled with a standard light reflector.

I used a medium-format camera and ISO 100 black-and-white film, ƒ/11 at 1⁄125 sec. The lens focal length was 120mm.

Urs Recher is a European photographer who started his career in photography with an advertising studio in Basel, Switzerland, before setting up his own studio in 1995. In 1998, Recher joined Broncolor as head of the company's internal studio and technical adviser. He's responsible for Broncolor's internal advertising photography, performs extensive product testing and heads the company's worldwide workshop and seminar program. Recher attended the University of Zurich and the School of Arts in Basel.



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