To craft a photograph is to craft the light. While it’s often relegated to a subordinate role to composition, lighting is at least as critical to the photograph and should be thought of as an integral part of the process. In this article, I’ll give you a sense of how light functions theoretically and practically so that when you’re lighting your next set, you’ll have new ideas to get the look you want.
Before we analyze photos and setups, let’s briefly examine light and its rules. This helps to understand why a particular light modifier is used and, just as important, where and how it should be placed. We must understand the setups and shouldn’t try to learn them by heart or copy them like a recipe from a cookbook! When we understand the rules, we no longer have to hope for good results and can determine how to modify the light until we get the effect we want.
Our technical abilities in forming light must not limit our creative vision! With a thorough understanding of light, we can start to forget about the technical aspects of our work and concentrate on the visual, the emotion, the moment and the model.
The Pulsoflex C was placed very close to the model and directed more toward the camera than to the model’s face. Due to the soft-edge transfer of the Pulsoflex C, you get nice gradations on both sides of the face, not only on the shadow side.
Although the softbox was very close, the light remained hard, from the model’s perspective; only a very narrow strip light could be seen. As such, this light emphasizes the structure of the skin and is best used with models having very good skin. The cardboard (3) controlled the shadows on the right side of the model’s face, and the reflecting wall (4) controlled those on the left.
The high color saturation of the light makes it perfect for makeup shots, and the narrow highlights put a cat-like accent on the eyes.
Place the big area light (1) as low as possible. Your light gets very soft and nicely graduated with a heavy falloff toward the legs. The scene can be filled in differently, but only a Para FB (defocused) shapes the body this perfectly. The camera was rather low, about as high as the model’s knees. The result was an elegant, tall body. Using a large aperture (ƒ/8) avoided visible structure (like footprints and crinkles) on the background, as it was far out of focus.
A remote-controlled Grafit A4 was used to feed the Cumulite. The second one was for the Para FB.
For this completely diffused portrait, the solution wasn’t an indirect illumination, but a huge softbox and a reflector placed very close to the model.
In addition, I chose to place the light shaper below the model and the reflector above her to ensure that I got enough light in the eyes and under the chin and nose. (This technique should only be used with very soft and diffused lights, however.)
As I have only one reflector but no active light shaper above the model, an additional Pulsoflex EM 30x110cm was used as a hair light.
The lights were very close to the model—a powerpack with a large power range had to be used. A Grafit A2 was the best choice in this situation.
The exposure was 50% candlelight and 50% flash light. The gray balance was in between the two color temperatures (about 4000 K). The candles appeared warm, and the flash light already turned a little blue. No color filters were required. Try different time (aperture) variations.
The bare bulbs below the acrylic had to be at a very low intensity. They shouldn’t overpower the candles. I used two Grafit A2s at the lowest possible settings (15 joules each).
A strictly diffused lighting. The bare-bulb flash heads were directed away from the model to avoid any direct light on her. Use the white walls of your studio to bounce the light back. Whenever your walls are dark or colored, they should be covered with white paper, polystyrene or cloth.
Diffused lights are generally low in color saturation. Choose the object or the outfit accordingly. To avoid further reduction of saturation and brilliance, protect the lens carefully from scattered light.
As the object was transparent, all the lights were placed below or behind it. The acrylic table was white, and as such, we had to protect it properly from the white light on the left side of the Striplite 60. If we didn’t, all the colors would turn out very pale.
Of all the open reflectors, the Par has the highest light output (up to 11?2 stops more than a P70). It’s the best choice for such a dark and spacious location. If the lamp head (there are three Pulso G lamp bases here) is equipped with a matte-protecting glass, the coverage of the Par reflector is nicely center-weighted. The blue light was daylight, and the statue on the right was additionally illuminated with a tungsten spot.
I placed the big softbox (1) behind the object and set its brightness around 250-250-250 (RGB) or 2.7 ƒ-stops above my aperture to get a clean white. If you go far above this value, your entire studio will be lit and made visible in the chrome tap.
I cut a gray cardboard (2) in the dimensions of my photograph, placed it between the softbox (1) and the object, and illuminated it separately (10). As a result, I got a perfect contour all around the chrome tap. This technique becomes easier if you choose a long focal length and a narrow picture angle.
The Pulso Spot 4 with a 150mm projection attachment and templates illuminated the running water only. The light didn’t hit the tap, and therefore we didn’t get a burnt highlight anywhere. The rest was comparable to a classic chrome shot.