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Lighting is Easy Blog

Free resource for learning how to use off-camera flash and studio lighting.

Beach Portrait Lighting Setup

Chuck Vosburgh - Thursday, December 29, 2016

photo: © Jeff Titterington

Florida photographer Jeff Titterington created this sunset beach photo using a simple setup. Here's Jeff's description of how he did it: 

Two Flashpoint Explore 600 strobes set on HSS: One on my left set to TTL,  the second to the right about 15 feet set to Manual 

Two 28” beauty dishes -  the front with a sock and the second with grid.

I added very slight posterization in post-processing to the model to give her a bit of a painterly look.

Here's the setup:

Equipment and specs:

  • Canon 5DSR
  • Canon 24-70mm f2.8 II
  • 42mm
  • ISO100
  • f2.8
  • 1/8000 second

See more of Jeff's work at jefftitteringtonphoto.com

What is Hyperfocal Distance?

Chuck Vosburgh - Monday, July 27, 2015

So, what is hyperfocal distance and why should care?

Aside from impressing your photo friends with your encyclopedic knowledge of photography, hyperfocal distance is useful for predicting depth of field. The hyperfocal distance is the distance from the camera at which everything from that point to infinity will be acceptably sharp.

In an upcoming article I'll explain how acceptable sharpness is determined. Now go use hyperfocal distance and impress your friends!

Reflectors have been used since the beginning

Chuck Vosburgh - Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Here's a great old engraving showing the use of a reflector.

You don't always need a fill flash

Chuck Vosburgh - Saturday, August 30, 2014

Frequently, a reflector will get the job done with a lot less work

Here's a late-afternoon beach photo. The sun was behind the subject which put her face in the shadow. A fill-flash could be used as a fill light, but for this situation, there's an easier way. A 32" Photoflex white/soft gold reflector (using the soft gold side) was used. Here's the same photo without a reflector:

As you can see, having the subject in the shadow obscures detail and makes the subject look flat. Adding the reflector adds dimension and a better tonal range. The best part of using a reflector is that you can see what you will get right away and easily make adjustments by moving the reflector.

Reflector tips:

  • Keep the reflector a little off to the side to create dimension and avoid blinding the subject
  • Adjust the brightness of the fill light from the reflector by moving the reflector closer or farther away from the subject.
  • Move around and find the right angle
  • I recommend a white/soft gold reflector. Soft gold warms the skin tones without overdoing it

The setup:

Reflector options:

  • Buy a reflector
  • Use a piece of white foam board
  • Use a reflective car windshield shade
  • Anything flat and light colored will work

Grab a reflector, get out and have fun!

Lighting comedian Meredith Myers

Chuck Vosburgh - Sunday, August 24, 2014

Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh. Client/model: Meredith Myers. Assistant: Scott Edwards.

The assignment

Photograph The Standup Librarian Meredith Myers in a cramped, dark library setting. Meredith wanted it to have a classical dark library feel and also feature the trademark costume of her character along with some other items that are important to her craft. The biggest challenge was the cramped quarters. To solve it, the lights had to be closer than usual to the subject. When the lights are very close, the inverse square law makes it important that the diastance between the main light and the subject be kept consistent, so no moving around while shooting without re-metering. Since this was a well thought out set-up there was no worry about the subject moving too much.

The setup

As usual, there are three main sources of light; the main light, the fill light and the separation light. The main light was provided by a beauty dish on the left. The reason I chose a beauty dish is that it has fairly soft light without spilling too much light on the rest of the scene. To further direct the light, I put a bit of Cinefoil (black foil) on the back side of the beauty dish to keep the light off the background. The fill light was provided by a reflector on the right, and I hid a flash between some books on the shelf behind there to provide some separation light. The separation light was turned down until it was about two stops less than the main light. Or to put it another way, it was one quarter as much light.

Equipment used:

Canon 5D

Canon 50mm lens

Canon 550EX flash

Pocket Wizard triggers

Bowens 500 monolight

Bowens beauty dish

You can easily replicate this look with any kind of directional main light or by using something to block the light from the background. Controlling light spill is the key to getting this kind of look.

You have plenty of time to grow your photographic skills!

Chuck Vosburgh - Sunday, February 23, 2014

Vintage Glamour Lighting

Chuck Vosburgh - Friday, February 21, 2014
Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh. Model: Megan Beckler
For this portrait of model and photographer Megan Beckler, we decided to do a vintage look. Vintage lighting is simple and usually consists of just two or three lights. In this case, a beauty dish was used as a main light, a strip-box was used as a separation light and a large reflector supplied the fill light.

Here's the setup:

The most important hints to remember are to make sure the main light is positioned so the catch light is in the upper quadrant of the eye and that the main light is far enough to the side to add contrast and dimension to the subject. If you use a separation light, make sure it doesn't spill light on the front of the subject, especially on their nose.

Equipment used:

Large beauty dish
Large Photoflex strip box
Large soft-gold Photoflex reflector
Links to all these pieces are on the resources page.

Anything can be a reflector

Chuck Vosburgh - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I received this e-mail from a photographer today and it shows how there are things you can use to improve your photographs everywhere. This is an ingenious use of a makeshift reflector.

Photographer: Mark Davis

Hi Chuck:

I noticed some interesting light coming into my kitchen on Sunday and decided to shoot a garlic bulb on the kitchen counter.  Since one side was too dark, and remembering that you said anything could serve as a reflector, I quickly found a cash register receipt and . . . voila!

You are a good teacher!

Great work Mark!

What are you listening to?

Chuck Vosburgh - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

This has more to do with your work than you think:

Real Old-School Lighting Set-Up

Chuck Vosburgh - Thursday, January 02, 2014

Much of the portraiture done a hundred years ago stands up today because of its lighting, composition and technical excellence. The example above was obviously done professionally and there is a lot we can learn by examining it.

The lighting

One thing that is amazing is how little equipment was typically used back then. Most likely the main light was a large window with a reflector on the left to lighten up the shadows slightly. If artificial light was used, it was probably a single large beauty dish and the same reflector on the left. That's it. The tone of the background was controlled by either using a gobo (something to block the light) or with the distance between the subject and the background, or a combination of both. This basic one-light setup was set up to create a Rembrandt lighting pattern which is characterized by the triangular shadow on the shadow side of the subject's cheek. There is more information on Rembrandt lighting elsewhere on this blog. Since the subject has a triangular face, the photographer decided on broad lighting, which is the lit side of the nose closest to, or facing the camera. Narrow lighting is the opposite, the shadow side of the nose faces the camera. Learn more about broad and narrow lighting here.

To create this image with artificial light today, you could use a beauty dish, soft bow or umbrella as a main light, a reflector for fill light and some kind of gobo to control how much light hits the background.

The setup

If you're looking for inspiration, look back to the masters.