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Lighting is Easy Blog

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

Adding a weathered, grunge texture to your images.

Chuck Vosburgh - Wednesday, June 15, 2011
It's easy to use a photograph of a texture to add texture to another photograph in photoshop. Here's how:

Go to the Lighting Is Easy FaceBook Page and if you "Like" the page (or have already), you can download my 12 favorite textures for free by clicking the Document tab in the left column of the page. Click Here

How to fold a reflector

Chuck Vosburgh - Thursday, May 26, 2011

One of the most difficult things we learn in my classes is how to put a reflector back in its bag. Here are two methods that make it easy:

Here's another method that works especially well for larger reflectors:

Now you'll look like a real pro!

How to fold a reflector

Chuck Vosburgh - Thursday, May 26, 2011

One of the most difficult things we learn in my classes is how to put a reflector back in its bag. Here are two methods that make it easy:

Here's another method that works especially well for larger reflectors:

Now you'll look like a real pro!

Mixing ambient light with strobes

Chuck Vosburgh - Saturday, May 21, 2011

Model: JoAnn Jensen Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh

Today's example was photographed in the atrium of the Museum of Fine Art in St. Petersburg, Florida. The museum has beautiful sunlight coming in and I noticed some interesting patterns of light on the wall and floor that would look nice incorporated into our photographs somehow. Normally, I would choose to overpower the ambient light with the strobes so the only light in the finished image is light I control. In this case, taking advantage of the ambient light made good sense.

Step 1

I chose an exposure that would use a little bit of the ambient light, which left the subject underexposed. 1/80 second at f-5.6, 100 ISO. 

Step 2

Add enough light to expose the subject correctly. The camera settings stayed the same. By adding enough light to the scene the subject is exposed correctly and some of the light spills over to add to the ambient light in the final image.

Step 3

Experiment with different settings. Shutter speed controls the exposure of the ambient light and aperture (f-stop) controls the exposure of the subject.

Here's the setup:

The background light was set to skim light across the background to accentuate the texture of the stone. The two soft-box and reflector is the standard window-light configuration. There's an article on the window-light setup on this blog.

Practice blending ambient and flash and you'll have nearly complete control over any lighting situation. Have any tips, techniques or questions? Write 'em in the comments below.

Equipment used:

  • 2 Norman light heads with Large soft-boxes, one with grid attached
  • 1 Norman light heads with small parabolic reflector
  • Norman 800ws power pack
  • Large soft gold reflector
  • Various stands
  • Canon 5D
  • Canon 70-200mm f-2.8L IS
  • Microsync Radio Triggers

Lighting a Sunset Portrait

Chuck Vosburgh - Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One of the most popular types of portraits for families and couples is the sunset portrait. On the west coast of Florida where I live, on a good evening you can see photographers up and down the beach photographing beach sunset photos with wedding couples, families and pets. Lighting a sunset portrait is easy.

There are two main challenges to this kind of shot; the ambient light will be changing fast, so you'll need to adjust as you go, and the ambient light will be fairly bright, so you'll need a lot of fill-flash.

Here's how to do it:

Step 1: Determine your ambient exposure. Put your camera on Manual and adjust the exposure to how you want the background to look. In this example, it was 2 stops under-exposed. You'll also need to make sure your shutter speed is below your camera's sync speed. The sync speed will depend on your camera and flash, but 1/125 second or less is almost always safe. This example was shot at 1/125 at f-5.6 100 ISO. This setting made the background perfect, but left the subjects badly under-exposed. 

Step 2: Add light to expose the subjects. The next step is to light up the subjects. In this example, a Canon 550EX flash was used with a small soft box on a stand. The power on the flash was set to half power which made the exposure pretty close then the aperture was adjusted to get the correct exposure for the subjects.

Keep in mind:

The shutter speed controls the ambient (background) exposure

The power setting on your flash and the aperture control the exposure of your subject.

Here's the setup:

Equipment used:

Canon 550EX flash

Photoflex light stand

Photoflex OctoDome nxt kit for shoe mount flash

Microsync digital flash trigger

Canon 50mm lens

Canon 5D

Turn your iPhone into a free light meter

Chuck Vosburgh - Wednesday, April 06, 2011

I found a new iPhone app that makes your iPhone into a light meter. It's called Light Meter. The app is simple; point it and it gives you an exposure for the area marked in the middle of the frame. The app works just like a spot meter.

Simple, but does it work? I took the app into my testing lab and tested it against a Sekonic L-758DR light meter. The Light Meter app was generally within 1/2-stop of the correct exposure. Pretty impressive. What the app does not give you are average metering, incident metering and flash metering, but it's free. There's an in-app ability to either pay 99 cents to remove the advertising and make the reading larger, or a $4.99 option that does the same and buys the developer a pint. Comparing free to a $635.00 light meter and getting pretty close results is amazing. I say download the app and buy the guy a pint!

Quick, accurate exposure estimates

Chuck Vosburgh - Thursday, March 24, 2011

If you're like me, it's difficult to remember how each modifier changes the exposure, which makes guessing the correct exposure a matter of luck. Here's an easy way to get a quick, accurate estimate.
In this example, I have a small soft box that I sometimes use with my off-camera flash. I used my light meter to establish a base exposure, in this case my Canon 550EX set at full power at six feet away from the subject will give me an exposure of f-5.6 at 100 ISO. Knowing that, I can quickly estimate the exposure I'll need for different distances, apertures and ISO settings.
This does require a basic understanding of apertures and the inverse square law, but it's easy to learn and there are articles on both on this blog. For example, if I change the power to one half power, my aperture would change to f-4. If I changed the ISO to 200, the aperture would be f-8. If I moved the light to nine feet away, the aperture would be f-2.8. Easy.
When you're out shooting strobist-style, this can help you get the right exposure fast. Do you have any tricks you use? Tell us in the comments!

High-Key Lighting

Chuck Vosburgh - Monday, March 21, 2011

Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh, Model: JoAnn Davis

High-key lighting is lighting that results in more light areas than shadows; subjects are seen in mostly middle grays and highlights, with little contrast. This style of lighting can communicate an upbeat, light, etherial or beautiful mood. 

High-key lighting requires a minimum of three lights, but the setup is very easy.

Here’s how to do it:

The whole idea is to minimize shadows. Start with two large soft-boxes, one on either side of the camera. Next, set one or two lights to light the background. The trick is to set up the background lights so that they make the background pure white without creating lens flare. For this shot, the same power was used for all the lights. The soft boxes used up enough light to make the background about two stops brighter than the subject, which worked perfectly.

Here’s the setup:

Equipment used:

2 Norman light heads with 12” parabolic reflectors (dishes)

2 Norman light heads with Large Photoflex soft-boxes

Norman 800ws power pack

Savage Super-White seamless background

Various stands

Canon 5D

Canon 70-200mm f-2.8L IS

Microsync Radio Triggers

Do you have any high-key images you’re proud of? tell us about them in the comments.

Adding a realistic frame and matt with Adobe Photoshop

Chuck Vosburgh - Monday, March 14, 2011

Photo: Chuck Vosburgh
Adding a frame and matt to your images is a good way to make your images look nicely finished and also help communicate that they are art. Adding your own frame and matt using Adobe Photoshop is easy. Here's how:

And now, here's how to make it even better and use it on other photographs:

Got any cool methods? Tell us in the comments below!

Lighting in limited spaces

Chuck Vosburgh - Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh Model: Kristen Joyner

f-16 at 1/125 second, 100 ISO

Most clients prefer to have executive portraits done on location at their place of business. The problem is there usually isn’t as much room as you’d normally have in a studio. In this example, I’ll explain the process from walking through the door to photographing the subject.

If you can, go to the location before the shoot to assess the situation. Knowing what you’re dealing with in advance avoids a lot of stress. In this case it wasn’t possible so I arrived an hour earlier than I needed to so I would have time to figure out what to do. The last thing I want to do on a shoot is rush. Rushing causes mistakes and the subjects will sense your stress and it will be reflected in your images. When I arrived I looked over the area and decided on the best place to set up. It offered an unused cubicle to give me a little more distance to shoot from, which was great since I prefer to shoot portraits at 100mm to de-emphasize perspective. There are three considerations: 

Room between the subject and the background to avoid shadows
Room between the subject and the key light to allow a little movement without changing the exposure too much. 
Enough room to use a  lens somewhere between 70-100mm

I chose a loop-lighting style of light for two reasons; it works well for multiple subjects (in this case there were nine people to shoot) and it uses less room than most other styles of lighting. It’s also a standard style that always works. There’s a nice article on how to set up loop-lighting on this blog.

Here’s the setup:

Equipment used:

Norman light head with a 12” snoot

Norman light head with background light attachment

Norman light head with a Large Photoflex soft-box

Norman 800 power pack

36” Photoflex Gold/Silver reflector

Studio Grey seamless background

Various stands

Canon 5D

Canon 70-200mm f-2.8L IS

Microsync Radio Triggers