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Lighting is Easy Blog

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

No Studio? No Problem!

Chuck Vosburgh - Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh, Model: Ninell

If you don't have a studio and a lot of equipment, you can still get great images! Here's an example of a model photographer in a parking garage with just one light. The setup is simple; one flash with a small Photoflex Octo-Box. That's it. To make the background black, just make sure anything in the background is far enough away to not be lit by the flash. In this case, it only took about 12 feet to make the back wall go black, and this was shot in the middle of the day.

Here's the setup:

You can do a lot with a little! Try it out and see for yourself.

One Light, Great Results

Chuck Vosburgh - Wednesday, August 24, 2011



Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh, Model: Gina Marie

1/80 second at f-4.5, 100 ISO, 160mm, Canon 550EX at 1/4 power with a Photoflex XS Octo-Box camera left.

You can get great results with just one light, especially if the amount of light being added from your flash is close to the ambient light. Here's how it works: In this case, the ambient light metered out to 1/40 second at f-4.5. I wanted the background just a little darker, so I decided to under-expose at 1/80 second. Remember, the shutter speed controls the ambient light. The flash was added to illuminate the subject sufficiently, which for this example amounted to 1/4 power at about 6' away. You can set this up easily with a light meter or you can use your histogram to evaluate your exposure.

Here's the setup:

Just to review

Set your ambient light at equal to or less than your camera's sync speed. I typically use 1/125 second because it's always safe for any camera I have. Adjust to make it lighter or darker to suit you. Next, add just enough flash to light your subject. Easy!

What I take on air-travel

Chuck Vosburgh - Thursday, July 28, 2011


Packing for a trip can be very challenging and people frequently ask me what I take with me on a typical photo shoot when we travel by air, so here's a complete list of what I carry on, what I put in my checked luggage and what Pat, my assistant carries on. The strategy is to carry on everything we need to do a typical shoot and check the stuff that we could make do without if it were to be delayed. 



Chuck's Carry-Ons:

MacBook Pro 17" and Power Cord

Wacom Tablet and Stylus

Card Reader

Canon 5D Body with Battery Grips and 6 Batteries

2 Chargers

A bunch of Compact Flash Cards

50mm Lens

16-35mm Lens

70-200 Lens

2 Canon 550EX Flashes

4 Pocket Wizards and Cords

Tripod

2 Light Stands

32" Umbrella

64" Umbrella

External Hard Drive and Cords

Microfiber Cloth

Trash Bags

Remote Camera Release

Extra Prints of Airline, Hotel, Shoot List, Phone Numbers and Other Papers

Passport

iPhone and Charger

Tripod Wrench

WhiBal Grey Card

Small Flash Flag

2 Bungee Cords

Duct Tape

Light Meter and Extra Battery

Polarizing Filter

2 Brass Studs

Business Cards

Pen

Wireless Card

Dust Blower

24 AA Batteries

Panasonic Lumix, Extra Battery, Charger, Cards

Checked Luggage:

Norman 200B Portable Strobe, Extra Bulb, Charger and Extra Battery

52" Soft Gold/White Reflector

Small Octo-Dome Soft-Box

A Bunch of Memory Cards

Pat's Carry-On:

Canon 5D body with battery grips and 6 batteries

35-70 lens

2 Chargers

Panasonic Lumix, Extra Battery, Charger, Cards

Food

Extra Prints of Airline, Hotel, Shoot List, Phone Numbers and Other Papers

Business Cards

Power Adapters (if international)

iPhone and Charger

iPad and Charger

Passport


What's in your bag?

Portrait of a Belly Dancer

Chuck Vosburgh - Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh, Model: Karen Sun-Ray

This image was photographed in my studio lighting class at the MoreanArts Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. The idea was to have nice soft light, but also show the contours of the model's muscle structure and features. The solution was a large soft box placed at more of a side-angle than usual. Keep in mind that the more the object is side-lit, the more it shows texture and contour. A little experimentation was required to find the perfect angle, then a reflector was added to open up the shadows. A hair light from up high behind also adds to the three dimensional look of the image.

Here's the setup:


Single large soft-box, large soft-gold reflector and a snoot. Simple.
On your next shoot, try making your model look as three dimensional as you can. It's a fun way to light and you may find a new favorite style of lighting.

How to make your light hard or soft

Chuck Vosburgh - Tuesday, July 05, 2011

What makes light hard or soft?

The softness of the light on your subject is controlled by just one thing - the size of the light source. You can evaluate the hardness or softness of the light by taking a look at the shadows. Hard lighting has a well defined edge to the shadows and soft light either has a feathered or no discernible line at the edges of the shadows.

The kind of light you choose is a creative decision and being able to control the softness of the light will will make it easy for you to make the image look the way you want. Hard light shows texture, has a lot of contrast and is dramatic. Soft light flattens texture, has less contrast and is well, softer.

Hard Light

Here's an example of hard light. You can see there's a lot of contrast, and the edges of the shadows are well defined. With a direct light source, the background goes black and the shadows of the subject blend into the background.

Here's the setup:

Single light source.

Softening a hard light

You can easily soften the effects of hard light by using a reflector to bounce some light back into the shadows. Using a reflector softens the overall look and separates the subject from the dark background. You can see the difference on the left side of the subject. The shadows are opened up, the subject looks more three-dimensional and the subject is separated from the background by the visible edges of the subject.

Here's the setup:

Single light source, one small reflector.

Softer Light

To soften the key light, a larger light source is needed. Here we used a small soft box. A small umbrella would produce similar results. One side effect of a larger light source is that it has a tendency to spill light onto the background unless the background is far away from the subject.

Here's the setup:

One small soft box

 

Even softer with a reflector

In this example, we kept the small soft box as the key light and added a reflector on the left to open up the shadows. Again, the subject looks more three-dimensional and is better separated from the background.

 Here's the setup:

Small soft box and a reflector.

Even softer

Here we used a large soft box. As you can see, the shadow transitions are very soft and there is a lot of light spilling onto the background.

Here's the setup:

Single large soft box.

 Softest of all

In this example, we kept the large soft box and added the reflector on the left. You can see it has very soft light and the softness of the light tends to flatten the appearance of the subject.

 Here's the setup:

Single large soft box and a reflector.

 

Overall view of our test subject. The reflector was a simple piece of 8-1/2 x 11 paper. 

The softness of the light you choose is a creative decision. For example, if your subject were a man with dramatic, weathered skin, you may choose a hard light setup to highlight the textures in his face. Likewise, if you were photographing a subject who wanted their skin to look soft and smooth, hard light would not be a good choice.

Hard light shows texture and soft light flattens texture. A reflector usually makes the subject look more three-dimensional and can help separate it from the background.

Experiment with different lighting configurations and you'll be able to use them to show your subject better and have more creative control. Have fun!


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!