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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

Charles 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


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.

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.
Easy!

Equipment used:

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

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.

Photogenic Ion Product Review

Chuck Vosburgh - Tuesday, November 26, 2013
I've always been skeptical of batteries for studio strobes and have instead used a gasoline powered generator when needed or just made do with portable strobes and speed lights. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I ordered a Photogenic Ion ($399 from Adorama). When it arrived I was amazed at how small and light it is and wondered how it could possibly live up to Photogenic's claims. "This will probably be going back" I thought. I was wrong.

Putting it to the test

I'm not too big on scientific tests so I took it out shooting. It either works for me or it doesn't. The photo shoot was with a bunch of photo-friends so if it failed, no big deal. I plugged in two monolights; a 500 w.s. and a 250 w.s. Bowens. I used them on a variety of settings that ranged from 1/4 to full power. After well over 100 shots, the battery still had a plenty of juice left, so I let my friends shoot with it. By the end of the evening and a LOT of shots, the battery was down to 25% power. Amazing.
Next I used it on a real job. The job required nearly 150 shots at power settings from 250 w.s. to 500 w.s. and the battery still had not even gone down to 75%! This is not going back!

Final impressions

The recycle time is noticeably slower using the Ion, but not annoyingly slow. It is extremely portable and easy to use. It even has a USB outlet for charging your phone. Genius. I am very happy with my Ion and it will open up a lot of possibilities on locations where it was not possible to take high powered lights. Anyone want to buy a used gasoline powered generator?

Should you buy one?

Yes.

Here's what the manufacturer says:

Photogenic ION PURE SINE WAVE INVERTER LITHIUM-ION 8.8AH 120WH 

Eliminate your large noisy gas generators and old fashioned humongous inverters. The all new Photogenic lithium-ion battery powered ION pure sine wave inverter takes your studio flash units on location the easy way. The ION is a powerful, lightweight, get outta town AC power supply that features two AC outlets for two monolights. Weighing in at only 3.5 lbs with a compact 7.5" x 4.4" x 3.3" profile, ION is the perfect lighting travel companion. Pack the ION and a couple of extra batteries with your lights and head out to your next shoot. It doesn't matter if your destination is the top of Mount Everest, the middle of the Kalahari or your sister in-law's wedding, this powerful combination will give you over 3,500 flashes (about 1200 per battery) at an amazing 320 watt seconds. While on your way to the next job, use ION's built-in USB port to power-up your phone or other electronic devices. Charge time to 100% for the lithium-ion battery is 3-4 hours. A glance at the LED battery meter on ION's control panel verifies the battery power level. 

You can get more information here.


The Inverse Square Law Made Easy

Chuck Vosburgh - Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lighting a car inside and out

Chuck Vosburgh - Sunday, September 29, 2013

100 ISO, 1/3 second at f-8. Focal Length: 29mm. 

Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh. Art Director: Michael Wilkinson. Models: Mirela Aldea and Rafael Hamis.

The best solution is usually the simplest and it took just three battery powered flashes to get exactly what the client wanted. The key to success was prior planning and getting there early enough to get everything all set up and do some tests before the models arrived. Once they arrived, all that was needed was simple tweaking and we were ready to go. Since the exposure was long, one third of a second, it was important to instruct the models to hold their position until the exposure was finished or there would most likely be a small halo around them. Each shot was done the way I thought looked best and also one stop lighter. That way, I would have more to work with back on the computer if needed. As it turned out it wasn't, but I'm not one to leave anything to luck.

The Process:

I started with the people in the car since it was the most difficult and vital part of the image. With that done, everything else will fall into place.To illuminate the models inside the car, a flash was used behind the back seat of the car firing toward the back of the car and bouncing the light back toward the models using a small white reflector. I adjusted the power of the flash until I could get f-8. I knew I needed a long depth of field and the combination of the wide angle lens and f-8 gave me enough depth of field to be safe. There are several apps you can get on your phone that can help you determine the depth of field. I use PhotoCalc to quickly make sure I'm ok. The little screen on the back of the camera can not show focus well enough to trust. I also recommend using a light meter to make your setup easier. Once that was set, the next step was to illuminate the outside of the car. A combination of ambient light augmented by a portable strobe with a small parabolic reflector to illuminate the side of the car and the guitar. The back of the car was illuminated by a flash with a small flag to block some of the light and keep the flash from casting a glare on the rear window of the car.

The Setup:



Equipment Used

  • Two Canon 550EX Flashes
  • Norman 200B Portable Strobe
  • Canon 5D
  • Canon 16-35 f-2.8L Lens

Keeping it simple does two things; it minimizes the variables and the chances for failures and by doing so it reduces your stress and workload which allows you to focus your attention on the details of the shot. Attention to details is frequently the difference between success and mediocrity. How do you keep it simple? Please share your ideas in the comments :)

Executive Portraits Behind the Scenes

Chuck Vosburgh - Monday, May 13, 2013
Here's a little behind the scenes video of a recent job where we photographed 90 executive portraits in two days on location at a conference.

Creating Executive Portraits from Chuck Vosburgh on Vimeo.

Plan B - dealing with unexpected on-location issues

Chuck Vosburgh - Thursday, February 14, 2013


Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh. Model: Maria DjMarki Boutzoukas

We planned to photograph this one outside in an alley with a cool motorcycle, but there was a problem. It was raining. Things like this happen al the time and when they do you have to be flexible. When faced with a situation that just won't work as planned, it's hard to let go of the original idea and struggle to somehow make it work anyway. I've found that the best thing to do once you realize your idea won't work is to start looking for an alternate. The alternate in this case was a dirty, cramped, dark shop. Perfect. We moved some of the equipment around to make an interesting background. We photographed our subject standing, but it just wasn't intimate, so we found a bucket for her to sit on. That worked.

The lighting

The lighting on this was simple; a beauty-dish for a main light, a snoot for an accent light and a reflector to fill in the shadows. The biggest challenge on this was to find a good place behind the subject to place the accent light without being in the frame. The accent light (also known as hair light and rim light) is important because it helps separate the subject from the background and it helps make the subject more three dimensional. Putting the light behind an to the left created a little bit of hair light, some rim lighting around the edge of her jacket and a nice accent on the left side of her face. Use an accent light if you can and your images will be much better for it. The accent light should be between 1-2 stops less than your main light and make sure you position it so it won't cause a lens flare.

The setup


The moral of the story

Arrive early and be ready for a total change of plans. Ideally, go ahead of time and scout the location so you'll have options in mind just in case. Frequently, plan B ends up being better than the original idea.

Pinup Model and a Hotrod Car

Chuck Vosburgh - Saturday, January 26, 2013

Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh, Model: Erin Faultin, Stylist: Pat McGlinchey, Car: Paul and Julie Swink.

Who doesn't love pinups and hot rods? This was a lot of fun, and it was done quickly without a lot of equipment. 

The street where this was shot was pretty dark, so there was no practical way of including any ambient light, so we used two lights and a reflector to supply all of the light for the shot. The main light uses a 60" umbrella on the left. I chose a large umbrella because it provides nice soft light for our model, and spills a lot of light onto the car as well. A large white reflector on the right help to lighten up the shadows and also casts some light on the door of the car. There was a danger of having our subject's hair blend in with the dark interior of the car, so a hair light was added, which also serves as a kicker to cast some light on the right side of the subject. This does two things; it provides a nice hair and rim light to separate the subject from the background, and the light it casts on the right side of her face helps make her look more dimensional. Being able to shine the hair/kicker light through the back window of the car worked out very well.

The only thing that was challenging was to control the shadow side of the subject from getting too dark. A large reflector worked just fine for this even though the door was in the way. The reflector kept us from having to add a third light. 

Here's the setup

Main light: Bowens 500ws with a 60" Umbrella. Fill: 42" White Reflector. Hair/Kicker Light: Bowens 200ws with a 6" Reflector.