lighting

studio photography – creating sun-flare images

One of the sequences I photographed of Anelisa for the video clip of a photo session in the studio, was to create this kind of sun-drenched flared image. I wanted it to look bright and airy and summery.

There was a studio flash behind her to (partially) create the flare. I had to keep adjusting my movement just so that the flash-head wouldn’t be entirely hidden, or entirely revealed.

There was a total of four flashes used, and the pull-back shot shows their positioning.

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studio lighting: smaller light source = harder light = more dramatic light

When I first started exploring bounce flash, and then off-camera flash and then progressing towards studio photography, my tendency was also instinctively towards softer light. A large light source gives you softer light, and it is more forgiving in terms of how you position your subject and yourself in relation to the light. A large light source is easy to work with. Soft light is flattering. It is a forgiving light source. But it soon became obvious that I was missing out on that dramatic element that attracted me to other images, and what I saw in movies. While soft light is flattering, it tends not to give dramatic results. (Of course, this depends on how you position your light.)

Working with video light in photography, I quickly got to love the light fall-off and the way that you only light a specific part of your subject, instead of just flooding your subject with light.

Working with just a speedlight in bright sunlight, we mostly have to get used to working with a harder / smaller light source … and make it look good! As an example, here is the photo of Molly K, taken during an individual workshop in New York, where we worked with direct off-camera flash.

In the studio as well, selectively lighting part of your subject, or just using a smaller harder light source as a single light, gives you more opportunity for different looks than just using one large light source. In photographing Anelisa recently for the promotional video clip for my studio, I used smaller light sources for several of the setups. This image above then, is from one of those setups. Here I used the Profoto 50 Degree Reflector (B&H) to concentrate the light, but still give a wide enough beam.

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video clip: photo session in the studio w/ Anelisa

To promote my studio as a rental photography studio here in New Jersey, I created this video clip. It’s not quite a behind-the-scenes clip since my intention was to show some of the diversity that is possible in the studio. Using different lighting, and different backgrounds and setups, the final photographs look quite different.

- gallery of images of photo session with Anelisa, and other models subsequently.

- photography studio rental NJ

The specific sequences will appear as distinct articles here on Tangents, as to how the specific looks were created, incl lighting setups and camera settings and the usual stuff. We’ll come back to this!

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What if you need more light from your bounce flash?

Because I so often use on-camera bounce flash, one of the questions I’m regularly asked is, what if there is nothing to bounce your flash off? There is also the variant – what if there isn’t enough light from the bounced flash?

In both cases, the answer is the same – you improvise!
Not only that, but you need to be prepared to improvise.

The photograph above is from a recent Bat Mitzvah, showing the big group shot of the kids. If you’ve photographed Bar / Bat Mitzvahs before, you know this is coming up, and you have to be prepared for it.

You’re prepared for it by:
- having a ladder handy to stand on
- a wide enough lens and enough space to move back into
- enough light!

You can not just be passive and go … oh, oops! You need to be prepared and have done some homework before any event you photograph. (It seems such an obvious thing to even need stating like that!)

This particular venue has a really awkwardly shaped ceiling, and it has a bronze color in places. So it makes bounce flash photography a bit of a challenge, but I was able to get pretty good results by pushing the ISO higher. Using a camera like the Nikon D4 is an obvious boost here!

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studio lighting: ringflash as a single light-source

I have a confession to make about ring-flash, especially when it is used as a single light-source. I’ve never been a fan. I’ve never liked the stark over-lit look that it produces. Even in images that are supposed to be edgy and trendy.

I’ve seen some incredible examples where the ringflash is part of a multi-light setup, with the ring-flash doing a just little bit of the work. But I haven’t yet seen an image where the ring-flash was the only light source (or dominant light source), where the photo has set my world ablaze.

I’ve taken flack on some of the photography forums for that view – it’s as if I am attacking someone’s religion by offering a non-conforming viewpoint. But I really don’t like ringflash. But, you know, as the saying goes – don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. So when I met up with  Morgan Joyce, I thought her heavily tattooed appearance would make her a good subject for this style of lighting – something modern and … well, edgy and trendy.

For these images, I used the Profoto AcuteB2 Ring-Flash (B&H),
attached to the the Profoto AcuteB2 600 Power Pack (B&H).

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lingerie photo session with studio flash – model: Olena

During this same photo session with Olena - the first in my new studio space - we also worked with just the studio flashes. Actually, this part of the photo session was first. An easy setup just to get things rolling.

Oh, the best part perhaps of this part of the photo session – I got to try out the Canon 6D (B&H). It’s an impressive camera! (More to come in a review article.)

We used two lights here – the main light was a Profoto D1 head in the massive Westcott 7′ Parabolic Umbrella (B&H). It’s an easy light modifier to use, since it gives a wrap-around light that is very forgiving. Forgiving to how the photographer places the light, and also forgiving to the subject – not that Olena really needed that!

The background light was another Profoto D1 head with a Profoto 7″ reflector (B&H) and a Profoto 10 degree grid (B&H).

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lingerie photo session: video light & studio flash – model: Olena

With my new studio space pretty much ready, I’ve been itching to actually use the studio with a photo session there. Olena is a model that I’ve worked with once before during an individual photography workshop in New York, and I was really impressed with her, but we never quite got the opportunity to do further photo sessions. So this was a good opportunity to shoot in my new studio, and re-acquaint with a wonderful model. (Here is Olena’s model mayhem portfolio.)

We shot several outfits, using different lighting setups. This one is interesting because of the simplicity of the setup – using a 1×4′ softbox to control the light, and a Lowel ID-Light (B&H) as a back-light to give that warm glow to her hair. It really helped enhance the intimate feel of the sequence of photographs.

Here is the pull-back shot that will show how the lights were placed.

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wedding photography: positioning the lighting for the groups & formals

In setting up the lighting for wedding formals in the church, the question often crops up – where do you place the lights. How far from your subjects do you place the lights.

The photograph above shows how and where I place the flash with the umbrella – about 3 pews in, just behind me or to my left (or right). This is approximate though. Two pews in would be fine. Of course, if you’re shooting the wedding formals elsewhere in a different location, just use the same idea.

The closer you bring the light, the more you risk having the light come from too steep an angle, and giving you shadowed eyes.

In positioning my light here, I can be slightly forward of my light – no chance of lens flare - and I have proper perspective for full-length photos. You really do not want to shoot full-length portraits with a wide angle lens. Step back, rather than zoom in!

Placing the light relatively further back like shown here, does bring the light in at a fairly low angle – but it gives open, clean lighting. This is how it looks:

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lighting a boudoir photo session – Carla Starla

We want it to look Fashion-y and Retro. And a little glamorous.” “But I don’t want it to be like a bridal hairdo!” No wonder the hair-dresser was confused by these vague instructions from myself and the model, Carla. The hair-dresser really looked like she was under pressure, wondering if she’d be able to come up with something fabulous enough to be all of that. Fashion-y and Retro and Glamorous.

Carla is a friend (and previous bride), and we’ve been trying to get it together for a photo session for a few years now. But life, work and conflicting schedules kept interfering. But this weekend it all came together – even down to the hair styling which looks fabulous.

The look we wanted with this boudoir photo session, was that the images should have a retro feel to then. With that in mind, we had her hair styled in a complementary way, even if we didn’t have a clear description of that. The post-processing of the photos were also done with that in mind, consistent with the theme.

I’d like to show two of the final images from this photo session, along with the lighting setup.

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using colored gels with flash in the studio

I met Jessica Joy during a photo shoot-out in Las Vegas last year when a group of photographers and models met up. She was there as both a photographer and a model. We had discussed doing a proper photo session some time in the future … and then Jessica got news that her husband will be stationed abroad in a few months from now. So we decided that *now* was the time to do this.

With winter-time in New Jersey and New York just too cold to comfortably do a photo shoot outdoors, we settled on doing it as a studio shoot. (We did briefly shoot outside on the street in Manhattan. More about that later.)

I bought two sets of the Honl gels for speedlights a long while back, to try out sometime, but they remained unused in a drawer. I had the two sets of colored gels – the Honl Hollywood filter kit (B&H), and the Honl Autumn filter kit (B&H). What made me curious about them originally, was that they were inexpensive, but seemed like a good option in juicing up flash photos a bit.

The first test image with the lights set up like I wanted, looked good … but a little drab. First I added a gel to a gridded softbox to the left of her (with the blue-green tone), and then I added a filter to the flash on the background … and  I was hooked!

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