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Studio Lighting Suggestions

FORUMS General Gear Talk Flash and Studio Lighting
Thread started 10 Oct 2002 (Thursday) 23:08   
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JR92
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I am about to start doing indoor photography (portraits)and I have no idea(s) about lighting. I would like to eliminate using a flash and still get enough light with no shadows. Does anyone have any suggestions, I am lame on this subject and need some advise. Thank You.

Post #1, Oct 10, 2002 23:08:03




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hodgy
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Are you looking for lighting techniques? Or lights?

Post #2, Oct 11, 2002 10:59:12




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JR92
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I am looking for lights then techniques.

Post #3, Oct 11, 2002 11:24:03




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Dans_D60
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Dear JR:

Lighting techniques for photography or video is a vast topic. There are numerous books and courses available. I’m sure your local bookstore will have a good supply of books covering this subject. As a tip, the simplest method to reduce shadows (by no means the only method) is to place two studio strobe units at 45 degrees directly in front of the subject. In theory, the light from each strobe will cancel the rear shadow from the other. Also, the further your subject is from the background the better. Using “large†light is also helpful with large umbrellas or softboxes. I started down the studio lighting learning curve by attending classes and reading many books. In addition, I did purchase an inexpensive studio lighting setup to practice. There are many starter kits to choose from. I purchased a pair of JTL 110 monolight strobe units, light stands, and two large umbrellas. Although these units are not very powerful, the entire setup was less than $350. After many trial and error sessions, I could setup and produce predictable and very acceptable portrait results. I have since invested in additional and more powerful lighting equipment. Having a lot of fun and recently I have actually requested payment for my services! Still a hobby, however. You can see some of my lighting work at:
http://www.dpcg.com/ph​otoexternal link

Just remember that using the external PC connector on the D60 for your studio strobe setup should have the trigger voltage at six volts or less. Most modern new studio strobe setups are “digital†compatible, but make sure to ask before your purchase.

Have fun … practice and practice! … Dan

Post #4, Oct 12, 2002 09:31:11


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Kevin ­ Connery
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While it may seem intuitive to get the equipment then learn the technique, one problem arises. Without knowing how you will be using the lighting gear, it's difficult to make a well-informed decision as to which lights to choose.

I wrote a little article on choosing studio lighting, where the key areas are discussed: total power, adjustability, reliability, portability, etc., but the final decision really needs to be based on how you will be using them. Not just what your subjects are, which camera equipment you're using, but also your working style.

The article can be seen at http://www.keradwc.com​/articles/studiolights​.htmlexternal link

Some good online sources for lighting techniques for portraiture are http://www.zuga.netexternal link (See Joe Zeltsman's articles in the archived information section), http://www.lightingmag​ic.comexternal link (See Scott's FAQ section). There's a lot of others, but these two are pretty good and very approachable.

Post #5, Oct 13, 2002 12:17:02




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JR92
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Thanks for all of the input. I just ordered a Britek Traveling Studio with three lights (two large with umbrellas and one to help reduce shadows or highlight hair-backlight) It sounds like an all-in-one package and should work great while I get started. I also ordered a jet black muslin (9x18) and a 9x12 white muslin with a heavy duty support system. I hope I can figure everything out, if not I will be back and learn from simple mistakes. Thanks guys, JR.

Post #6, Oct 13, 2002 15:45:50




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tphvid
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JR... was wondering what you thought of the Britek Traveling Studio you indicated you were going to purchase. I am looking into the Compact Travel Kit
(1620 w/s Three Lights) setup. This would also be my first exposure (excuse the pun) to studio level lighting.

Thanks... any comments or feedback on these would be appreciated!

Post #7, Jan 11, 2003 15:30:46




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JR92
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I think it is great, though I don't use it. I have only used it a few times and got execellent results. Despite being brandnew it did not come with any instructions, so just kind of spent time learning. Since I don't use it I am selling it all, if interested I will make you a heck of a deal.
JR92

Post #8, Jan 12, 2003 17:53:57




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tphvid
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Tell me what kit you purchased, where you are located, and what you would like for it.

My email is tphvid@hotmail.com if you prefer to talk via email.

Thanks.

Post #9, Jan 12, 2003 20:49:31




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LightingMan
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JR92 wrote:
I am about to start doing indoor photography (portraits)and I have no idea(s) about lighting. I would like to eliminate using a flash and still get enough light with no shadows. Does anyone have any suggestions, I am lame on this subject and need some advise. Thank You.

Hi JR92

Portrait lighting is a topic disussed and speculated on by countless photographers as if it were exceedingly complex and difficult to grasp. This is simply not true. If one learns the most basic elements of the science of light, then one by one the things that once seemed impossibly complex melt down into basic ideas that are not only understandable but downright simple in most situations.

By definition, portrait lighting is directional light with a highlight side and shadow side to the subject, frequently with additional accent lights used to enhance the look of the subject, aid in separating the subject from the background or to just add more three dimensional contrast to the subject. This is what photography is. Creating three dimensional contrast on a two dimensional medium. The images will ultimately be seen as a two dimensional photograph but hopefully have a three dimensional appearance created by proper lighting. Adding depth and dimension to the subject using highlight and shadow is what makes this possible.

The first thing one must begin to realize is that shadows are not the enemy. They are the very thing that makes portrait lighting look like portrait lighting. Eliminating shadows is not the answer to great portraiture. Understanding where the shadows are supposed to be and where they are not supposed to be and how to control them is a large part of doing studio portrait lighting well.

Sadly, much information that new portrait photographers receive is guesswork and simply wrong info passed down from person to person believing it to be true because others before them believed it were true. There is no element of professional lighting that cannot be verified, proven, and duplicated again and again with totally predictable results. I tell my students to not believe anything they are taught including what they learn from me until the have tested it, verified it and used it with the full understanding of how and why it works. This is not a "just trust me, it works" sort of business. If someone says that, run in the other direction.

Professional studio portraiture and lighting is not some experimental thing. It is a precise and exact science that blends with artistic and creative thinking to create images that are truly worth looking at and enjoying. One of the first things new studio photographers do is to take two lights and put one on each side of the camera believing that this is the answer to the issues of shadows. This could not be further from the truth. In no way is that technique any kind of portrait lighting. It will produce mostly non directional light with cross shadows that conflict with each other not to mention adding considerably weight to the subject since you are lighting them from ear to ear.

Portrait light has direction so that the subject is flattered and in most cases made to look slimmer rather than fatter. Lighting can easily do both and it's up to the photographer to control the light by understanding how and why it works the way it does.

If we light a subject from ear to ear think about the brightness levels across the face. You have lit everything the camera sees more or less equially. The subject looks considerably heavier than if you light the subject from one side where the main light sources illuminates the eyes, cheeks, forehead, nose and chin.

If the light is so far to the side that these areas are not fully lit then we are moving away from proper portrait lighting. The eyes are paramount and should be studied carefully to observe how fully lit they are and how similar they are in brightness.

If your main light is very near the camera, it no longer creates much three dimensional highlight and shadow rendering the subect flatter than heavier than is generally though of as desireable.

For a beginning lesson, let me suggest that you make your living room into a temporary studio by placing a chair in the middle of the room. Do this at night so that you can make the room very dark. Once you have done this, find a subject willing to sit for you and have them sit in the chair.

Now for your light source to practice with, find a desk lamp or other simple light source that has a light bulb in it. Perhaps even the lamp on the end table next to the couch. Remove the shade and you have your light source. Be sure that other room lights are switched off so your movable light is the only significant light source lighting the subject.

Now, using this one source of light, move it around in front of your subjects face keeping a safe distance of several feet. Observe how the shadows and highlights move as freely as you move the light source. Never be affraid to move that light around. It won't break. Don't be timmid. Also observe that when you move the light to your right that the shadows move to your left and vice versa.

Once you have a few minutes of observing and providing your subject is willing to continue as your object to light begin looking at the subject's face. Imagine that they are wearing one of those little plastic halloween masks that came with the inexpensive kid's halloween costumes. The kind of mask that covers only the front features of the face leaving the sides and ears exposed. The portion of the subject's face that would be covered by the mask is the area we wish to light in order to create a basic portrait lighting pattern.

We light what we call the "mask" of the face. What are the portions of the face that are covered by the mask? The forehead, eyes, nose, cheeks and chin. Those are the areas we wish to light. Move your hand held light to the side of the subject (facing into their ear) and a bit above them. Now slowly begin to bring the light toward you so that it begins to light more and more of the frontal features of the face. Observe carefully. Look at the eyes first. Bring the light source around to the front of the subject and stop when both eyes are fully lit.

At this point your light source should be roughly 45 degress between directly in front of the subject and directly to the side. Study the light and see if you are lighting both eyes equially, both cheeks fairly equially, the forehead, nose and chin. The light source should cause the nose to cast a shadow that points somewhat down toward the corner of the mouth roughly following the natural light that we have running from the nose to the corner of the mouth. Pay attention to the eyes because there is nothing more important than keeping the eyes well and evenly lit.

If you have followed this basic set of instructions, you will have the basic lighting pattern used for most portraits. The light on the face will seem harsh because it is a small light source. You practice using a small light source because the highlights and shadows are more clearly defined making the learning process faster. If your room is quite dark as it should be, you will observe that the shadow side of the subject's face is quite dark.

To demonstrate the most basic concept in portrait lighting, find any large white object. A white poster board, a white T shirt, any object that is a couple square feet of white surface. While you hold your main light in place by letting it sit on a stand or table of some sort. While it is in position giving you even lighting to the eyes and other facial features as we have already discussed, bring the white reflective surface toward the subject from the side opposite the main light. Position it so that it is more in front of the subject than the side. This white reflective surface will now be returning some of the main light into the shadow side of the subject's face elevating the brightness level of the shadows. By adjusting the distance from the reflector to the subject you have control over how much fill light reaches the shadow side of the face thereby give you great control over the look of your portrait lighting. More fill light for a more conservative look or less fill light for something more dramatic.

When you watch movies, observe how shadow and light are used to light the subject's face. Simply by observing, you can learn a great deal.

I hope this is helpful for you beginning efforts in portrait lighting. If you followed my instructions, you should be able to create some pretty nice basic portrait lighting.

Best wishes,

Post #10, Dec 14, 2005 23:30:08


Scott Smith - Master Photographic Craftsman, CPP, F-TPPA
CLICK to write to me: Scott@LightingMagic.co​m

"It's not what you own that makes you a great image maker... It's what you know." - Scott Smith

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tim
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Scott, welcome to POTN, i'm very happy to have a true expert here :) I've recommended your studio lighting book a few times, I found it very valuable for cutting through all the rubbish you find in many books :)

I'll read your post later, it's a biiiig block of text to digest :)

Post #11, Dec 14, 2005 23:42:36


NZIPP Qualified Professional wedding photographer.
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SkipD
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Scott - can you please edit your post, breaking it up into paragraphs so that it is easier to read? It is a real challenge the way it is.

Thanks.

Post #12, Dec 15, 2005 05:36:32


Skip Douglas
A few cameras and almost 50 years behind them .....
..... but still learning all the time.

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Jon
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SkipD wrote:
Scott - can you please edit your post, breaking it up into paragraphs so that it is easier to read? It is a real challenge the way it is.

Thanks.

Amen!

Post #13, Dec 15, 2005 13:14:27 as a reply to SkipD's post 7 hours earlier.


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PhotosGuy
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Scott - can you please edit your post, breaking it up into paragraphs so that it is easier to read? It is a real challenge the way it is.

:D :D I was just about to suggest the liberal use of the Enter key, too!

Post #14, Dec 16, 2005 08:32:46


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PacAce
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I've formatted Scott's post (content not changed other than adding white spaces) to make it easier to read.

Now that I've had a chance to read it, the content is very good and very helpful. Thanks, Scott.

[Edit: I'll sticky this thread for a while and then move it into "FAQ: Studio Lighting".]

Post #15, Dec 16, 2005 09:11:09


...Leo

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