Let’s Do Some Lighting Today… (from the Archives)

Today’s update is one from the archives, but it is still a great post you will enjoy. Even includes a 16 minute video… bad audio, but you will get the ideas from the shoot. We are doing better audio for our next releases, but this is what it is.

I would like to take a few lines here to discuss the upcoming workshop schedule for next year. We are heading to new places and been invited back to some great places we visited this year. We are always looking for new cities and hosts to help us bring the workshops in. The workshops are very different for next year… and the workbook will be fantastic. Those of you who have taken the workshop will be able to download it from the member’s page as soon as it is finished… before the first of the year.

I also want to say that it has been a memorable year meeting all kinds of new people and making friends in cities far away. I wish I had more time to stay in touch with each and every one of you, but alas… However, if you have questions or want to share your work with us, please hit the Flickr group for Lighting Essentials. This group is for people who have taken the workshop or have the DVD.

Our next couple of Tech Sheets are ready and I think they may surprise you. The one for this Friday is a product shoot with lots of reflective surfaces. We accomplish a lot of finesse with only one light. And you can follow along with your own item and learn a lot about doing small item product photography.

If you haven’t checked out the Magazine in a while, we have big plans for it and it will be getting its own URL very soon. Let me know if you like the interviews and insights, I do like working on it.

Be sure to see the previous post on shooting with two strobes on the beach… Not your typical two strobe setup.

So let’s jump back in time about a year (and 30 pounds for me) ago and take a look at three studio shoots with simple tools.


Here’s the movie: pardon on the ad that pops up – that’s not from me. When we went with Megavideo, they didn’t have this crap… you will have to close the window that pops with the free movies. I am very sorry about this new item they have introduced. I will be moving the movie to a new host very soon… but for now you will be annoyed. Sheesh

This video tutorial starts with a simple one umbrella and fill card headshot. I consider it a classic glamour look with flat light and dramatic fall off on the sides. We use a shiny fill card to open the shadows under the chin, lip, nose and eye sockets. It also lights up the eyes very well to present them in stunning color. Our model is Briana.

Gallery from first setup:

And a sample of the Contact Sheet:

Our second shot finds us using a piece of equipment for the first time. This is essentially one way I test out new equipment this same way: bring in a model and try the light by itself, then add fill and modifiers to see how the light reacts with it. In this case it is Megan’s DIY beauty dish. Amazing… an IKEA light reflector and a speedlight with a little ingenuity and super glue. Total price for this cool tool… > $10. We add fill cards and shiny cards, and I climb up on a small box for a somewhat different view. Below are some images from this setup.

And a Contact Sheet View:

The last shot uses two speedlights: one is the main and in a circular parabolic with tissue paper over it, the second with the home made beauty dish aimed at the background very close to it. This gives a very nice, gradual fall off for a back light. I really liked the look of this and will be doing another shoot with it soon. I have since used this on several shots and loved the look. Very precise modeling of features is its strong point.

Images from the setup above:

And a final Contact Sheet view:

Some PP notes:

I have a pretty standard way of working with pure photography, no special effects and such. For this image I processed it out of Canon software at a solid neutral exposure. I did not color correct it even though the tissue paper did leave a bit of a warm cast on the skin.

1. used healing brush to clear skin. I do this on a layer above the face most of the time.
2. used clone tool – lighten – @25% to further clear skin and problems. On the same layer as above.
3. created a new layer from the image and used the blend mode “soft light” at 25% opacity
4. I added a layer mask to this layer to paint back in some shadow density.
5. added a layer of 50% gray at softlight blend mode and then painted white at 4% for highlights (soft brush). This is a very gradual process and at 4% you can simply tweak it in with increments… not a slash and burn attack… heh.
6. Saved and created a new document from the combined layers. The first document is then saved as an archived base image for further exploration later if I choose.

The new document now has a clean face with perfect exposure. I added a little color correction with the photo filters 80A at 40% to clean some of the warmth up and then added my luminosity layers. These take a while to learn, but after you play with them for a while you will simply never be satisfied without them ever again. Tony Kuyper has them for you here: Please make a donation for all his time and pick them up. You will simply fall in love with them. Or you could do them yourself. Should only take a couple of months… heh.

Here is a screenshot of the Photoshop document with the luminosity masks:

The image has very little Photoshop trickery to it, but it does have some solid photographic background for the correction of blemishes and added contrast.

Hope you enjoyed and see you next time.

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Clamshell Lighting for a Glamourous Headshot

Well we are back from the Cleveland workshop and it was amazing. Bright sun and clear skies were a super benefit… for someone somewhere… we had rain, wind, snow, rain, wind and cold. At least for Bri and I coming from the desert… We left Cleveland at about 28 degrees and landed at Sky Harbor at about 78. And that was at night.

I wanted to get a post done over the weekend, but dang… those Clevelanders (and Illinois, Indiana, Connecticut and Georgia) folks know how to have a workshop. It was amazing. We rolled with the inclement weather and did about a gazillion setups. No complaining… just rolled up sleeves and shooting shooting shooting.

Anyway, there was a discussion recently about clamshell lighting and I thought of this earlier shot I did of Briana with a simple clamshell setup. So I thought it may be nice to include it here while I put the finishing touches on this weeks Tech Sheet.

Clamshell lighting is sometimes described as a light source and a fill card, but I have always thought of it as two umbrellas, usually matching, right on the vertical axis of the camera with one over the lens and one under the lens. I have used this from very close to medium distance and love the results.

Cool thing is you can do this same lighting with small strobes as well as studio guns. With small strobes you have the added benefit (to me anyway) of powering them down and getting a very large aperture for limited DOF.

Let’s take a look at how this lighting works:


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Using a Single Softbox with a Shiny Card for Headshots

Sometimes you just want a simple image, a headshot or a 3/4 image that has a very direct light to show the skin color, open the eyes and bring some vivid highlights to the person.

I like the big softbox and how it can simply wash the person with a clean, bright light that seems to make them glow. Usually I work the box to the side, like a large window light, but for this portrait of, well… you know (heh), I decided to do an on-camera axis shot. Many times I use an umbrella in this position, but the large, diffuse, square softbox light was intriguing.

I added a large shiny board below the softbox that would reflect the light up from the floor area and provide a bright, shiny, poppy light for bottom fill.

Before we head on over to the tutorial, I just want to make sure we have a few links taken care of here:
November Wallpapers
The Cleveland Workshop
Our November 1 Tech Sheet
Should Photography be Easy

Now, on to the tutorial.


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First “Tech Sheet” and Assignment.

We are so excited about the new series we are starting… the “Tech Sheet” series. We will do one every two weeks and they will be uploaded on the first Friday and the third Friday of each month. Those months with an extra Friday will find an extra Tech Sheet.

The “Tech Sheets” will have lots of information breaking down one shot. We have jewelry, still life, product, fashion, glamor, headshots and more coming. We will cover studio and location. This first Tech Sheet is a breakdown of an image, and the Photoshop used, that we did for a demonstration at the Houston workshop in November 2008.

Nicole was ready to jump and the studio had these two cool windows with clouds outside. It seemed custom made for a wide angle shot, and the exposed brick was an added kick, ya know!

Before we get to it, we still have a few openings in the Cleveland workshop coming up November 15 – 16, 2008. Get on over and sign up if you can get to the area to join us.

And don’t forget the free wallpaper for November available here.


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Shooting Food On Location – With a Twist

Shooting Food on Location with a slight twist

My client called and needed a job turned around right away. Her client needed their entire menu shot for some collateral and web materials and the previous shooter had not been able to do what they needed.

The images had to be attractive enough for menu use, arty enough for the web and collateral and still stay within budget. Well, yeah… there’s always that budget thing. The twist was that we had to do two shots of each dish… one for the menu and one for a more ‘artistic’ collateral piece.

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The Rigorous World of Macro Beauty Shots

Shooting very tight, Alex Bussa creates some sweet beauty shots.

Coming in this close can be a nightmare for the unsuspecting. Makeup must be perfect, hair perfect, every nuance of light has to fall to give the feeling of fresh and natural. And the skills in the toolset must be honed very tightly.

It goes without saying that usually a MUA is part of a team doing this work. Some models can do this on themselves, but it is so much better to have eyes that can see the whole picture instead of just a part of it. A great face also helps, as you can imagine.

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