Two Portraits with One Light

Two Portraits with one light on Lighting Essentials, a place for photographers

This post features two shots from this past weeks workshop in Phoenix. My Phoenix Workshops are fairly intimate affairs because I draw smaller groups and my studio is rather intimate as well.

In the first half of Saturday we work on portrait lighting and working with basic lighting setups. We start with one light and work it until we need to add a second light for some reason. Hairlight, more wrap, additional side lighting, 3-point and more are added to the mix.

For these two shots, I used a single light on the subject. The shot of Briana does have a second light for the background but it is not affecting the subject lighting.

Before we get into that… New Workshop dates are being nailed down now. I have some people wanting me to come to the twin-cities, and we are looking into cleaning up that East Coast month. Maybe moving one of the mid-Atlantic dates to a west coast. Montana is a go and so is Chicago. Watch the signup page for a location near you.

So let’s go look at how we can work with one light to create this look. Some of you who are very familiar with this kind of lighting – it is a favorite of mine – may also find some new things as well.

Starting out with the shot of Hayley we will examine the image closely. Here is the image as processed.

Camera: Canon, 100MM 2.8 Macro

Camera: Canon, 100MM 2.8 Macro

The light on Hayley is one strobe on a boom. Over her about 3 feet, and back behind her about 3 feet. The V-Card in front of her is about 3 feet away and wrapping on both sides of her. Camera is aimed through the slot cut in the middle of the V-Card, and we have to check for possible flair.

Here is a lighting diagram:

Lighting diagram for Hayley "beach lighting"

I call this lighting “Beach Lighting” and it is one of my favorites. I call it beach lighting because it resembles the light I used to shoot under on the West Coast all the time. Bright, very bright, hazy sun and natural reflection from the sand. It can be somewhat contrasty with the hair blowing out a little in order to get that front light correct, but that is OK within the genre.

If you want the light to be a little less on the top of the hair, take a small boom and put a 10″ square flag or scrim directly above the hair… you will see it go dark as you place it in the angle to create a shadow on the hair. Move and adjust to taste. Be sure it isn’t much bigger than 10″ because you don’t want to kill the light on the V-Card in front of her.

Shoot notes for Hayley Portrait on Lighting Essentials

There are so many fun ways to change this lighting up. Adding a small light from camera for a catchlight, adding a couple of small lights to each side of the V-Card to give a softer 3-point light and more. Caution… be aware that the light is turned toward the V-card so if you get too close, you can get some considerable flare. Watch for flare, flag it if necessary.

We had finished shooting white on white, and decided to do some black on black. Briana put the black fur (a studio wardrobe staple, and a fake… so now stop hatin’ on me, got it) and a bright turquoise top for a splash of color.

Briana in Black Fur for Lighting Essentials

Our main light is a medium (42″) satin white umbrella in bounce mode. It is on a boom and very close to Briana… close enough to use the ‘wrap’ to add light on both sides of her face. Standing behind your model, you will be able to see how the light from the umbrella helps to wrap around the side of the model’s face. If you can see the umbrella from behind her, the side of her face is being lit.

We added a couple of V-Cards on each side of her to further open the shadows, and then put a shiny board under her to add some edge to the fur. Without these close, very close, V-Card fills, the fur would simply have no texture. Adding some bright cards to create speculars on the tiny hairs of the fur was what was needed.

You can see the bright, open shadows this light created under Briana’s chin and eyes. Keeping the eyes bright is one of the concerns I have when lighting. I find I can keep them open and bright by working the light close to the subject.

Diagram for Briana in fur for a Lighting Essentials Workshop

I wanted to keep the background dark, but also have some gradient to help bring out the texture of the fur. The eye sees the fur and its subtle texture while the background is subtle but smooth in transition.

We chose a small 33″ umbrella with a black back aimed at the black seamless. It is nearly on the floor and mounted on a short “background” stand. Keeping it about a foot from the background allowed a very soft, subtle light-to-dark background light. I tip my umbrella down very slightly when I do this, not wanting too much of the light to wash up the seamless wall.

The last thing we did was take a 12″ by 36″ white reflector and put it over her head at a totally oblique angle… in other words it is vertical to the light and behind her head about 6″. This gives a very subtle, but visible, hair separation light.

Briana Fur shot notes

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About 

I am in love with light.

Also known as Don Giannatti, photography has been the focus of my life for most of my adult years. I have written three books for Amherst Media (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble: keyword 'don giannatti'. Lighting Essentials is my flagship blog and ezine with a slightly different slant than most photography related blogs. If you are interested in becoming a better photographer, check out www.project52.org. Thanks for visiting.

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