Basic Lighting Designs

Last Sunday I had a studio booked for an art project I am working on so as I was going to have all my lighting gear set up decided that I would run a lighting workshop as well.

Over the course of 4 hours I took the photographers through seven different lighting arrangements using the lights and then finished utilising natural light. I had booked an experienced model for the event but she contacted me the night before to say that she was ill and not able to make it. So my daughter ended up stepping in to help and she did quite a good job.

I wanted to emphasise that lighting is an art and not a science and that the process of working with lights was to add them one at a time. I was mindful that not everyone can afford expensive studio lights so we started with arrangements that could be replicated with off camera flash using speed lights.

As I was instructing the others what to do I did not have time to shoot example images with each arrangement.

These are  the seven arrangements that I demonstrated:

Using one light

One light with reflector (45degrees)

This is one of the simplest and most common lighting arrangement. A single light is set at a 45 degree angle to the subject and then a reflector is introduced on the other side at a similar angle to bounce some light into the shadows. In this and the next arrangement the main light was in a 1 meter softbox.

One light at 45 degrees with reflector
One light at 45 degrees with reflector

One light with reflector (rim)

This lighting arrangement is similar to the first however the main light is brought alongside the subject. This produces a must stronger ratio of the light between the two sides of the face.

One light set as full rim
One light set as full rim

rim

Clamshell

This lighting involves a single light mounted above the camera aiming down at the subject and a reflector positioned below to fill in the shadows. The arrangement produces butterfly lighting with a shadow below the nose. For the clamshell the main light used a beauty dish.

Clamshell
Clamshell

Single Light Highkey

Normally when you think of highkey lighting you would think that it involves multiple lights. It can be produced with a single light and a couple of reflectors. In this case the single light is placed behind the subject and essentially becomes both the light and the backdrop.

In front of the subject two large white reflectors are placed and you shoot between them. The light is metered for the front of the subject resulting in a background blowing out.

The arrangement
The arrangement

For the shot ideally I would have liked to use my 1.5 meter October but I forgot to pack the adapter ring that allowed the Bowen mount to fit my Elinchrom lights so instead had to use a 1m softbox.

HIKey

Two Light arrangements

Two light axis lighting

An axis lighting arrangement has the subject standing in the middle of two lights aimed on the same axis. I demonstrated two arrangements. In the first both lights have the same modifiers. In the second arrangement the rear modifier was fitted with a small honeycomb grid. In this case its was much more of a hair light.

Equal front and rear lights
Equal front and rear lights
Second light was now solely set up as a hair light
Second light was now solely set up as a hair light

Production

The final arrangement show was what a referred to as “production lighting”. This is used when you wish to shoot a large number of subjects quickly and the aim is to have well lit rather than dramatic lighting on the subjects.

In this arrangement both lights are set to the same power.

Lighting Workshop - 4

No Lights

As the studio we were using had large north facing windows at the end of session we simply used the window and reflector to produce images like this one, proving that you don’t need to spend much money at all.

window

The camera at hand

It is very easy in photography to get extremely wrapped up in the gear that we use. The companies that sell are always making the implications that if we bought better gear we would miraculously take better photographs. The reality is that this is mostly rubbish.

As Ansel Adams stated

“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it!” 

There is an expression that the best camera you have is the one that you have with you. I am not sure who that is actually attributed to. Over recent years that camera has tended to be the one connected to your phone rather than being a dedicated one. In fact Nokia became the world’s largest suppliers of cameras a number of years ago and long before the smartphone came into being.

Now I have been somewhat sceptical of cellphone photography, thinking that they were really only good for selfies and drunken group shots. Even so I did use my old cellphone on a number of occasions with my Photo A Day project last year. The photos were ok but nothing compared to what my SLR could produce, and as the phone aged there was a definite issue with keeping the lens clean.

I was blown away when I saw the detail that was in this image.
I was blown away when I saw the detail that was in this image.

About a month ago I was lucky to be given a new iphone 5s and after I used it’s camera for the first time I was blown away with the quality of the image that it produced. I was so impressed that my photo a days since 31 October have been taken using it (with the exception of the two days of the Central Regional Conference.

No it is extremely unlikely that I would use the phone as a replacement for my SLR’s in a a serious shoot for three reasons:

  1. The phone can only shoot in JPG format and I do like the additional control that I have shooting in RAW.
  2. I like to have the option of controlling aperture and having lens that let me get closer or further from the action without having to physically move.
  3. It is not professional looking enough.
Using a phone does make shooting in a crowded restaurant a lot easy.
Using a phone does make shooting in a crowded restaurant a lot easy.

On the third point I know that there are professional photographers such as Richard Woods (www.richardwood.co.nz) who have shot weddings using them, but those were very much “proof of concept” ideas rather than a serious attempt at a switch in technology.

Ballerinas & Steampunk at the Rail

On the Saturday afternoon of the Central Region PSNZ Conference there were three field trips scheduled. I decided to go on the one over to the Silver Stream Railway museum. Not necessarily because I wanted to shoot trains but rather because I knew that models had been arranged for this location, and that sounded a much better option than other two trips.

We had arranged for one of the old engines and carriages to be available. Unfortunately we were not able to arrange for it to be steamed up.

The last time the Hutt Camera club organised the conference the same venue was used for a field trip and that time the models had been dressed in wedding dresses as “trash the dress” had been a theme of the main speaker. This time they continued with the usual theme in that we had Kylie in full ballerina gear, Chrissy in classic 50’s outfit and a couple in steampunk outfits.

This made for very interesting shots and a fun afternoon, even if the light conditions were extremely difficult.

I loved the outfit of the museum person and asked that he pose with Kylie. He reluctantly agreed.
I loved the outfit of the museum person and asked that he pose with Kylie. He reluctantly agreed.
Kylie posing on the tracks
Kylie posing on the tracks
It took a couple of attempts to get the timing of this image right.
It took a couple of attempts to get the timing of this image right.
Chrissy
Chrissy

DSC_5531 DSC_5521

Pinup on a Sunday Morning

On the second day of the PSNZ Central Regional conference I took part is a completely different workshop that centred on Retro Pinup and was run by Ngahuia Davey at Ataahua Pinups. These are the type of pinup images that were popular in the 1940’s and 50’s that have recently come back in popularity.

The room was set up with a white seamless backdrop on one side and a red on the other. Nga has organised two models, a number of costumes and a whole lot of props. She had also provided a sheet with the most common poses used and so the groups of photographers took turns with the trigger for the lights and giving instructions to the model. As modelling lamps were turned on many of group shot without the use of the strobes.

The two models were very different is just about every aspect. Ivory was experienced in both modelling and particularly this style and so she moved effortless between the poses and even suggested her own. Sharon on the other hand was very new to modelling and was very nervous. She required quite a lot of direction and it was fairly obvious that she was not overly enjoying the experience.

It was quite a bot of fun and something that I think I would like to try further at a later stage.DSC_5633 DSC_5620 DSC_5608 DSC_5586-Edit DSC_5578-Edit

 

Shooting in Natural Light

Over the weekend of November 7 – 9 I was involved in organising the Regional Convention for the Central Area of Photographic Society of New Zealand. We offered a wide variety of speakers, workshops and fieldtrips that pretty much covered every aspect of photography.

On the Saturday I took part in a “Natural Light Portraiture” session run by Dave Sanderson (www.manipula.co.nz). It could have been subtitled “How to shoot at the worst time of day” as it ran right through the 11:00am to noon on a day that turned out brilliantly fine.

Now I will generally admit that I am not a natural light shooter, as I prefer the control that one can have with strobes. However if you shoot weddings then you need to be to able to shoot regardless of the conditions.

The key, as Dave explained, was to try to locate something to provide an element of shade. This could be  a tree, building or even a reflector used as a diffusion panel. Alternative you shot in the open and used a reflector to reduce some of the harsh shadows that the sun would cast.

We had three models for the shoot who were all very new and the three groups took it in turn with each model. I am reasonably pleased with the shots that came out. They are nothing stella but then when you are merely practising a technique you don’t expect super results all the time.

Using a wall to bounce back an amount of light.
Using a wall to bounce back an amount of light.
A reflector out of shot fills in a little bit of shadow on the face.
A reflector out of shot fills in a little bit of shadow on the face.
A group effort in using a reflector as a diffusion panel which shades the model
A group effort in using a reflector as a diffusion panel which shades the model

Success at Central Regional Salon

The Central Region of the Photographic Society of New Zealand (PSNZ) basically covers the Lower half of the north island. I believe that the boundary is just below Taupo but it does include the East Coast city of Gisborne.

This year I entered both a print and a digital image into the Open Category of the salon, and had another image included in the Hutt Camera Club’s print set. I am really stoked with the results.

Because my Club was hosting the conference I actually got to help out with the judging session so was on hand to hear the comments of the judges who actually had no idea who had shot the images.

My print of the “Late for the Ball” image really resonated with the judges and it scores a merit and came third in the competition.

The print of this image actually looks better than the digital version
The print of this image actually looks better than the digital version

The  story behind the image can be found on this blog post.

My “Waiting for the model call” image was included in the Club set with the overall set coming second in the category. The story behind this image can be found on this link.

The final hanger shot is quite different from the earlier version
The final hanger shot is quite different from the earlier version

Finally my image entitled “The Fall” got an “Acceptance” in the Digital Category. Not as high as I would have liked but the standard of the images in the section was very high.

The fall
The fall

This image was actually a late substitution. I had intended to enter the hanger shot into the category but when it was selected for the Club entry I was under the impression that it could not go into an individual competition. Unfortunately by the time that it was discovered that this was allowed, it was too late.

The success has spurred me on to enter the images into consideration for NZ Camera which is the actual print publication of PSNZ.

Double success at final club judging

Last Tuesday was the final judging of the 2014 Ladder competition and I had two images entered. I was very pleased with the results as both images received “Merits” (which is the second to top score an image can achieve).

The set topic for the round was “From beneath” and I submitted this image taken at the old brickworks in Melbourne.0218_L4_S_EncasedClimb

For the second image I decided to enter my “Late for the Ball” into the Open category.Late for the Ball_Small

Very pleased with the overall results, however they were not good enough to actually win the competition.