ARTificial Light

So often we read or hear about artificial light vs natural light and which is best.  Well, today I’m here to discuss how anyone can get great setups that vary from a bunch of lights in studio to just one light.

Shooting with artificial light is super easy when you first start out, then you quickly figure that it is best not to be shooting with the flash on your camera. After that you will most likely learn more about the uses of flight modifiers and before you realise it, it becomes an artform. Working with lighting setups is truly something you will learn over time and lots of experience.

Photo Credit – Gunther Swart Make-up – HR Makeup Model – Leana Niemand

Photo Credit – Gunther Swart Make-up – HR Makeup Model – Leana Niemand

Since we have a new addition to the family, a little baby boy, my time has become very limited. So when I get the opportunity to go out and shoot I will try to test out some of the special new items on the market.

With a model as good looking as Leana and a make-up artist like Hesmarie from HR Make-up, I had the makings of what was promising to be a spectacular shoot. Canon hooked me up with a 1Dx MkII and I hired the Profoto B1 lights from ODP Rentals to put the new OCF Colour Gels to the test.

Off to the Photowise Studio we go.

After Hesmarie had taken care of Leana’s make-up, we arrived at the studio full of ideas. Thereafter, Leana and I took a couple of minutes to discuss wardrobe and looks, time was of the essence. The aim was to do a fitness shoot with some gels and play around with effects so it was time to get my game face on and hurry up with the lights.

Photo Credit – Gunther Swart Make-up – HR Makeup Model – Leana Niemand

Photo Credit – Gunther Swart Make-up – HR Makeup Model – Leana Niemand

The idea was to test out the new OCF gels from Profoto, I had discussed the concept with my colleague JK, who advised me to read a specific blog on Profoto’s website. After reading about fitness photography, I saw an image that was pretty much what I had in mind and decided to emulate it.

Photo Credit – Gunther Swart Make-up – HR Makeup Model – Leana Niemand

For the first look, I had decided on a four-light setup consisting of two lights fitted with stripboxes and grids, one light with a octabox attached and the other one with a beauty dish attached.  The beauty dish with a 25° grid was on a boomstand raised above the model. Then, the two lights that were fitted with stripboxes were also fitted with the all new OCF Gels from Profoto.  These two lights were placed on both sides behind the model, slightly facing forward but not aimed at the camera. By using the grids any possible spill light onto the camera was reduced/eliminated.  The fourth and final light was setup with a octabox placed on a boomstand.  The boom was dropped to the ground to place the light very low, pointing upwards at the model.

Photo Credit – Gunther Swart Make-up – HR Makeup Model – Leana Niemand

A “normal” fitness shoot would have three to four lights.  The beauty dish is to bring light to the face of the model.  The boom or elevated light would help drop shadows of pecks, six/eightpacks and all things toned.  The shadows help bring out the definition of the athletes physique and even if it’s just a fitness model and not a physique model, it would definitely help bring out those lines on the stomach.

The octabox on the floor would then help fill some of these harsh lines and also help with that catch light in the eyes.  Putting it on a boom just makes it easier to control the light without putting it down on the ground without a stand.

Stripboxes are ideal for creating rimlights and can also be used to create even highlights with soft shadows, alongside a standing model, while the grids direct the light instead of it spilling all over.  The great twist here is that with the Profoto B1 you can easily push the light modifier further back onto the light and slip on the new OCF gels kits.

My idea was to slip on a “warm” gel and a “cold” gel onto the two stripboxes in the back and shoot with neutral light in the front. Giving my subject a coloured rim light on both sides.

The octabox on the floor was intermittently switched on and off just to see what the different mood in the images were like. As mentioned previously, the idea of the octabox is to slightly fill the shadows in the face created by the higher beauty dish.

With the Profoto B1 lights I used the ttl Trigger to control the lights which made it super easy to adjust even though the one was pretty flat on the ground and the other one was dangling a meter above my head.

Photo Credit – Gunther Swart Make-up – HR Makeup Model – Leana Niemand

Photo Credit – Gunther Swart Make-up – HR Makeup Model – Leana Niemand

Photo Credit – Gunther Swart Make-up – HR Makeup Model – Leana Niemand

There is no specific formula to balance light but rather a rough set of guidelines.  The beauty dish was set at a higher power level compared to the other three lights.  I just wanted it dark enough in the studio to completely underexpose the black background.  The octabox was to fill some of the harsh shadows with a bit of light and was thus set to a very low setting whilst the stripboxes and their power output set to something between the beauty dish and the octa.  It had to feature strong but I didn’t want it to overpower the image.

The one crucial thing about studio or artificial lighting is that after setting up lights and shooting, moving the model slightly could have a huge change in the effects the lights create.  Even moving one step to the left or right could make a pretty huge difference.

Photo Credit – Gunther Swart Make-up – HR Makeup Model – Leana Niemand

We shot a couple of shots in two outfits to get what I was looking for before we moved over to the white backdrop.

What I love about a white infinity curve is that you can control light and either have a pure white (infinity curve) or a greyed out background.  So with the help of a boom stand and only one light, I set Leana up on the couch in what looked like a hoody.  (I swear that looked like a hoody to me but ninjas came and took the hoody part, so…)

The one light, fitted with a beauty dish and grid, dropped a very specific spot of light on Leana, I removed the grid from the light but it went from a little spot to “THERE’S LIGHT EVERYWHERE”.

And here is my next lesson in light, the quickest way to solve most lighting problems is to move it away.  I cranked up the boom stand and moved it back by about half a meter and all of a sudden I had the right amount of light on Leana where she was sitting on the couch.

Looking back at the shoot and discussing it with my wife… I may have used gear to the value of a small car but at the same time I managed to get awesome shots with only the use of one light.