Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Trying out new studio lighting techniques learned from Zack Arias and Scott Kelby

Earlier this month I attended a virtual workshop on studio lighting by photographer Zack Arias.  Hosted by, the 3 day workshop was broadcasted live over the Internet for free.  If you missed it, downloads of the workshop are available for purchase by going here. If you want to learn studio lighting, I highly recommend getting this course.

Zack is an awesome teacher. I learned so much in that weekend and got excited to try out some new ideas in the studio as soon as possible.  Luckily, I was able to try those ideas out this past weekend with help from my friends Quddus and Shawna.

Because this was my first time photographing Shawna, we started slowly, doing some simple natural window light headshots using a California Sunbounce mini to lighten the shadows a skosh.

In the studio, the first setup was against a white seamless backdrop - a look similar to the "Get a Mac" ad campaign by Apple.

Setting up this look required 3 lights.  We had 2 AB800s aimed at the back wall to blow it out to white.  These were flagged off with 2 v-flats to prevent flaring into the camera.  We then placed several sheets of Home Depot white panel board on the floor for the model to stand on.

These boards are a little shiny, and when photographed from a low angle, they reflected the background and extended the white background to the floor. For the main light we used an AB800 in a large softbox boomed overhead.
The main light was set at f5.6, and the background lights were metered to 2 stops over the main, at f11.

To see this technique explained in much better detail, visit Zack's blog.

Had to do some minor background cleanup in post, but overall I really liked this technique

The shot below was done in the same setting, but with different lighting:

This was done by turning off the main light, and lighting the model from either side with AB800s in small strip softboxes with grids.  This kept the light off the background, letting it go dark.  I had Quddus hold a Nikon SB26 with a snoot and a 10 degree grid to spotlight just her face.

I learned this next technique for doing a high key headshot from photographer Scott Kelby.

This used 2 lights and 1 reflector.  The white background was actually a light source - a WL800 in a 5 ft Octodome aimed back at the camera.  The Octodome was tilted upward at about 45 degrees to minimize lens flare.  Shawna was positioned in front of the Octodome, with a light modified with a beauty dish boomed above her.  A California Sunbounce micro was placed just below the frame in front of her for fill.

At first I tried this with an AB800 in a beauty dish.  I had it positioned pretty close to Shawna, and at the lowest power setting of the AB800 I was getting f11.  I wanted to use a larger aperture to get less depth of field, so I replaced the AB800/beauty dish combination with a Nikon SB 26 in a Lastolite Ezybox hotshoe softbox.  This let me get down to f2.8.  With the addition of a fan we ended up with this shot:

Because the Octodome was only 5 ft in diameter, I shot this with a 70-200mm lens to compress the background and fill the frame with the face of the Octodome.

In hindsight, I probably could have left the AB800 and beauty dish combo for the main light, and put ND filters on the camera lens to get the light down to f2.8.   Something to try next time.

1 comment:

aaron said...

I've been wanting to try that Kelby technique. Results look good. Also love the more dramatic shots on the dark is spot on. I'm going to have to try that snooted speedlight technique as a face spotlight. Very cool.