Working with studio lighting can be a challenge, especially when you are just starting out. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get started with studio portraiture. Consider this. Just how many sources of light does Earth have naturally? The sun, right? Consider the sky and amazingly, the ground beneath your feet that reflects light back into the darker shadows. The light that is reflected back is also known as fill light. If we didn’t have fill light in our everyday lives, we wouldn’t see any details and what we’d see would be completely black. Just as one source lights our entire planet, one primary light source in a studio can be sufficient to light your whole photo shoot.
Profile lighting and split lighting are two more studio techniques to our Lighting Series. These lighting styles are less common in photography, but offer a very unique, mysterious and creative look to any subject.
There are three different key levels of studio lighting: low, medium and high – each offering a different look and feel to a photograph. Low key lighting brings out the darker tones in a photo, while medium key highlights the medium tones. Photographs that are dominated by bright tones are created with high key lighting.
In portrait photography, short and broad lighting techniques are two unique ways to place lighting on a subject’s face. With short lighting, shadows cover a majority of the subject’s face, while in broad lighting the face is more illuminated. Each technique can be achieved through light placement and the subject’s position on the photo backdrop and in the frame.
The word “photography” originates from ancient Greek, meaning “to draw with light”. Photography is an art where we capture moments in time by drawing with the light onto our canvas, the camera. Because light is such an important factor in photography it is important to understand the different types of lighting used and how to properly handle it.
My friend and I decided that we would try a self-assignment that we thought was impossible. We wanted to try to take a decent portrait outside on a bright sunny day. We grabbed our cameras and we took a Photoflex 5 in 1 MultiDisc 32” reflector and headed out to see what we could find. We love to shoot photos outside, but the glare is nonstop and sometimes it just causes more issues. You want to find a way to do lessen this and that is what we did when we discovered Photoflex and how this kit can work for you.
A solid white background, such as seamless paper is used when shooting high key lighting. This type of shot can also be used against a solid white wall or similar, simple background. The placement and number of lights used are huge factors when trying to achieve the best possible high key lighting photography. Let’s take a look at a sample studio set up to see how shoot using high key lighting. For this sample you will need nine-foot white seamless background paper. A three or four light setup will also be needed. Place two of the lights approximately two to three feet away from the backdrop to highlight and illuminate the background. These lights should be set at a 45-degree angle toward the background. Place the key light, also referred to as the main light, off to one side of the subject at approximately five feet away. This light should also be set at a 45-degree angle to the subject. Set the fill light on the opposite side from the key light at the same distance and angle. Your background lights should be set at least one F-stop over the lighting on the subject. For example, if you are shooting the subject at F/11, set the background lighting at F/16. If you are shooting in a large studio or warehouse, you can place the subject further away from the background, but set the background lighting two or three stops over the subject lighting. When shooting in smaller areas, the use of gobos can help prevent strobe flares on the edge of your subjects. Use a light meter on your subject to produce an overall setting of F/11. The settings of each light will depend upon the types of lights you are using, but the overall setting should be the F/11. A soft box work best in high key lighting setups over other light modifiers. If your studio is narrow, select a shallow soft box. If space is not an issue try experimenting with a Photoflex soft box. There are different makes and models of soft boxes available, in all shapes and sizes, making it possible to find the best one for your photographic needs.
-Backdrop Express Photography Team