Studio Tip

Look at these photos from yesterday’s studio lighting workshop to see how light makes a picture different.

Here’s Roxy with one gridded flash on the left, giving us split lighting; and one gridded and rust-colour gelled flash aimed at the background. Both are speedlights driven by Pocketwizards and set to manual power. The image is a little desaturated; otherwise SOOC (“straight out of camera”).

Here. a softbox on our right (s small Honl photo softbox), and the same background light. Just two flashes!

Now let’s turn off the softbox flash:

Now kets’ light up the background more, to get wraparound lighting:

And back to normal, but now with an additional snooted flash for rim lighting on our left:

Here’s two of those flashes visible. Note also the reflection: a plexiglass sheet she is standing on. Note, I “Lightroomed” out the edges of that plexiglass, which took only seconds. Otherwise, like all, SOOC.

Can you see how each shot looks different depending just on light? It behooves you to learn about light, it really does, since with light you can translate a vision into reality. That’s what this is about!

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Challenging Shots

Some shots can be a little tricky. Like this one, from Sunday’s shoot:

Tricky why? Because the model is jumping, making it hard to focus.

The solution? You could try AF-C/AI-Servo, i.e. continuous focus. But often in these cases a better solution is this (and that is what I did): pre-focus, then hold that focus while he jumps. So I had the model stand where he would be when I take the shot; then focused there and held that focus while he moved back and jumped; then I shot when he was once again in the same place.

Why is he not blurry? Because he is substantially lit by the flash, which fires faster than 1/1000th second.

Another, different challenge was presented by this shot:

Why? Because the original plan was to light the aquarium in part from behind. But I was shooting TTL, and guess what? I found out on Sunday that the light-driven TTL does not work through an aquarium. Fancy that. You learn something new every day, even when you have been doing it forever.

The solution was to light it from the sides instead, after removing the aquarium side doors. Sometimes you just have to change your plans a little bit!

Enjoy your speedlighting, everyone. I am off to sleep – finally, at 3AM.

Quick portrait

Prior to a class the other day, I decided to do a very quick self portrait or two. Let me share, and explain how.

How? This is how:

  1. A 1D camera with a 580EX flash on it – with that flash used as a master, and disabled otherwise, so it only drives additional flashes.
  2. The camera set to manual, 1/125th sec, f/5.6, 400 ISO.
  3. An additional flash A on our left: a 430EX on a light stand, with a HonlPhoto grid to avoid the light spilling onto the wall.
  4. An additional flash B on our left: a 430EX on its little foot, equipped with a HonlPhoto gel.
  5. A 1:1 ratio of A:B flashes.
  6. The camera set to choose its own focus point for once, since I am holding it myself!
  7. The camera in my outstretched arm, tilted for diagonal line effect.

Not bad eh?

Finally, one more with a different gel on the background flash: egg yolk yellow, my favourite colour.

Total time taken: Maybe two, three minutes.

 

Self portrait

The other day I decided to do a quick self portrait. And instead of the normal “traditional” portrait, I did the following:

Moody, dark – I don’t smile much in pictures and life is serious! And as you see, lighting is all about what you do not light.

I made this picture as follows:

  1. I put up a grey backdrop.
  2. Using paper tape, I put a cross on the floor where I was going to be standing.
  3. I put a light stand there.
  4. Having put the camera on a tripod, I aimed at the light stand and focused on it; then set the focus to “manual”.
  5. I set the camera to self timer.
  6. I selected 1/125th second at f/11 (you want f/5.6 – f/11 for these shots normally).
  7. Using my light meter, I set my main light, which I fire with pocket wizards, to these values. That main light is a Bowens strobe with a softbox.
  8. I added a background light: a speedlight with a Honl Photo grid and a Honl Photo Egg Yolk Yellow gel. I set this to quarter power (experience). The speedlight was also fired via pocket wizard; if you have a Nikon speedlight you can use SU-4 mode (cell).
  9. I pressed the camera shutter button and took the exact place of the light stand. 10 seconds later: flash!

And that was that – simple once you know. Now you try!

 

Cool colour

I shot some demo product shots with my student Merav today, and I thought I would share them here to underline the importance of colour.

Here’s one, a simple one. Lit by a softbox on the leeft, an umbrella on the right, and against a grey backdrop. That gives us this:

Bit boring? Yes it is. So I add a gridded, “egg-yolk yellow” gelled speedlight aiming at the background. (I use the excellent Honl Photo grids, gels, and other small flash modifiers):

Product Shot (Photo: Michael Willems)

Much better. Then we added another light – a green-blue gelled speedlight shining in from the left:

Product Shot (Photo: Michael Willems)

Then we reversed the gel colours:

Product Shot (Photo: Michael Willems)

Then, tried another background colour, rose purple:

Product Shot (Photo: Michael Willems)

And finally got to a background coloured Just Blue, which had been Merav’s idea all along:

Product Shot (Photo: Michael Willems)

Which one did you prefer? Can you see how different they all are?

To shoot this I used this setup:

Product Shot Setup (Photo: Michael Willems)

This works as follows:

  1. Put the bottle on a table, with white paper underneath
  2. Put up a grey backdrop, far from the bottle so it does not get any light
  3. Get the main lights right – use a light meter to set them to your desired values (I used f/9 and 1/125th second at 200 ISO). Main strobe is fired with Pocketwizard; secondary strobe by its cell.
  4. Add a background light: a small flash also fired by a Pocketwizard, through a Flashzebra cable. Set to 1.4 power. Equipped with a 1/4″ Honl grid and a gel.
  5. Add a side light: a small flash also fired by a Pocketwizard, through a Flashzebra cable. Set to 1/4 power. Equipped with a gel.

Simple. Once you know!

Why the rum? It was the only bottle I had in the house. Amazingly, for the first time I can remember, I had not a single bottle of beer or wine or anything else available in the house. Time to hit the liqor store!