Rim lighting

Remember this shot from the other day?

To achieve that, I use two flashes behind the subject:

  • Each one is at 45 degrees behind the head (one left, one right).
  • Snooted or gridded, to avoid light “going everywhere”. You can also use Gobos but then you need two on each flash, or more light will fall on the background.
  • Aimed carefully to not hit too low. When using snoots, be very careful as a mere millimeter up or down will often be too much.
  • Metered normally, or brighter (I like +1 stop, to “just when the blinkies start to appear).

To make sure I get ot right, I start with just the rim lights.

Note that of course this can only work when there’s not too much hair covering the face. When the subject has hair going forward, you get something more like this:

Still nice but it is no longer rim lighting, and hair shadows will often get in the way.

Little hair works:

(You think I should shave before doing selfies?)


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!


Talking of learning: Season shopping? Get a personalized gift certificate for 3 hours private coaching with Michael for your loved one. Available now!

Light him up

That’s what cops say when they discuss stopping someone in traffic. But it is what I say when I am talking about studio lighting.

For a family, as in the course I taught Sunday for the Ajax camera club, I use simple lighting: two umbrellas (they throw great soft light everywhere), one on each side:

Not a lot of modelling (shaping with light), but very suitable for a group. Easy, foolproof, nice and crisp lighting.

Now, when I have one subject I can of course do the same:

And sure enough, that works. But can you see how much better it works when I turn one of those flashes up a stop, and the other down a stop? Here:

See that? We have now shaped (modelled) the face and made it into not a flat shape, but a round shape. That brings the person alive. There is a slight shadow behind him. That also brings depth into the image.

Altogether a better idea when you have one person – usually. In the next datys,more examples of studio lighting.

In these pictures, the camera was on manual, as were the flashes.  1/200th sec at f/8, 400 ISO.

Why those settings? I want to kill the bright studio ambient light (high f-number, low ISO, fast shutter). But I am also cognizant of the fact that I am using speedlights, which have limited power, especially once I fit them with modifiers (that means low f-number and high ISO). So I need to find a good middle point. And that was it, in this studio.

More on studio flash in the next days. Um, and if you enjoy these posts, don’t forget to tell all your friends to check speedlighter.ca daily.



You Need Protection Against Yourself!

Or rather, you don’t.

A somewhat advanced Lightroom tip for studio photographers today.

Adobe Lightroom, since version 4, has protected us from ourselves. Any overexposed areas are automatically brought back as much as possible as part of the RAW conversion, so that they appear not overexposed.

Fine. Until in a studio portrait, you try to deliberately overexpose the background, so that it becomes pure white. Fine, except Lightroom stops you.

Until you change the RAW conversion back to the older, 2010 version. Then you can overexpose as much as you wish.

I just posted a short video about this here:

TIP: Sign up for my YouTube channel, so you hear when I post a new video.


Silence In The Studio!

And here is my own studio:

That consists of:

  1. A backdrop stand with a white paper roll (other colours also).
  2. A main light with a softbox (on a light stand).
  3. A fill light with an umbrella (on a light stand).
  4. A hair light with a snoot (on a light stand).
  5. A background light with a grid and yellow gel (in this case, a speedlight on a clamp).

Other necessities include:

  1. Pocketwizards to fire the first flash and the speedlight (the rest can use the built-in “cell”).
  2. A stool.
  3. Music (so not “silence in the studio”!).
  4. Lots of props.
  5. Lots of extras lights and modifiers.

I used three strobes and one speedlight in the shoot a couple of days ago. That setup pictured above gave me shots like these:

Where it is easy to enhance the saturation of yellow (and to go horizontal if you wish):

Or indeed to go back to black (and white), where it’s all about the shadows:

You can use the colours you shot:

Or you can go “desaturated”:

This shot, at first, seems to shout for colour:

But the same shot in B/W gives you new possibilities – e.g. to darken the lips a little and make the face stand out extra pale and beautiful:

What I like about studio shooting is that exposure is always perfect, provided you meter or guess it right in the first shot, and further, that you have control over everything. And that means you can now concentrate on expressions and ideas, not just on aperture and shutter settings.

PS: those of you who are in LinkedIn and do not yet have a headshot: contact me and have me make one. To be taken seriously, you need a headshot, and I mean need. No blanks, and no snapshots – those are two deadly sins.


I recommend you learn studio-style shooting and those of you who come spend the days with me at Niagara School of Imaging will learn all this, as will those who come to me for private or planned training (as in, Sheridan College Oakville starting in September).