Photography News issue 24

Technique 34

Photography News Issue 24

Lighting academy Simple, elegant softbox effects Most photographers start off with a single light and a reflector, so here are three easy ways to make the most of them...


Words & pictures by Kingsley Singleton

Basic portrait set-up If you want flattering, even lighting on the subject, you need to reflect or diffuse the light somehow – both will give softer shadows and reduce contrast. Reflective umbrellas are often used for soft light, firing away from the subject to bounce the illumination off walls and ceilings for lots of scattering and diffusion. But with a softbox you can position the light closer and give it more directionwhile still combining itwith softness thanks to their diffusionpanels. The larger and closer the light to the subject, the softer the illumination can be. For a simple, classic look, place the flashwith softbox a few feet to the front and at around five o’clock to them, firing it down a little for the most natural look – here we used a Lencarta Smart Flash 2 head and Profold 90cm Octa softboxwith the inner and outer diffusers fitted for maximum softness. At this point, switch on the modelling light and check that shadows – even though softened – aren’t too broad or long. For example the nose shadow shouldn’t cross the top lip and the eyes shouldn’t look ‘sunken’. Position a reflector on the opposite side, using the modelling light as a guide to tell if it’s returning the amount of light you want. Only then should you use a flashmeter (or take a test shot) towork out the exposure, as the light level will increase as the shadows are filled in. If you move the light, subject or reflector, meter again.

Far right With only one light and a reflector, you can get a soft, flattering look. Middle With no reflector used, the shadows are stronger, but the light is still soft. However, if you position the light too far to the side – at three o’clock to the subject – the lighting on the face is split and becomes less flattering.

Beautiful clamshell lighting This is among the most flattering lighting effects you can get from a single softbox and reflector set-up. It works very well for simple beauty shots, giving a magazine cover-style look, where light floods the subject, reducing shadows, lowering contrast and giving awraparound look. Placed above the subject and set at the same angle as they’re facing, the alignment of the softbox creates a pleasingly symmetrical look to the illumination. The softbox should be used at around 45º so that the light is reasonably full and the soft shadows produced aren’t too long. Alone the look is still flattering, but the shadows are quite dark. When even a small reflector is placed at the opposite angle below, the light bounces back to fill in and lighten those areas. If your flash has a modelling light you’ll be able to judge how best to angle the reflector and see the illumination move as you do – don’t rely on the room lights, as any reflection based on them won’t necessarily showupwhen using the flash as the light is bouncing at a different angle. If you’ve got no modelling light or can’t use one, shoot and review pics on screen to see howwell the reflector is working. The colour of the reflector makes a difference, too.We used silver, which produces the strongest fill-in effect and more closely matches the colour of the light than thewhite side.

Above Placing the softbox above and the reflector below the subject creates a simple but effective clamshell look (right), filling in the shadows. Placing the softbox and reflector in this way also adds a pleasing and distinctive catchlight in the subject’s eyes.

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