Photography News Issue 41

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Photography News | Issue 41 | absolutephoto.com

Technique

Thanks to: This month’s model was the wonderful Emma Davis, and we shot on location at the beautiful William Cecil Hotel, Stamford, Lincolnshire. Octa, which we put to good use in the second set-up), modelling lamps, cases, a Skyport wireless trigger, and other accessories. Shooting at 1/125sec, f/4 and ISO 100, the stripbox light was placed about 1m from Emma andmetered at around 1/8th power (2.3 on the head). It did exactly what was required of it, adding even full-length lighting. However, after a few test shots there seemed too much shadow in the shot, giving more of a low-key look than I wanted. The reason, as mentioned before, is the shape of the ’box; it’s great for lighting a figure, but you’ll see more fall off of light in the background. To compensate I set up another light, behind Emma and down the corridor so that it wasn’t in shot. This was fitted with a 66cm square box and angled back towards her a little, but mostly onto the background. This worked to brighten the location, but also gave a little glow to Emma’s hair and profile. To start with, I shot with the light at the same power to the key light, which worked fine, as it wasn’t striking Emma’s face and couldn’t therefore overexpose it. Fromthere, I alsoexperimentedwithsetting it a couple of stops brighter than the key light (4.3), which gave a cheerier glow to the image. The nice thing here is that it’s simple to work out a two-stop jump as the Elinchrom lights use an easy to understand, common power scale; 2.3 to 3.3 is one stop, so 1/8 to 1/4 power, and 4.3 would be 1/2 power. What’s more, this is standardised across the whole Elinchrom range, so you canmatch power levels from two different models of head and still know you’re getting consistent output. Clamshell lighting Another look that makes great use of softboxes is clamshell lighting and it’s one of the easiest and most flattering styles you can get from a two-light setup. Herein we were able to use the 66cm softbox and 56cm octabox that come with the BRX 250/250 kit, placing one light above Emma’s seated position and one below. The clamshell name simply comes from those opposing positions of the lights, and with the light softened and directed in this way, it creates a low-contrast, almost shadowless wraparound look, which is very flattering, if that’s what you’re after. You can set the light quite close to the subject, but this will sometimes cause a bit of hot-spotting on their skin, so I started with the square softbox lying on the floor about 2ft below, and the other about 2ft above Emma. Next it’s time to set the power of each light. This can be close to equal, but you don’t want to end up giving the subject a look as though they’re lit from below. It’s also important to meter the lights at the same time; with so much overlap to create the softness, any change in one will affect the whole portrait.Wanting to shoot at f/8 and ISO 100, I metered both lights at 2.0 (somewhere between 1/16 and 1/8 power), but then settled on 1.3 (1/16 power) for the light below, which gave a more natural ratio. Why was the octabox used above Emma and the square softbox below? The square softbox is larger and shallower, and therefore slightly softer in its look, which makes it more appropriate as the fill light in this case; I’d rather any harder shadows were descending, which makes the lighting look more natural. Next month: How to use beauty dishes, honeycombs and feather your lighting for dramatic effects.

Good clamshell lighting

Bottom light too bright

Images: Using your softboxes in a clamshell arrangement (one light directly above the subject and another below) provides almost shadowless illumination, so it’s very flattering, creating smooth skin tones. The arrangement on the right is more loose than a traditional clamshell set-up, where you might use the boxes closer together, but it has much the same effect. Just don’t overpower the bottom light (above right), or it can look unnatural.

Softbox size and softbox shadows

The size of a light source has a direct correlation to the softness of light it produces. The larger it is, compared to the subject, the softer the illumination will be. Typically, you’ll want a softbox to be at least the same size as what you’re shooting for the softest results, so many portraits use 60-100cm boxes. The danger is that, when using softboxes much larger than the subject it’s more difficult to control the spread of light, so effects can look bland and lack contrast (assuming that’s what you’re after). In these cases, grids can be added to a softbox giving a more directional look, or the ’box can be turned away from the subject for a more feathered look. Right are two shots, one taken with a 30cm square box and the other with a 100cm Octabox. The difference in shadows and catchlights is clear, but there’s no right or wrong usage. As always, experimentation is key!

30cm square softbox

100cmoctagonal softbox

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