Category Archives Lighting

You can watch this top-rated online course free this weekend: Check out the trailer below:

Best of all, the entire course is free (really free – no credit card required or any of that stuff).

Just sign up for a FREE KelbyOne Free-Level Membership and you’ll have access to not only this awesome built a home studio course from Rick Sammon, but some other courses from me as well like this one (below – that’s the trailer) that teaches Lightroom users how to use the most important stuff in Photoshop (without having to learn all of Photoshop, which is a lot ’cause…well…it’s Photoshop).

Here’s the link to that course (it’s free, too) .

Anyway, I hope you’ll check one, both or all of the free courses out. If course, if you want to accelerate your learning, you can join our Pro Membership plan and you’ll have unlimited 24/7 access to nearly 800 online courses on photography, Lightroom and Photoshop. We’ve got a special deal running right now because so many folks are still stuck at home, and this will help you make the most of this down time.

There ya have it — hope you found those courses helpful, and here’s wishing you a safe and happy weekend. :)

-Scott

In the last chapter of all my “Digital Photography Books” (Parts 1 through 5), I do a thing I call “Photo Recipes” where I show a photo and then discuss how to take a similar shot (what lighting equipment was used, camera gear and settings and on). 

Today, in that vein, I’m doing a “Lighting Recipe.” When it comes to lighting, I’m one of those “less is more” guys, and my lighting set-ups tend to be mostly just one light, but someone two lights, and occasionally three. However, in this case, we’re actually going to use five lights—but don’t freak out—it’s really a three-light shoot because the other two lights are just “dumb lights” aiming at the background of white seamless paper to make it really white, so you can’t really count those, right? So think of it as a three-light shoot, using five lights. ;-)

Figure 1: Here’s our image (above). This edgy lighting look is usually used seen with your subject on a dark background, but you’re seeing it more and more on white seamless, so that’s what we’re setting up here. The key to this look is the strong highlights along both sides of our subject. 

The Front Light:

Notice I didn’t call this the “Main Light” because in this instance it’s the two backlights that are the Main Lights—the front light, which in our case is a strobe with a 17″ Beauty Dish, attached (it makes the light a bit more contrasty than a softbox) is just providing fill in the front, so we keep the power for this front strobe down as low as it will go.

You can see the egg crate grid on the strip bank on the other side of her.

Figure 2: You can see from this angle that the Beauty Dish (#1) in front is positioned directly in front of our subject and tilted down at her at a 45° angle, and it’s very close to her as well, which is another reason why you keep the power of the front light almost all the day down as low as it will go.

The Main Lights

The two Main Lights are actually in the rear (they’re marked as #2 below), and they’re doing most of the work for this look. The softboxes are two of my workhorse softboxes—-they’re 1’x3′ strip banks. Both strip banks have egg crate grids in front of them (more on these grids in a moment). You position these two strip banks behind your subject, on either side, up a bit high and tilted back down — aiming at your subject at around a 45° angle. 

The key to making this work:

The secret to nailing this look is to build this set-up one light at a time, starting with the strip banks and turn every other light OFF! Just turn on one (either the left or the right—doesn’t matter) and do a test shot so you can see the aiming of the light. You want it to light the sides of your subject without really spilling too much onto their face. It should be a rim light like the sun would backlight your subject. You’ll need to crank up the power on these since they’re your main lights, so I have them at three-times the power of the front beauty dish (so it’s a 3-1 power ratio).

Once you get one side in place, turn on the other side—-use the same power settings, and align the height and aim so both sides look pretty much the same (as seen in our example shown below). Once you get that all set, now you can turn on the front Beauty Dish (remember to keep its power all the way down). It will act to fill in front of her face so it’s not as dark as you see in the image above. 

This is just the two backlights on — the background lights are off and so is the beauty dish in front. These two lights as actually the main lights for this look.

The Egg Crate Grids

The beam of light that comes out of a tall-thin strip bank is already more narrow than what you’d get out of a large square softbox, but to make that beam even more focused and tighter I use two Egg Crate Grids.

Camera Settings

This image was taken using a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, at a focal length of 135mm. My ISO was 200. I shoot in the studio in Manual mode, so I can set the shutter speed at 1/125 of a second and forget it. My f/stop was f/11 (pretty typical for me in the studio), which is an ideal f/stop for situations where you want absolutely everything in focus in a portrait. I focused on the eye closest to me; held the shutter button down halfway to lock focus, and then I recomposed the image (with it still held halfway down) and took the shot. 

The Background

It’s an inexpensive roll of white seamless paper. 9 foot in width, it only costs around $56 at B&H (link). 

Lighting The Background

It’s just two more of the same strobes, but with no softbox attached—just metal reflector to push a lot of light back there. They’re on either side of the paper (they’re seen above marked as #3) —positioned down low and aiming up at the background. 

Where to position the subject

I generally position my subject 8 to 10 feet from my background so the front lights don’t affect the background. In this case, since the background is going to be bright white anyway, it wouldn’t have mattered if the light spilled over, but the way the lights are positioned, there wouldn’t be much spillover anyway—-two of the lights are aiming back toward the camera, and one is aiming down at the floor, but as a general rule I keep the subject 10 feet from the background for spillover concerns. 

Here’s a final version – I desaturated the image a bit so her skin didn’t look too warm, and it has a more modern look to it. I simply lowered the Vibrance amount in Lightroom.

There ya have it. Hope you found that helpful. :)

Come catch my seminar – coming next to these cities:

Those are my next stops for my “Ultimate Photography Crash Couse” — San Diego and Phoenix in just a couple of weeks, and then LA and Houston in March. Come out and spend the day with me — you will learn a lot (well, that’s what photographers who have come out have told me). Details and tickets here (just $99, includes a detailed workbook and some other goodies). :)

Have a great weekend, everybody!

-Scott

I am so excited — this is the first thing I’ve ever invented (with lots of help from my friends at Westcott) — it’s a lighting tool for educators and students, and its sole purpose is to teach people lighting before they go and buy lighting. Check out the video below to see what it’s all about (and how the idea came about).

So, now that you’ve seen the video, you know — it’s about experimenting, learning, and seeing “the light.” That way, when you do buy a flash or a studio strobe or continuous light, the frustration, the futzing, and the whole guessing game is over because you’ll have a plan — you’ll know what you’re trying to achieve, what light does, when to use hard light, diffused light, what gobos do, what fresnels do, the color differences between tungsten and daylight. You’ll know all this because the light comes with a full training class on light, and how to use The Learning Light, in your classroom, or with other students, or for just you as you’re learning.

It’s got direct hard light, soft diffused light, a Fresnel spotlight, its own set of gobos, and a carrying case it all fits perfectly inside. It’s LED powered so it doesn’t get hot to the touch.

We released a full training class on it to KelbyOne members this week, but if you buy the light, you get full access to the class as part of the lighting package.

It’s available today

The light, with the gobos and the training class, is just $89.90 and you can get it direct from the folks at Westcott (here’s the link), and B&H Photo will be carrying them any day now, too.

As an educator myself, you can probably imagine how exciting it is to have a tool like this for other educators and students, and I’m so grateful to my friends at Westcott: Eric Eggley (who came up with so many great ideas for The Learning Light, and took my initial idea and took it much farther than I’d ever hoped), and to Brandon Heiss, whose vision and commitment to helping teachers is why there is a Learning Light today at all.

I’m super-psyched! (can ya tell)? ;-)

One last thing, and it’s something I think is really important (and you’ll hear me talk about this aspect a lot). This is not lighting. It’s a learning tool. It’s the light you buy before you buy real lighting. It’s for experimenting with shadows, and light, and for learning lighting before you fully invest it in. I truly hope you’ll find it helpful (and I think you’ll find it’s a lot of fun), and thanks for taking the time to let me share this all with you (and tell your teacher friends about it, if you would). :)

Have a great weekend, everybody!

-Scott

P.S. Did I mention I invented a light for educators? Whoo hoo!!! I’m super-psyched!

Every week we release a new online class, and last week’s class was one of mine — it was a “by request” class on lighting location portraits.

The idea to do this course came comments in the KelbyOne Community forum from folks who had watched my course on using the Profoto B1x’s on location released a couple of months ago. At the end of the course, I did a Safari-themed fashion shoot, and they said they really liked the live shoot part, and wanted to see more live shoots. So, I went ahead an did an entire course of nothing but live shoots using lighting on location (nothing really about the strobes themselves — just setting up different scenarios and such from scratch. The whole course is seven different location shoots in around 45 minutes photographing a male and female subject).

After this week’s class, a gentleman asked this question:

“Any tips on finding a good outdoor location for portraits?”

I replied:

“I would recommend watching both of Jeremy Cowart’s courses on taking any location and making it work here on KelbyOne. When you watch his courses, it will change the way you think of finding locations. Highly recommended. One is in Venice Beach, CA and the other in Miami South Beach. Let me know what you think of them.”

He came back the next day with this reply:

“Scott, everything you said about Jeremy Cowart’s courses is true. THANK YOU! They’re amazing.”

It reminded me of how much I learned just by co-hosting the two classes with Jeremy (I was just there as kind of moderator — asking questions during the shoots). Anyway, Jeremy is an absolute master at turning the most mundane locations into perfect portrait backgrounds, and today I wanted to point you to both of them — they are that good. If you’re not already a KelbyOne member, it would be worth joining for a month ($20) just to watch them, even if you watched nothing else.

Here’s a clip (below) from his course shot on location in Miami — it’s just a 3 minute or so clip, but in this short time, you’ll pick up some great tips.

Here’s a link to Jeremy’s full class:

Below is the official trailer for Jeremy’s class shot on location in Venice Beach, California. As he says in the video, he shows you how to make maximum use of a very simple location, and he only uses one light throughout.

Here’s the link to that full course.

I hope you’ll check out these courses — if you shoot portraits on location, they will change the way you think about finding locations, and you’ll be amazed at what you can do this just one light. Really great stuff — he is the real deal. Here’s the link to KelbyOne in case you want to join (and I hope you do).

Thanks everybody, and here’s to a rockin’ Spring Break kinda week! :)

-Scott

OK, I’m not the first one to come up with the idea for a Safari-themed fashion shoot. I’m probably about number 500, but I wanted to do something different and fun, and this seemed like it would both (and we could do it without breaking the bank).

Here’s how the shoot came about
I was working on a class on how to use the location strobe I’m using now, (the Profoto B1x), and I was going to do the whole thing in the studio because the class was about how to use the light and the wireless remote, but since the strobe is made for location shooting, I thought at the end of the course, I would go on location and actually do a shoot, so the photographers watching the course would see how easy and awesome they are to use in the field.

Kalebra is my art director for production shoots like this, and while she usually comes up with the concept for our shoots, I knew this time I wanted to try this Safari Fashion look and she was happy to help. I did some upfront research (on Pinterest, Google Images, and Instagram), and I compiled a list of what we would need to pull this off.

  1. A Luxury Safari tent. I found ones you could rent for $500 a day (yikes!), but that’s kinda outside our budget but then we found one that looked nearly as good that we could buy for $249 from Walmart — we would just have to cut a slit in the back so you can see through the tent to the field behind it (I wanted to have some depth behind it). As it turned out, I’m so glad we didn’t rent and bought the tent instead because the shoot was canceled three times due to rain. The rental house doesn’t care if you got rained out — you pay for the days you have it.
  2. A rug or two, for the floor of the tent, or for in front of the tent.
  3. Some steamers or luggage as props
  4. Some chairs (I originally wanted something nice Safari-looking chairs, until I saw the prices) so Amazon to the rescue with a director’s chair and HomeGoods came through with the other.
  5. And some side tables and props, many which we literally took on our sets at the office, and people’s desks, and well…we kind of borrowed them for the day

Kalebra went to work on getting the outfits, hair and make-up concepts, finding the right model, and figuring out the props; Christina (our super awesome in-house producer for our online courses) set about to find us an outdoor shooting location that didn’t look “Florida-ish” (it’s supposed to look Africa Safari-like), and a rental jeep (I thought it would be cool to have a jeep out of the focus in the background, but the jeep actually broke down on the way to shoot and never showed up, so scratch the jeep).

The biggest challenge was the cows. This was a cow-pasture in Plant City, Florida (about an hour from the KelbyOne HQ), and from time to time the cows would wander behind the tent and become part of the scene, and nothing says ‘this isn’t Africa’ like some dairy cows roaming behind your model.

Above: Here’s my first test-shot of our model Gabi on the set. The lighting looks pretty bad. The idea of this location shoot was to show how to mix your flash with the available light, and this looks way, way too “flashy” (looks like I used a big utility flashlight from Home Depot), but hey — we just set up the light; aimed it at her, and took a test shot. Hey, ya gotta start somewhere, right? Also, during this “setting the lights” stage I tell the model they don’t need to pose while I’m working on the lighting.

After all the work she had done, I felt bad that Kalebra couldn’t actually be at the live shoot, but she had a scheduling conflict, so we set everything up as best as we could, but we knew it didn’t look right, so we had Kalebra FaceTime in. That way she could see the tent, the props, and the outfits, then she worked directly with our make-up artist (whom we all adore and use every chance we get), the awesome Hendrickje Matthews to get everything right on set, and Christina and Rachel from our crew to get the set looking good, so I could focus on dialing in the lighting.

Above: Hendrickje (L) and Rachel work on tweaking the outfit after Kalebra FaceTimed into the shoot.

Above: The first thing Kalebra did was remove most of the junk (see above) we had piled in and around that tent. It was “over-accessorized.”

Above:  Once we started removing stuff per Kalebra’s guidance, the set was starting to look much better. The light still isn’t there, but at this point, we’re mostly focused on getting the set right, and the outfit, and stuff like that.

Above: Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the set-up. Just one light (the Profoto B1x 500-watt battery-powered strobe). Special thanks to Kathy Porpukski and Erik Kuna for the behind-the-scenes shots. :)

Above: I take my tethering rig on location every chance I get — it makes that big a difference. Shoutout to the folks from Tethertools.com – they make awesome tethering gear!

Above: It’s every educator’s dream to teach standing in a cow pasture. 😂

Above: The glamour of shooting on location is real. Real smelly.

Above: The awesome Julio Agular assisting me on the shoot. Look how small that strobe is. Sa-weet!

Above: Here’s the overhead view from our drone. A cow pasture in the middle of nowhere is about the only place you can still actually fly a drone.

Above: Here’s what it looks like with the light off, and just the available light.

Above: Here’s what it looks like when your flash is too bright.

Above: Here’s the final image, with the light from the flash balanced with the natural light.

The lighting is supposed to look natural, not too bright, not too flashy. The goal is to make it look like natural light. It shouldn’t be obvious you used a flash. It’s a dance between adjusting the shutter speed (which controls now much natural light you’re letting in – the slower the shutter speed, the more natural light you get), and the power of the flash (which I try to get looking natural by not overdoing the power of the flash). Believe it or not, it just takes a couple of minutes to dial it in and get it looking right. We also feathered the softbox (so it’s not aiming directly at the subject) to create an even softer more flattering light. As much as I already loved the B1x, I feel even deeper in love during the shoots for this class. It’s such a brilliantly designed light — I’m thrilled to finally get to use them.

Also, I wanted to make the grass in the background look more “Safari-like” so in Lightroom I desaturated the greens quite a bit (using the HSL panel). You can also see the addition of the prop binoculars and the hat over her back (both Kalebra’s tweaks via watching the shoot via FaceTime).

Here’s the trailer for the full online course (in case you want to check it out)
I start in the studio and go through how the light works, and how the remote works with it (it’s super simple), and then we head out for the location shoot. I also added a bonus lesson which is a quick-start guide, so if you watched the class, and later want a quick recap when you’re out on a shoot, you’d be able to just watch that one lesson as a refresher.

Here’s a link to the class.

I hope you found this behind-the-scenes stuff helpful. In just a few weeks I’ll be recording a Part 2 of this class, where the entire class is all location shoots (based on feedback from the class – folks wanted more of the live shoots, so I’m happy to add another three shoots to the mix).

Here’s to a great week. Hope you’re staying warm (wherever you are) and see ya here tomorrow for Travel Tuesday’s with Dave. :)

Thanks,

-Scott

Last Friday I got a chance to go on location and try out my new Profoto B1x in a fashion shoot on location at the Rialto Theatre in Tampa. Kalebra was the Creative Director for the shoot and she came up with a really fun, intriguing story for us to create (we have such a blast on these shoots). Anyway, our video crew was there and put together this short behind-the-scenes video (below) so you can see what it was like.

After the video, please check out my Adobe Spark with the full story, more BTS images, and finals (link below the video).

The shoot as told on Adobe Spark
If you’ve got a sec, I hope you’ll check out the finals and story over on Adobe Spark Page.

Here’s the link. 

I always do a course on whatever gear I’m using (software or hardware), and in a little, over two weeks I’ll be doing a class on how I use the Profoto B1x’s for location shoots. We’ll start in the studio by going over all the gear, and then we’ll out in the field for the shoot. Can’t wait to share it with you as soon as it’s ready for release.

Here’s wishing you all an awesome, restful, fun, battery-recharging, creative weekend. :)

Best,

-Scott

P.S. Check back here Monday for some really fun news! :)

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