On Assignment: Eke in Paris

Shortly after we shot Michael during the afternoon session of the Paris Seminar, we photographed Eke in the same room. Since we did this all with hard, restricted light, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about during this section of Lighting 102.

In this photo, we use four speedlights to create zones of light in just two places: Around Eke and on the background.

Not to take anything away from Eke, but the background in this case was a beautiful hunk of sculpted wood that just made the room. So, I thought I would put him in front of it and do a little sculpting on Eke with multidirectional, hard light.

Hit the jump to see how we built the light.

Here is the same backdrop, lit by soft, neutral-colored light (through an umbrella) for a shot done earlier in the afternoon. For Eke, I wanted to bring out the color of the wood with a warming gel. Since we were lighting on separate planes, this would be very easy to do. But first we had to light Eke.

I started with a couple of SB's on low-power (in manual mode) with snoots on them. The snoots were there for two reasons. First, we were just lighting Eke's zone. Second, we wanted to keep the light from flaring into the camera.

Without snoots (or gobos of some kind) the lights would have flared pretty badly, as they were pointed in the general direction of the camera from the back/sides of Eke.

Second we added a gridded light from the front, to light Eke's face and complete the three-way wrap of light around him. Since the front light was fired through a grid spot, the light falls off as it gets lower on his body. This helps to guide the eye toward his face.

The grid, along with the angle of the front light, keeps it from spilling badly on the background. This was important to me, because I wanted to keep the light on the back wooden panel warm.

So that's what we did next. The backgound flash came in from back camera left, and was gelled with a CTO, which is a standard daylight-to-tungsten conversion gel.

To add a little shape to the tones on the background, I snooted that light, too. This seals the top and bottom of the frame with a lower tonal range, adding a little interest to the background. Snoots are very useful for making light more interesting, and I almost never use hard light without them. And if I am not using a snoot, I am probably gridding, or at least gobo'ing the light in some way.

To separate Eke from the background a little more, we decided to cool down his rim lighting a little. This was easily done with a CTB gel (cooling gel, opposite of a CTO) in 1/2 strength.

Here's a trick I use when placing lights. From the position of the light, I pop a quick frame. As often as not, it is shot from the hip, and I do not even bother to focus the camera. This quick test tells me (in this case) that the snooted light is aimed correctly. It also shows me the effect of the slight cooling gels, and that my exposure is pretty close.

If I have any major problems from the light in question, the test pop shows me before I walk away from the light.

I have said it before, and I will say it again: You do not get a belly like mine doing any unnecessary walking.

So, here's our final shot again. (Click on the pic for a bigger version in a new window.) You can see the subtle color separation between the rim lights and the background.

Every light in the photo is hard, and there is no ambient contributing to the photo. But Eke has a nice, 3-D sculpted look because the front light is replaced by rim/side lighting as you work your way around him.

The gelled, snooted light on the background finishes the photo by selectively lighting the background and warming up the wood.

NEXT: Nest Egg


Related posts:

:: L101: Hard Light ::
:: L101: Snoots and Gobos ::
:: How to Make Grid Spots ::
:: L101: Using Gels ::
:: On Assignment: Michael in Paris :: (Shot in same room.)


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Anonymous Mickey said...

Hey could you layout the lighting setup to scale using the Lighting setup psd templates to give me a better veiw of how you dis this as Iwould like to see more detail.

December 03, 2007 3:21 AM  
Blogger Henrik Høy said...

Mixing hard light is an interesting topic, could you tell a bit about your light-level considerations? I guess it is very important to avoid double-shadows etc.?


December 03, 2007 4:12 AM  
Anonymous pengaman said...

"All I want for Christmas is to be able to LIGHT like Mr. Hobby."

December 03, 2007 6:01 AM  
Anonymous Frunt said...

I was able to reverse engineer that lighting before reading the post. You're obviously teaching us well!

Now I just need to keep all this stuff in mind when I'm not sat reading the blog and apply it out in the real world.

December 03, 2007 6:29 AM  
Anonymous John said...

David great tutorial, i was surprised with the distance and height of the lights. It would be a great help if you could include height and distance in your comments. Thanks for all your hard work.

December 03, 2007 6:31 AM  
Blogger John Lewis Photography said...

David great tutorial. I was suprised by the distance and height of the lights. It would be very helpful if you could include this information in your comments, just a suggestion. Thanks for all your hard work.


December 03, 2007 6:34 AM  
Blogger alex said...

Thank you that is a most elegant solution. I've often thought about arrays of lights rather than softlight/umbrellas/boxes as being better and more modern. Great breakdown of the lighting.

Everytime I'm in a bar or club and see a stack of black straws I think about making my own grids, time to start collecting i think.


December 03, 2007 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Bert Stephani said...

I actually like the test pic with just the two backlights best. I think it's really strong and cool.

When I think about this setup, I realise it's almost identical to the setup of my gasmask runner picture. I must have learned something in Paris ;-)

Great work David

December 03, 2007 9:11 AM  
Blogger Jon Senior said...

We tried to redo this set-up the following day when photographing Julia. My best (judging by popular opinion) was this. One thing that's worth noting is the muted effect of the kickers when dealing with a model who is a little more... er... hirsute.

December 03, 2007 10:21 AM  
Anonymous Eke said...

@Bert: funny you should say that... after having seen a quick glance of that test shot on David's screen, the first thing I did when coming home was trying to shoot a similar shot... but then again, I only have two strobes anyway ;-)

December 03, 2007 10:56 AM  
Anonymous Lee said...

I realized what a geek I've become this weekend when late Saturday night I lay snuggled up to my wife in bed and she asked me, "What are you thinking about right now." I replied honestly and said, "The Vivitar 285 vs the Sunpack 383." This was not the answer she was looking for. To my fellow stobists who may find yourselves in a similar situation the correct answer is, "Why, you honey, of course!"

December 03, 2007 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Richard Melanson said...

@Bert Stephani-
I too really like the test pic with the two backlights. The color of the wood in the final pic is awesome though.

P.S. - your gasmask runner pics were wicked...great work

December 03, 2007 12:00 PM  
Anonymous Bill said...

Dear Mr. Hobby,

I read your posts daily, and really appreciate the detailed manner with which you describe your lighting setup. I'm increasingly curious to known just how much post-processing you do to achieve your final images. Are your final straight out of the camera? (I apologize if this is not polite to ask, or if it has already been asked and answered in the past).

December 03, 2007 12:22 PM  
Blogger JS said...

Just gorgeous. (I'm asking for a trunk full of 285HVs and PW's)

December 03, 2007 1:41 PM  
Anonymous penguindrooster said...

On my monitor, at least, the wooden post on the left side of the picture is much brighter than the main subject which is kind of distracting. Would it be possible to drop the level of that light a wee bit.

December 03, 2007 2:19 PM  
Anonymous Jack said...

David - at what shutter speed did you shoot at? I use Nikon SB800's and trigger them using an SU-800, and found a big gap in the amount of light hitting the subject at ss 320 vs ss 250. I use a D2X, so it can handle a very fast sync mode, and I have the flash sync settings in camera correct, but I wondered why such a difference occurs. When at higher shutter speeds, there is a subtle difference of light hitting the subject.

December 03, 2007 7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee - Your wife cares what YOU think about!

December 03, 2007 11:28 PM  
Anonymous JLee said...

Jack, in re: to your question on difference is shutter speed effects on your work - Your D2x flash sync speed is 1/250th. Anything faster than that and you're likely to not to capturing the entire flash UNLESS you use the FP High-Speed Sync mode in the SB800s.

December 04, 2007 12:26 AM  
Anonymous Jack said...

JLee - Thanks. That resolves a few inconsistencies in my ouput - half the time I use TTL-FP and dial up or down the flash and half the time I use manual and adjust the power. I'll just make sure to watch the SS when in manual mode.

December 04, 2007 1:57 PM  

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