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Monday, June 04, 2012

With Apologies to Zack Arias…



So, you remember when we talked last week about making the small, black portrait flat? This was the real reason I wanted to experiment with it.

The goal was to see if I could accomplish a particular look with just one light. And note I didn't say OneLight®, 'cause I'm assuming that is patented or something. Zack's black choppers would find me, rendition me to the ATL and throw me in a cell long enough to grow a ZZ Top beard.

But not having a 60" umbrella on me, I could hardly do the Zack thing anyway. Besides, I wanted to approach this headshot of Antonio Beverly as if he were a chunk of glassware…
__________


First off, no, there's not any ambient contributing to the image. This is all one flash. We were trying to get a lot out of it—diffusing it, blocking it, reflecting it—so efficiency was not the main goal.

And since I wanted to shoot with some depth of field (call it f/8 at ISO 100, 'cause the P25 likes low ISOs) we blasted him with one Profoto head driven by an Acute2 1200ws pack.

Could you do this with a speedlight? Yep. But with a speedlight at full power, you'll get about four stops less light. So figure, say, shooting at f/4 @ISO 400. Totally doable.

Those of you who have read Light, Science and Magic will recognize this as dark field lighting. And yeah, it is usually used for shooting glassware on a dark background. All the more reason to mix it up some.

Here's the BTS pic, with the glow of the Profoto head visible behind the WalMart Bedding Dept. Queen-Sized Diffuser:




So, light leaves the flash and then gets turned into a ~36 sq. ft diffused source, which is right behind the subject. This provides wrap, like, everywhere. Soft rims and back/top light.

The background is that small flat I made just for this shoot. Small is important, as is opacity. You want room for that sheet to wrap, and you want the light blocked from the visible background.

Subject is in front of all of that. Heading up towards the camera we get to the key light, which is really two pieces of white styrofoam reflecting our OneLight® one light back to Antonio. Next time, I'd use something a little more specular/reflective, as we had to lighten his face some in post from the less efficient white styro.

Coming in closer to the camera still, you see a shoot-thru gobo/shade. This is muy importante as there is a boatload of light blasting right at the camera just out of frame. This shade keeps it all clean and flare-free. The camera and shade are locked down on sticks to keep everything aligned.

Lastly, we killed the ambient room lights for shooting—just flipped them on occasionally for focusing.
__________


Could you do this more easily with three lights? Yep, sure could.

Am I ready to throw away most of my lights and grow the OneLight Goatee®? Nope, not yet.

But what the heck, just a simple proof of concept with just one flash. Felt kinda fun, too—a little Iron Chef-ish, if you will.

Oh, and your serve, Arias.



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68 Comments:

OpenID icie said...

Mind. blown.

June 04, 2012 2:15 AM  
Blogger Markus said...

Wow, that's an amazing setup :D

June 04, 2012 2:23 AM  
Blogger djaef said...

Awesome use of one light David. Zack hasn't got a chance!

June 04, 2012 2:34 AM  
Blogger Andor said...

Very interesting light setup; excellent example of how to create a professional and complex looking light scheme with just one light - placed well.
Congratulations and thank you for sharing it!

June 04, 2012 3:43 AM  
Blogger Olesku.pl said...

Who woulda think, that this glass scheme looks so nice in portrait!!! Awesome :)

June 04, 2012 4:48 AM  
Blogger Light_Hackers said...

So glad I logged on today... That was a great tutorial write-up, and yes a 3 light setup 'could' be quicker... perhaps, but your control and final result was alarmingly good.

GREAT work, and as always ... thanks for the heads up.

June 04, 2012 7:33 AM  
Blogger Jim Gill said...

A little bit complicated for the look, but I have never seen such a beautiful soft light from two rims. Really stunning portrait.

June 04, 2012 7:57 AM  
Blogger Peter West said...

I've just learned something new in portrait photography. Amazing.

June 04, 2012 8:38 AM  
Blogger Frank Grygier said...

Shades of Dean Collins more than Zach Arias I think.

June 04, 2012 9:09 AM  
Blogger Craig M. said...

Very cool idea to think of glass. Been checking out Light Science and Magic book? Its such a great source for lighting ideas.

June 04, 2012 9:19 AM  
Blogger Thomas said...

1 light. 7 stands :)

great post!

June 04, 2012 9:47 AM  
Blogger Adam said...

O.M.G. Awesome and hilarious. Love the rat tail self-portrait too! Bwuahahahaha.

June 04, 2012 9:50 AM  
Blogger Mark n Manna said...

I think the ZZTop beard looks good on you,David!

June 04, 2012 10:52 AM  
Blogger glenn kaupert said...

I totally agree with Frank Grygier, more Dean Collins than anyone.

June 04, 2012 11:04 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

GASP! How many squirrels had to die for that sake of that beard!

June 04, 2012 11:15 AM  
Blogger ------------------------------- said...

I don't know what Arias will do, but I am waiting on McNally to do it and only do it with 24 SB's set on 1/64th power.

June 04, 2012 11:58 AM  
OpenID Joe said...

Great Post! This is extremely cool.

June 04, 2012 12:23 PM  
Blogger Levy Carneiro Jr. said...

Hello David!

I'm not able to give a quick test here to confirm, but I'm thinking one can do the same with (in order):

- white (or so) wall
- flash/head behind subject, pointed back at the wall
- small flat
- subject

In this case needing only 2 light stands for the small flat, and less setup :)

Cheers!
Levy

June 04, 2012 1:01 PM  
Blogger Robert Davidson said...

Looking at your black background board here (and in your Blue Hour post), it appears that the board measures 3 feet by 4 feet. Am I close?

June 04, 2012 1:04 PM  
Blogger Iden Pierce Ford said...

Love it....did you use the 1/4 cto? Great concept
Thanx for posting...
Still think you should have opted for the d800 but whatever...be interesting to see if you play with the LS lenses with your phase system given their sync speed goes up to 1/1600

June 04, 2012 1:14 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Here's a thought. What if you got rid of the white foam board reflector altogether and instead made the square frame/flare blocker larger with a white reflective surface on it to push the light back at the subject. Seems like it would be more even.

June 04, 2012 1:19 PM  
OpenID damnuglyphotography said...

Smartypants...

June 04, 2012 1:36 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

That is not a "WalMart Bedding Dept. Queen-Sized Diffuser" That is a Joe McNally Diffusion Panel®.

And you are worried about Mr. Arias?

Really interesting technique. I should dig out my copy of LSM and see what else I missed in there.

June 04, 2012 1:44 PM  
Blogger Jan W. said...

What a cool shot and setup!! Love the catch light in his eyes, looks very cat like.

June 04, 2012 1:49 PM  
Blogger Eric Peek Photography said...

Picture looks great except I don't like the two square catch lights in the eyes. Makes him look like a lizard.

June 04, 2012 2:09 PM  
OpenID colebennett said...

Thanks for sharing. That's thinking creatively!

June 04, 2012 2:23 PM  
Blogger Jose Cañamares y Maria Santacreu said...

When I first saw the picture I reversed engineered the lighting and thought, three lights. I was, as usual surprised and impressed. By the way, it is muy importante!!

Thanks for sharing

June 04, 2012 2:55 PM  
Blogger Robert Davidson said...

This post got me to get out my copy of "Light Science & Magic" to study it in more depth. Back 2-1/2 years ago when I bought the book I was a real "lighting newbie". I can tell now that I did not appreciate or retain enough of what I read back then. It's interesting how much more you can get out of a book like that after acquiring more experience with lighting.

June 04, 2012 3:06 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

Thanks for the writeup!

June 04, 2012 3:19 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@Jose-

Thanks! Fixed.

June 04, 2012 4:06 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

If the back of the "No-Flare Gobo®" were silvered, would have had enough fill to reduce the post lightening?

As always thx for BTS!

June 04, 2012 5:05 PM  
Blogger Tampa Photography Classes said...

Nice work. Good information! But Arias has you beat in the goat department..is that a kitty cat pelt???

June 04, 2012 6:17 PM  
Blogger Reed said...

Cool - Never did a portrait with Dark Field...

Arcane factoid:
While not glassware specifically, dark field is absolutely the bitchenist way to photograph "Petri" dishes when you're trying to show the bacterial/viral growth on them.

June 04, 2012 7:04 PM  
Blogger sikdave said...

Most unique setup yet. Fantastic use of limited resources - true to my heart. And what a great result.

June 04, 2012 7:39 PM  
Blogger R. J. Kern said...

Love the banter at such a high level!

Knowing Zack, he just might make three lights look like one... an overhead orb, a bed sheet, and a spaghetti box snooted to his Vivitar 285.

June 04, 2012 7:41 PM  
Blogger GTM said...

So creatively cool...love it!

June 04, 2012 9:39 PM  
Blogger jazmin miranda said...

Thank you for sharing this set up. At the beginning of the post I thought, I don't have big lights, so I won't be able to do this...but I do own one SB900 so I can, thanks to you!

June 05, 2012 12:04 AM  
Blogger Novak Photos said...

reminds me of a Dean Collins setup...

I'm curious what you would use for your "key" instead of the foam boards in order to get the reflective highlights you're looking for?

thanks for the knowledge & comedy!

June 05, 2012 12:14 AM  
Blogger Novak Photos said...

reminds me of a Dean Collins setup...

I'm curious what you would use for your "key" instead of the foam boards in order to get the reflective highlights you're looking for?

thanks for the knowledge & comedy!

June 05, 2012 12:15 AM  
Blogger Mike Zurynski said...

Wow, put that in the non solveable reverse engineering of photo file! Awesome!

June 05, 2012 12:15 AM  
Blogger Mike Zurynski said...

Wow, put that in the non solveable reverse engineering of photo file! Awesome!

June 05, 2012 12:17 AM  
Blogger sasa lazic said...

awesomo 2000.
That’s just super.

June 05, 2012 2:23 AM  
Blogger Paul S said...

This is a totally awesome way to light portraits, especially since you can tinker with the effect by using different reflector/gobo combinations at the camera.
One of the best alternatives is to change the two white reflectors for a single small silver reflector placed almost directly over the camera. It replicates a beauty dish(almost) and you get a similar effect to the one used by Joel Grimes for many of his portraits....

June 05, 2012 4:20 AM  
Blogger Stefan Tell said...

Interesting, I tried the same thing (indirect light, not the same setup) a couple of weeks ago but cheated a bit by using two lights.

http://www.stefantell.se/blog/2012/05/studio-portrait-only-indirect-light/

June 05, 2012 4:42 AM  
Blogger Yugo said...

Ha! Great look, brilliant problem-solving.

I think this is the first medium format photo you've posted here, isn't it? Any thoughts on the experience of using your new camera system in your typical portrait workflow?

June 05, 2012 9:45 AM  
Blogger Sean C said...

I notice that to remove two lights, you had to add three stands and restrict the camera to a tripod. Restricting the camera to the tripod really limits the whole session to a more formal style.

How important is the camera to gobo distance? If a matte box on the camera could replace it, you'd be free to move.

How about using gluing a long inverted triangle of aluminum foil onto the top of the reflectors so you get a more specular reflection on the face that fades to diffuse on his chest?

June 05, 2012 10:03 AM  
Blogger Sean C said...

How about an inverted long triangle of aluminum foil glued to the reflector to give a specular highlight on his face blending to more diffuse on his chest?

How important is the gobo separation from the camera? If a video matte box on camera works well enough it would free you from the tripod.

I noticed that you had to add three extra light stands and a tripod to remove two lights. This certainly isn't a gear reduction trick. It does look like a neat trick for product or macro work when there simply isn't room for additional strobes or they'd show in metal reflections.

Maybe crazy reflector mods is the best application of this technique. You've got a cat's eye catch light now. Other shapes are only a sheet of foam core and craft knife away.

If you're willing to invert the lighting ratios, move the white backdrop behind the camera. Use colored foamcore reflectors surrounding the backdrop to make a color fading rim light. Maybe team colors for a sports portrait would work well.

June 05, 2012 10:29 AM  
Blogger SM - Flaming Star Title Studio said...

woooah! know it's been said, but really.. WOOOAH! completely awesome.
But it also shows the various positives and negatives of multi-vs-single flash: that is either have just strobes, or don't and carry alot of flags and backdrops around..

June 05, 2012 1:02 PM  
Blogger Heipel said...

Okay, well this is minimalist lighting at it's grandest oh grand poohbah of lighting. Very cool AND great outcome. I'm not going to be surprised if your next portrait, taken in a totally dark room, is lighted by a couple of your assistants rubbing their feet on the carpet to give you static electricity "flashes" when you call for them. Nice, nice stuff, David!

June 06, 2012 12:58 AM  
Blogger Myron said...

Very skillful as always but isn't it easier with a few SB's instead of one and a house of reflectors? Although if you are using the Sun as your one light then maybe the one light source techniques are cheaper than a truck load of lighting.

June 06, 2012 6:08 AM  
Blogger JamPlugs said...

I see a Lighting Dual coming on!!! : )I have been reading you for a LONG while, and I took one of the first OneLight workshops from Zack

June 06, 2012 7:51 AM  
Blogger Debbi_in_California said...

Love it, love it!
Ps leave the cat's tail alone!

June 06, 2012 3:31 PM  
Blogger anon said...

LOVE IT! The BTS image was a great lesson Sorry, but I copied massively, but I learnt.

I'd love to see more tutorials like this; show the set, the lighting setup and the camera setup.

I tried this myself. Canon 5D, F8, 1/125, 100ISO. I think I have Bowens 500w and I pretty muc copied the set setup photo.

Next time I'll move the subject further away from backdrop. Also, my studio is next to canal side windows, so too much light on the left hand side.

The front is dark, but sghooting RAW just run a exposure brush in Photoshop or lighten the middle.

I set the camera, but my colleague hit the shutter, here's the shot...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/markkenny/7160608221/in/photostream

Thanks for the

June 06, 2012 4:39 PM  
Blogger anon said...

LOVE IT! The BTS image was a great lesson Sorry, but I copied massively, but I learnt.

I'd love to see more tutorials like this; show the set, the lighting setup and the camera setup.

I tried this myself. Canon 5D, F8, 1/125, 100ISO. I think I have Bowens 500w and I pretty muc copied the set setup photo.

Next time I'll move the subject further away from backdrop. Also, my studio is next to canal side windows, so too much light on the left hand side.

The front is dark, but sghooting RAW just run a exposure brush in Photoshop or lighten the middle.

I set the camera, but my colleague hit the shutter, here's the shot...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/markkenny/7160608221/in/photostream

Thanks for the

June 06, 2012 4:40 PM  
OpenID elabua said...

My brain exploded. Thanks Hobby.

June 07, 2012 1:09 AM  
OpenID elabua said...

One question, Your light is slightly off to the side. How did you manage to create equal side lights with this?

Thanks

June 07, 2012 1:12 AM  
Blogger Jake Hicks said...

Great technique as always, thanks.
I tried a similar thing a year or so back, although to say I wasn't as concerned about flare in my method at the time might be an under-statement! I barely got away with it.
Here was the technique used if your interested.
http://www.jakehicksphotography.com/latest/2011/7/3/dark-field-illumination.html

June 07, 2012 7:04 PM  
Blogger Simon J said...

I am not often amazed. Today I was...

June 08, 2012 6:06 AM  
Blogger Richard Davis said...

I'm also a fan of the Walmart Bedding Department diffusers, They also offer backgrounds in multiple colors!

June 08, 2012 10:41 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Very cool!
But one question, the light looks off center in the setup shot is that just an illusion - if not how does it light him so evenly left and right?

June 10, 2012 7:07 AM  
Blogger Mark B said...

Really nice post - I tried this in my bathroom using the shower curtain as the diffuser, flask in a stand in the bath and black board hung from the shower rail. REALLY happy with the results - thanks

http://www.flickr.com/photos/blunders500/7357319066/

June 10, 2012 7:53 AM  
Blogger Keith Charlton said...

I decided to try out this in my lounge last weekend and was pleased with the results. I decided to use two 300ws lights together. It'll be something fun to show our students at our New Zealand National Scout Photography School in July. I also enjoy your sense of humour! Thanks David for your inspiration!

June 11, 2012 6:04 AM  
Blogger House of Joy Photos. said...

is it ok that i dont really like the two bar-shaped specs in his eyes?

June 12, 2012 10:31 PM  
Blogger House of Joy Photos. said...

is it ok that I dont particularly like those bar-shaped specs in his eyes?

June 12, 2012 10:32 PM  
Blogger Maksim Stepanov said...

How you'd achieve same result with three lights? (The easy way)

June 15, 2012 4:41 PM  
Blogger Aman Gupta said...

Great post! I recently read the dark field lighting setup in light, science and magic and the first thing that came to my mind was exactly this! (lighting the edges of face or body). I couldn't successfully do it, though, and I think the reason was that my white background was too small.

June 18, 2012 3:50 PM  
Blogger vrob said...

Where can you get sheets of styrofoam like that?

August 08, 2012 2:29 AM  
Blogger John Naman said...

Why was the Gobo black? Why not white (on the subject side, at least)? A big round white gobo leaves a nice donut reflection in the eyes ...

September 03, 2012 8:16 PM  

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