UPDATE, JUNE 2024: Strobist was archived in 2021. Here is what I am up to now. -DH


Christmas Game Plan: Results

Just for kicks, I took a few moments to set up a couple of SB-800's according to the Christmas game plan I outlined on Sunday. This is a technique I use a lot for family events (birthdays, Christmas, etc.) when I know where things are going to happen and I just want to light a room.

This is a good, low-pressure, no-risk way to experiment and practice. So the next time you have to light a room for fluid situations and every photo counts, you'll be ready. Or at least slightly less petrified.

Hit the jump for the easy-peasy lighting setup and some results from different areas of the room.

Okay, so here is the living room layout and lighting setup. I have annotated it with a grid for easy reference. For instance, the two PW'd SB-800 speedlights (on light stands) are at E-2 and A-10, respectively. They are set to 1/8 power + 1/3 stop, and pointed toward the ceiling with a 24mm beam spread.

(Click here to pull up a 1000-pixel jpeg of the lighting diagram for easy reference during the rest of the post.)

This diagonal, soft cross-light is an easy, go-to technique for evenly lighting a room with a couple of small strobes. This is a great way to shoot meeting shots, group shots, candids -- whatever.

Using the grid on the diagram as a reference point for both camera and subject, let's walk through a few shots in different parts of the room and see how it looks.

Pictured at the top of this post is my daughter Emily, opening a present near the middle of the room. The camera position is at A-4 and Em is at D-6. As you can see, the strobe at right is the main light, and the left/back strobe becomes a rim/fill light. They both combine to light the rest of the room.

The cool thing about this setup is that I can shoot from just about anywhere in the room. The only thing I have to do is to keep my strobes out of the frame.

In the photo at left, Ben and Em are entering the room after being help upstairs until the ridiculously late present-opening start time of 7:30 a.m. They are at about A-3 and B-4, respectively, and the camera is at A-8.

The flash at E-2 is now the main light, with the flash at A-10 becoming fill. We are also getting fill from the continuous light, a CFL, located high at about A-4. Shooting at a 1/50th of a sec at f/3.5 at ASA 400 picks up this warmish fill a little.

Again, as in the earlier photo, the light is not calling attention to itself, but rather is just making everything crisp and well defined. It's not dramatic, it is simply designed to work nearly everywhere in the room.

Next is Ben, 7, a certified Lego-a-holic, with his new Lego motorized, R/C bulldozer. The thing has over a thousand parts, and he is almost done with assembling it for the first of many times.

Ben took the high-risk route of penning a one-item Santa wish list this year. I do not know if I would have had the guts to do that, but Ben was resolute. That's the 7-year-old equivalent of putting a thousand bucks on 36-red at the Roulette table. It paid off. And, I have to say, that thing is awesome.

Ben is at D-8, and the camera is at B-5. But he is turned away from the closer A-10 flash, so it becomes a bright rim light while the E-2 flash becomes the flash that lights his face. It is hard to hide from this lighting scheme.

Last but not least is Ginger, our affectionate-but-dimwitted cat, stoned out of her gourd on catnip (in red package at left) late on Christmas Eve. She looked the way Susan and I felt. Mind you, our condition was fatigue-induced and not at all drug-aided. Unless you count Christmas cookies.

Cheech Ginger is on the ground (or well above it, depending on what we are talking about) at about E-8, and I am about a foot away at D-8 wishing like heck that catnip worked for me, too. (Hey, that stuff is cheap and grows like a weed really fast.)

Again, the lights just work. Nothing flashy or attention getting. Just even, crisp lighting that does the job.

One more important thing to note was that I invited the other adults to feel free to pick up and camera the camera and shoot whenever they wanted. Once the light was set up, it was pretty hard for them to miss. So, why not?

So, there you are. Make better Christmas/birthday pix while you bone up on light to juice up your next meeting/interview photos. It's a win/win and you makes some brownie points with the Significant Other at the same time.

Related posts:

:: 'Twas The Light Before Christmas ::
:: David Tejada: Lighting a Conference Room ::
:: On Assignment: London Group Shot ::
:: Strobist Flickr Threads: What did you get for Christmas? ::


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