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Variations on a Two-Light Theme, Pt. 3

Finishing up our quick series on two-light headshot ideas, we finally come around to something a little more mainstream looking. Today, two different spins on umbrella key used with on-axis fill.

More, inside.

For the first two, we used a gridded flash and a gobo'd SB-III, respectively. Today we are going for a little more of a classic look, then putting a twist into it.

Steven, above, was lit entirely by flash -- no ambient contribution in the exposure. The key was an SB-800 in a shoot-thru umbrella, positioned right over the top of the camera. You can see the setup shot here:

(Setup shots courtesy Syl Arena / Paso Robles Workshops. Click on any pic for bigger.)

We used a white wall as a background, but dropped the wall to dark grey by moving everything away from the background to underexpose it. (All about the relative distance.)

We could have easily gone to black by moving further away. The point is that you can get any tone you want by depriving the wall of light -- or adding light to it.

Since we did not need to use the second light for the backdrop, that left us free to use it as fill. Our second light was an SB-800 in an Orbis ring flash adapter.

This two-light combo now gives us complete control over subject key, fill and background levels. The fill, obviously, being determined by the power level on the ring flash.

We can place the umbrella wherever we want, to shape Steven's face however we want. We don't have to worry about the shadows so much, because we are erasing them to whatever extent we want with on-axis fill.

And because we have control over the fill level, we can ease that key over into a more dramatic position. Just by moving the key around a little, we can give this same setup a little more attitude.

Enter, "Tokyo" Bill. (We had an extra Bill in the class, and we had to tell them apart somehow.)

With Bill, we can really rack that key light around to far camera left and work that Obi-Wan thing with his hoodie. Bill was damn-near ready to whip out a light sabre before we finished.

(That, of course, would not have fit into our two-light limit. But it would have looked friggin' cool.)

We can move the key around to sculpt his face and work the edge of his hood because we are not at all worried about the fill light in the deep, dark recesses under there at camera right. This is where on-axis fill shines, as it can worm its way into just about anything.

If you can see it from the lens axis, you can light it. As much or as little as you want. Here's the setup:

When using two lights like this, I find it very simple to think in terms of, "one for shape, and one for detail." You control the form with the key, and control the depth of the form with the fill.

That fill can be an off-axis strobe, or an Orbis (or Ray Flash, or ABR-800) or it can be ambient. All have advantages and disadvantages.

But working that shape-vs. detail balance can allow you to get many different looks with just a couple of speedlights.

First, Riaz, then Brett, now Steven and Bill. So Just a few quick and dirty, all-flash two-light headshot looks that you can whip out anywhere the ambient is controllable.

Which you may find very useful, starting next week.


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