BTS – Shaping light in a short time

Written by DC Chavez on . Posted in Battery-powered Flash, Instruction

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dc chavez 200x300 BTS   Shaping light in a short time

DC Chavez

This is the first in a series of posts that go behind the scenes and takes a quick look at what goes into producing some of my images. In a perfect world we would have budget and time to run over multiple lighting scenarios to create art with every click of the shutter. Vehicles would be fully prepped, talent would show up on time and wardrobe would fit perfectly. The harsh reality is that it never works that way… My greatest asset as a photographer is being prepared and know how to adapt to situations as they unfold. In these circumstances it is essential to understand your gear and how you can use it to create the best images in the least amount of time possible. Hopefully this series illustrates how I rely on Profoto gear on a day-to-day basis to make lemonade from lemons.

For this assignment I needed to create a moody set of images to accompany an upcoming press release about Red Bull Racing driver Rhys Millen announcing a new racing program for the 2011 season.  This photo shoot was in conjunction with a video interview I conducted on the same day.  Per usual, I had only 30 minutes to do stills and video on location at his race shop.  To top it off, his new 2011 driving suit was still being produced in Italy so we had to make the best of his Red Bull team apparel.  It was a quick shoot to say the least, with no time to experiment with lighting setups.  Thankfully, I am familiar enough with the tools that I was able to manipulate them in a short time to get the look I was going for.

Here is a look at how the shot was setup.

Key light - Profoto Pro-B3 Air kit attached to Pro Head with Profoto Softlight reflector w/ 25 degree grid

Rim lights - Profoto D1 1000 Air with new 10 degree grid x 2

rhys bts 570x380 BTS   Shaping light in a short time

Behind the Scenes with Rhys Millen

The video interview took a bit over 20 minutes to shoot, leaving me with less than 10 minutes to get the photos I needed. I started off with the the gridded Softlight Reflector aimed just off of his left shoulder, allowing only the feathered edge of the light to hit his face and part of his body.  I love the quality of light that the Softlight Reflector produces- a uniform, soft light with a gradual falloff that allows for feathering of the light.  It is my go-to light shaping tool for people followed closely by the Magnum Reflector.  When coupled with a grid, it has the same quality of light but is constrained to 25 degree spread- allowing me to really control where I put the light.  Since he did not have his drivers suit, I wanted to concentrate the light on his face and have the rest of it slowly fade to black.

rhys 1 300x450 BTS   Shaping light in a short time

Behind the Scenes with Rhys Millen

As you can see, the Pro-B3 Air is strong enough to overpower ambient lighting inside the warehouse at only 1/4 power.  The grid on the Softlight Reflector allowed me to keep the light off the wall 6 feet behind him.  To give him a bit of separation from the background, I used the Air remote to turn on a D1 1000 Air with 10 degree grid over his left shoulder and pointed it at the back of his shoulder. As you can see, the gridded D1 has a very narrow beam of light that catches his neck and shoulder, but does not extend to the top of his head or to his torso. I love the way that the grids allow me to place light exactly where I want it and keep it off of places I don’t. A quick meter of the light with my Sekonic L-358. After 6 frames I was happy with how this looked but wanted to do a wider shot and bring in some of the texture on the wall behind him.

rhys 2 300x450 BTS   Shaping light in a short time

Behind the Scenes with Rhys Millen

In order to make the wall visible, I brought the Softlight Reflector around a bit more to the front and aimed it at the wall just over Rhys’ right shoulder. The edge of the light would catch his face and would slowly fall off down the length of his body. To balance things out, I used the Air remote to turn on the other D1 to a act as a separation light and pull Rhys from the newly illuminated background, giving a highlight to his right cheek. One more quick light metering. 6 more frames and the shoot was done in less than 6 minutes total. Rhys quickly headed back to his shop to work on the new race car set to be unveiled the following week.

12 frames and a 20 minute interview done in just under 30 minutes. Looking back at the shots, would I have done anything differently? Yes. Did I have time to make those changes on set? No. Was the client happy with the images? Very.

The reality of life as a working photographer is that sometimes you just have to get the shot in the time you have available to you. While you may not produce an award winning image, the trick is to do the best work you can in the 5, 10, 30 minutes you have to shoot. Knowledge of your gear is key in using those precious minutes to produce an image that is beneficial to your client and to your portfolio.

Please let me know if you would like to see more behind the scenes posts like this one.

DC Chavez

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