Goran Ljubuncic Creates Contrasty Light with Soft Light Sources

Written by Fredrik Franzén on . Posted in Fashion Photography

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©Goran Ljubuncic

Fashion photographer Goran Ljubuncic uses soft light sources to create a light that is rich in detail and contrast. “I know this may sound strange but it’s definitely doable,” says Goran. Read the story and learn how.

Like many other photographers, Goran Ljubuncic’s career started almost by accident. For a high school assignment that involved photographing the area in which he lived, 16-year-old Goran borrowed his father’s thirty-year-old camera, and a few hours later his passion for photography had taken hold. Fast-forward another 14 years, and Goran is working as a fashion photographer in Tel Aviv.

Do you have any specific tips and tricks for working with light as a fashion photographer?

“Yes. Don’t forget there’s a reason it’s called fashion photography. Your most important task is to properly convey the features of the product. Sometimes a soft light is the right way to go, and sometimes a harsh and contrasty light is the best option. Having said that, I think that regardless of the type of lighting you’re working with, you still need to preserve a minimum of texture to depict the products in the proper way. Another important aspect of fashion photography is that your pictures need to communicate. They need to evoke an expression from the viewer. Again, this is where your light kicks in since it’s one of the most important factors for determining the mood in the image.”

Do you have any personal preferences when it comes to lighting?

“I love to use soft light sources to create a fairly contrasty light. I know this may sound strange but it’s definitely doable. There’s a big difference between using a Magnum Reflector for creating this look and achieving a similar effect with let’s say a small softbox. Both highlights and shadows look very different. Personally, I love the way you can preserve the details by using a small softbox. But in order to achieve that, you have to position the light source really close to your subject. This will intensify the fall-off and give the subject and the clothes a great 3D feel and bring out the textures in a very nice way.”

Can you show us a couple of examples where you used this technique?

Sure…

 

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©Goran Ljubuncic

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A Tribute to a Legendary Look

“This image was shot for Urban Culture Magazine as a tribute to the legendary Vogue Paris beauty look,” says Goran. “The setup might seem fairly simple and traditional, but the real secret lies in the lighting ratios and the positioning of the different strobes!

“My main light was a Profoto Acute/D4 Head with a Zoom Reflector pointing into a Silver Umbrella M. Even though the lighting diagram shows the main light standing on a boom, it was actually handheld. When doing studio work, I almost never place my main light on a stand. Instead, my first assistant holds the light and reacts to the model’s head and body movements. I believe it’s crucial to follow the model’s movements to get a precise result. For example, in this image, a few inches lower and the light would be too low, reducing the contrast and the strength of the shadows. Also, the highlights on the eyelids wouldn’t have been as pronounced and the hair would have been too dark. A few inches higher, on the other hand, and the shadows would have been too harsh with too much highlight on the hair. Also, the forehead would have probably been too bright and elongated.

“Another important aspect of the main light is its proximity to the subject. The closer the light source is to the subject, the faster the light fall-off will be. So, in order to get the enhanced highlights as well as a fast light fall-off, my assistant held the light source really close to the model, about a meter away.

“For fill I used two Profoto Acute/D4 Heads with Zoom Reflectors pointing into two Silver Umbrella Ms. These two umbrellas were positioned quite low and angled so that they used the outer beam of the light. I like the looks you get when using the outer light beam. These heads were also significantly lower in power than the main light.

“All heads were connected to a Profoto Acute2 generator. On the sides of the model I’d placed black panels to eliminate the light returning from the sides and to get the dark outlines. To get a bit of a separation from the background, I placed a fourth Profoto Acute/D4 Head with a Snoot pointing toward the background. This head was brought down in power to give just a slight separation.”

 

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©Goran Ljubuncic

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In the Flower Garden

“This image was shot for clothes retailer Castro for their flowers collection campaign,” says Goran. “We were shooting in a botanic garden, which for the most part was covered by a protective net. The weather was also very problematic that day. By the time we arrived at the location, heavy clouds were covering the sky and the garden was practically dark. The protective net further reduced the amount of light, and as the look we were going after was “bright and airy,” I had to recreate the light with my strobes…

“To bring back the sun I placed a Pro-B Head Plus with a Zoom Reflector behind a large scrim that was above and about 45 degrees to the left of the models. I filtered the head a bit to warm it up, so that it would more closely resemble the sunlight. I had two purposes with placing this head: the first was to simulate sunlight and provide general lighting to the scene. Secondly, to create a separation from the background. The large scrim helped spread the light over the entire scene and created a more even light, resembling the sunlight coming through light, airy clouds.

“I used a Softbox RFi 5’ Octa as my main light. The Octa was placed about 30 degrees to the left of the group and just a little bit higher. I also placed a white V-card to the right of the group. This brought out more details in the right-most model and evened the light intensity over the entire group. Because of the placement of the V- card, it picked up more of the light coming from the head with the Zoom Reflector. To the sides of the group I placed black panels to eliminate light returns from the sides and to further increase the separation.

“Both heads were powered by the Pro-B4 1000 Air. I chose to work with the Pro-B4 at this shoot for several reasons. Since we were shooting in a botanic garden, we had no access to electric power, and bringing a diesel generator was not an option due to the many restrictions that were imposed on us. So I had to use a battery-powered pack. Because we didn’t have much time for the shoot I had to work fast, and the Pro-B4 allowed me to do just that with its crazy fast recycling speed. Last but not least, since the garden was soaking wet with water dripping from all over the place, I knew I had to choose a product that could withstand any potential moisture generation. The Pro-B4 was the perfect tool for the job. Honestly, I’m not sure I would have been able to pull it off without the Pro-B4.”

 

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©Goran Ljubuncic

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The Evening Collection

“This image was also shot for Castro, but for their evening collection campaign. For this image I used three different light sources. Let’s start with the fill!

“I had a Profoto Acute/D4 Head  with a Zoom Reflector on boom, pointing into a Profoto Umbrella XL Silver, which gave me an even light spread across a wide area. The umbrella’s silver interior created a nice fill light with a bit more punch to it. In order to restrict the fill light dispersion, I placed a large cutter in front of it, partially blocking the light. That way I managed to create a fill light that would reach up to the models’ heads but not affect their faces. The light dispersion is gradually falling as it is “climbing” toward the models’ faces. Most of the time I like to separate the light on models faces and their bodies. This gives me much more control over the final result.

“For the main light, I used a Profoto Acute/D4 Head with a Zoom Reflector pointing into a Silver Umbrella M with a white diffuser. This light source was handheld. The bottom part of the umbrella was covered with a black cloth, effectively restricting the light towards the upper parts of the image. I also wanted to create a bit of vignetting, so I dialed the power down about half a stop on this head.

“The third and final light source was a Profoto Acute/D4 Head with a Snoot, coming through a diffuser. This light source created the light spot in the middle of the image and brought the models’ faces up to a desirable zone. To further enhance the vignetting effect, I used a matte box.

“The last part of the setup was the black panels on the sides, which were used to create the blackish outlines. Each head was powered with its own Profoto Acute2 generator. Why did I choose the Acute2 over the bigger, faster generators, you may ask? Well, mainly because I love the simplicity of the Acute system!”

 

See more of Goran’s inspiring work at his website.

 

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©Goran Ljubuncic

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©Goran Ljubuncic

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©Goran Ljubuncic

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Comments (3)

  • chaim meiersdorf

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    Thanks for the clear lighting explanation in you posting A Tribute. It is hard for me to see the effect of the two additional side lights. If you could show the difference between the two it would be helpful.

    Reply

  • Goran Ljubuncic

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    @Chaim
    The side lights are way down below. About model’s knee height. Therefore, because of their proximity to the model, only the outter beam of light is hitting the model. It has quite a delicate effect. Also, these 2 heads are significantly lower in power so once again their effect is subtle. What these heads do, is add a tiny bit of light into the shadows without overpowering them or changing the general feel. Without them the shadows would be blocked in print and feel botchy. Also you could barely see models fingers (the ones in shadow) without them and thay’d appear cut without these two lights. Additionally, the shadows line would be too pronounced without them to my taste. I don’t have a with and without example but I hope it explains it. Now you go and try for yourself :) Everything lies in the lighting ratios in this picture. It’s rather simple setup but must be done right regarding the different strobes power ratios otherwise you’d get a flat picture.

    Reply

  • Nick Lovell

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    Wow! Fantastic article and beautiful images! The detail of the thought process behind each light’s placement was really appreciated. Would love to see more posts like this from Goran!!!

    Reply

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