Every time I see a photograph that catches my eye, I can’t help think the about the process that went into making the image a reality. I look for visual clues in an image: catchlight, shadows, artificial vs natural light, diffusion, reflection, hard vs soft, large vs small light source etc. This exercise helps me to understand what it is about the image that made me stop and take a second look. In my head I develop a virtual lighting diagram of what the set must have looked like when the image was created.
While this is a fun game, I wish I could go behind the scenes to see the real setup, the gear and the process that goes into crafting a unique image. In addition to the normal Light Shaping Tools tutorials I am hoping to give a bit of insight of how I work in the studio and why having the proper gear is essential to create an image that makes you look twice.
The final product- Kathy Gardiner Beauty Shot:
The image created to the left was for Kathy Gardiner‘s book. We had a conversation a week before the shoot to nail down a shot list. This helped me plan out the type of generators and light shaping tools I would need in order to produce the images we wanted. She needed a clean, simple photo that shows her for the natural beauty that she is. We also talked about a few other looks we could accomplish in the limited time we had to shoot.
While Kathy and her MUA Candace Christen started the makeup process, I headed to Stage 12 at Southbay Studios to set up lighting. I unpacked the gear that I picked up from Samy’s Camera and organized it in a way I could accomplish three very different looks without having to tear everything down for each shot. I had planned a lighting setup and grouping of lights that would allow me to effortlessly change from one look to the next.
With the AIR remote on the camera, I could change the output of the D1′s I had acting as a rim light, or even turn them off completely without even touching them. With the flip of a switch I could turn off one generator and go from a high-key white background to a moody gray or even black. All this preparation before the shoot made it easy for me to just focus on taking a picture rather than moving gear around with the model on set.
Here is what the final setup looked like:
Here is a breakdown of what gear was used where:
#1 – D1 1000 Air Monolights w/20 degree grid- used as separation / rim lights
#2 – D1 1000 Air Monolights w/20 degree grid- used as separation / rim lights
#3 – Acute Heads w/ Standard Zoom Reflector - to illuminate cyclorama
#4 – Acute Heads w/ Standard Zoom Reflector - to illuminate cyclorama
#5 – Softlight White Reflector w/ 25 degree grid - Key LIght
#6 – Acute 2400R generator
#7 – Acute 2400R generator
#8 – 3′x4′ Softbox (Not in use for this shot)
#9 – 1′x4′ Softbox (Not in use for this shot)
Also show in this shot are: a collapsible white reflector to provide a bit of fill under the chin and some flags to prevent lens flare.
A bit of planning ahead of time can assure that when you are on set, things operate efficiently and that you don’t waste your subjects time. By selectively turning off some lights, or moving the camera location I was able to get all the looks pictured below in a very short time:
Both Kathy and I were happy with the range of beauty shots we got and were able to move on to the next look.
This shot was a 3-light setup with a gridded beauty dish as the key, turned to illuminate both Kathy and the cyclorama wall from black to a dark gray. I really like using grids, because they allow me to really control light spill and direct the light exactly where I want it. In order to provide some definition to her right leg and to give her a bit of separation from the background, I placed a D1 1000 Air w/grid over her right shoulder around 8′ off the ground. Her left side of her body was defined with a 1′ x 4′ softbox waist-high about 2 feet behind her.
Here is last and favorite image from the shoot.
For this shot I kept Kathy in the same location as the image before, but I moved to directly underneath the beauty dish to take the photo. I also turned off the 1′x4′ Softbox, essentially turning this into a 2 light shot- the gridded beauty dish up front and the D1 in the back to provide a rim light and flare. I turned the beauty dish away from Kathy to get the softer light from the edge of the beauty dish as well as remove most of the light from the background.
I hope this gives you a bit of insight as to how I work on set and how understanding your tools can make a shoot go smoothy and efficiently.
Thank you again to our sponsors for making this happen:
For more info on me, please visit: http://www.dcchavez.com
Tags: D.C. Chavez
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