Thursday, January 27, 2011

How Many Lights...

First things first. I am so honored to have been sponsored by Bogen/Manfrotto, specifically Mark Astmann, during my time demoing lighting and ideas at Imaging USA last week in San Antonio! They were so kind to ship me tons of grip and lighting gear for the demo. Also have to shout out to APAG (American Photographic Artist's Guild) who paid my way to Imaging so I could help man the booth during the trade show. Quinn and Robbin, you rock!

Now down to business.

How many lights? I posted this question on facebook yesterday and got a huge amount of responses. Only one person guessed right...Darren Whitley. Go pat yourself on the back. Actually I posted the answer but well, no one believed me.

I digress.

Photography literally means "to write with light" and how you apply your knowledge of lighting when going into a job can turn a simple set up into looking like you hi-jacked McNally's gear house. Our booth in the trade show was 10x10' space. Okay not so bad. Now add two 3x8' folding tables, 7 paintings and the painter, all of my crap, and an entire studio full of equipment and you start to get a little cramped....YA THINK! A blessing in disguise as I like to think. Robbin was about 2 feet from the background and I was clear in the middle of the trade show isles with a 70-200 trying to make a freakin' picture. Imagine, not the smallest of folks, rolling around on the floor with a camera, all along my tether cable acting as a trip wire for the lucky people that happen to uhh, get in my way.

When you look at this picture I can immediately pick out 5 lights, 6 if you include the reflector...but that's cheating. I see a key light, separation light, hair light, background light, and generally there would be some ambient fill as well. All this light carving out dimension and giving the image a 3-d feeling to it. I said that having the small space was a blessing in disguise because I was able to use the confines of my "studio" to allow one light to act as many different lights. The one and only light is coming from camera right. I have two Sb-900's with the dome diffusers rigged onto a c-stand pushing through a Lastolite 3x3 foot panel. It's basically a huge square swatch of translucent material, or a bedsheet on a stretcher for that matter, that helps take the small lights and make them into one big light source. The whole rig is on a c-stand and attached to the cross bar is a handy little knuckle. This allows you to rotate the panel any direction as you can with any traditional soft box. I had the panel up high and angled down at her which allowed me to use the light not only to light her face but to skim the top of her head and spill onto the background creating that nice follow through lighting you see in old school images from karsh and those folks. I'm talking about having the hottest part of the background on the shadow side of the face and the darkest part of the background on the highlight side of the face.

I used a gold tri-grip, also by Lastolite, to camera left as my fill light, which because of the size the light wrapped around her hair and shoulders creating the dimension of having a separation light.

That's about all there is to it. Learning how to adapt to your situation and learning how to turn 1 light into 6 is a skill that you can use anywhere and everywhere. And not to mention it will make your client happy when they don't have to pay for 300 studio packs and heads and stands and assistants and catering...etc. etc.

More Imaging USA pictures to come...