Advanced Technique & Process 2A: Lighting a portrait using portable studio lighting

23rd October 2014

Equipment used:
Canon 5D mk iii
Light meter
Light stand
White umbrella to diffuse the light
Calumet Genesis 300B
Inverter battery pack
Phottix wireless triggers

In this session we worked together to construct a portable studio lighting set up. This kind of lighting is perfect for when travelling from place to place to shoot people, and for on location lighting, if wanting a burst of flash, but not wanting to be limited to just a speed lite. They are operated using a rechargeable battery pack therefore there are a limited amount of shots that can be fired on one charge. Usually this is about 200 flashes. Therefore when using this equipment on a shoot one must plan the shoot carefully beforehand, instead of just using it any old how. The power cord connects the flash head and the battery pack, and must be carefully aligned, plugged into and screwed on to the pack first, then the underneath of the light head. This pack powers 12 volts to the light head, but has the ability to power up to 22o volts! However the inverter magnifies the charge before the power can go through it. There are 2 mains settings according to how the light is being powered:
AC – Alternating Current – being powered by the mains (plugged into a socket)
DC – Direct Current – being powered by the 6/12 volts from the battery pack.
We used DC because we were powering it from the battery pack. On the back of the light head were the buttons that controlled the power being shot out if the light, this was from the range of 10-60. We shot at around 40.

Our set up (at first)
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The umbrella is used to diffuse the light, and the further away the umbrella is positioned from the bulb, the wider the light projects and the softer the light on the subject. Which also means the closer the umbrella to the bulb, the light doesn’t have chance to spread out and projects in a smaller, more focussed beam of light. This would be even more so if there was no umbrella at all.
We moved around from the first set up and set the light at an above 45 degree angle, and a side 45 degree angle, to create a Rembrandt style (the face being lit from one side and creating an upside down triangle of light under the eye on the other side) lighting on the face, from the right side of the subject(s).

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1/125 sec, f5.6, ISO 100

The meter reading gave an aperture of f5.6, however on my camera this was too dark (as I personally think Canon’s shoot a slightly darker, more contrasted image to Nikon’s – that most of my colleagues were using) therefore I adjusted a stop lighter and I felt these images were successful and aesthetically good lighting.

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All 3 shot at 1/125 sec, f4, ISO 100.

The set up…

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We then experimented with reflectors of different colours – white to take a little shadow out on the darker side of the face, gold to reflect back on to the face and create a colour cast. We also added some wings to add a concept to the image, and the reasoning for using a gold reflector, as this adds a ‘glow’ effect.

(All shot at 1/125 sec, f4, ISO 100)

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Here you can see the contrast between using a reflector and not:

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^ Without                              ^ With

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^ Stunning low key, contrasted images can be created with such lighting.

When the reflector is positioned differently it can also have an effect on the way the face looks:

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Here we have the reflector positioned below but at a few different angles.
The first image you can see there is still a shadow on the left side of his face, and the lights in his eyes show that the reflector is positioned underneath his chin, slightly to the right. This emphasises the light that is hitting him from above (the main light source), but carries it underneath too. The second image the reflector has been positioned slightly more to the left side of his face, underneath his chin. You can see the gold starting to move around to the darker side of his face/smile.

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Here the reflector is positioned directly at the opposite side to the light (left side of the model) – one from slightly below and one just from the side. It’s impressive how the reflector almost works as another light source on the second image, and completely balances out the shadows.

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Here I wanted to experiment with composition and combining this with the light source, create images that, using techniques, tell a story and make you want to know more.

I feel this was a success and really shows how lighting is – one of the most – important elements of a photograph. I am now educated in how to create this lighting – on location! and not have to necessarily ask the model to ‘come to the studio’ – but I can go to them! This creates much more leniency and enables me to be more creative and free with my photography, as well as being efficient.

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