Small spaces are limiting? … nah

One of the most heard excuses is “my space is too small for a good shot”.
Well you might not be able to shoot a model in front of a white seamless, or fit in a whole family, or make a model jump (although that could be funny… for the photographer, not the model,….. nah don’t do it), but in essence EVERY location has potential as long as you use it to the max.


In this case we used a small staircase that is located at the back end of our studio and leads up to the “stage”. Our building is actually and old “church” and this was where the preacher was standing, it’s a tight space but for me it’s always fun to shoot there.


As you can see in the following shots I used some smoke to give the scene a bit more of an edge, but I also used my lighting to the max by moving around my model. Now always remember that smoke acts as both a diffuser and reflector so the more smoke you get… well let me put it this way, it’s always different. Also remember that as soon as the smoke gets in between the model and the front light source “all bets are off” smoke will start to act as a reflector and it will be one big white out.


We used one Elinchrom beauty dish with grid from the front and one gridded (and later open) reflector from the back with a blue gel.
Styling and model : Nadine

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For the next one I left in a bit more red.

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But you don’t always have to use the same pose of course…..
Why not shoot one from the back for example.

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And while you’re at it. Why not move around your model and get a completely different look?

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As you can see with the same light setup and the same very tight space you can create something really cool… just think outside the box… or in these kind of cases probably inside the box 😀


Good luck.

When something goes wrong

You of course always want that everything works as planned, especially that your strobes fire when you want them to.
But sometimes the effects can be interested. Now I’ve shot images like this before but I loved the responses of the group when only my backlight fired…. to make a long story short, we ended up doing some more of these……

So make sure that you always experiment with your light setups, don’t always fire all strobes, but intentionally sometimes just fire a few or only one, you might be surprised.Nadine Digital classroom September 23 2015 0272

Tip: Directional lighting or character lighting

One of the first things people ask me when they visit our studio is why I use so many soft boxes with grids.
And I understand, in a lot of studios you will find plenty soft boxes but often without grids. Of course it depends greatly on what you do with your light and what your personal style is, that goes without saying.


I always explain it as follows
“Light is the paint you tell your story with, but it also dictates the character of your model/subject”


Now what do I mean with this.
I strongly believe that if you shoot a model in jeans and tanktop you have to be lighting wizard and have a great model to make something that’s really WOW because well… there’s not much going on. Now as soon as you throw in styling and a great location things get interesting and even with a huge softbox images can already look awesome, but you actually look at the styling and background “Only”.


Light can be manipulated and what photographers often don’t realize is that light can actually enhance a character of the model/subject. Think about Peter and the Wolf (Sergei Prokofiev) which in essence is a learning tool for children to learn the different instruments in an orchestra, but it’s so much more. Every instrument has it’s own “voice/character” you immediately hear if something is BAD, big, small, happy, old etc. it’s actually a stunning piece of work when you think about it. Now how do we translate this to lighting?


Very simple.
If you want something to be bright and friendly use large soft light sources.
If you want something eerie, aggressive or full of character use harder light sources.
Now you don’t hear me say you can’t shoot an elf with harsh light… but it doesn’t really make sense if you want something to be nice and free.


Hollywood uses this technique for… well for ever. They even add a lot of toning to this. Think about the Matrix with it’s distinct green and blue tones, or Titanic with it’s beautiful reds, but also Saving Private Ryan with the high shutter speed material and damaged almost BW material… the list goes on an on and on, and still for a lot of photographers light is …. well just light.


Try to image a story with every single shot and adjust your lighting to this.
This is one of the reasons I love to be able to really steer my light (hence the grids), it opens up a lot of possibilities. But there are of course a lot more different sources you can use, for example the Westcott Ice Light (but make sure you use the barn doors), or what about led panels (we use LedGo), the possibilities are endless as soon as you start to see light as character.


For example here two images from Nadine shot with VERY directional and aimed light.



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So the next time you shop for lighting make sure you are able to add grids later on, we love to work with a company called Honeycombgrids who makes grids for almost any modifier you will probably use, and they are pretty inexpensive (highly recommend them)
But most of all realize that light actually creates character, and shadows are the soul of a shot.
Good luck.


Want to learn more on model photography check out my book Mastering the model shoot and our instructional videos (via this site), or of course check out kelbyone.

Feathering the light

One of the most powerful things you can do with light is actually something that is often not used by most photographers.
Every light source has a similar behavior (some more some less), the middle is pretty harsh and bright and the more you go to the edges the softer but also dimmer the light gets. With some light sources this is less obvious and with some it’s very obvious but the following trick works for all.


When we “normally” light a model we are used to aim the light source directly at the model, meaning the model is in the hotspot, however this also means that the light falls off near the model in all directions. In other words the model is in a sort of “bubble” of light. Normally this is not really a problem, but if you place your model next to a wall and you want less light on the wall this is often not so perfect. This is where feathering comes into play.


If you feather your light you actually aim your light away from the model and in essence you light the model with the sides of the light, meaning less power but also in almost all cases a nicer light quality (softer).


In this example you can see the effect with our model Sanne and a LedGo led panel we normally use for video.
The wall is highly reflective and when you light your model in the hotspot the image will not be pretty (to say the least), by feathering you can create some very nice vignetting on the wall, get some nice light on the model and the end result is much more pleasing. Of course you can still walk around the model for less or more contrast as you can see in the examples.


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the setupSanne October 16 2015 0054

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