Today's post comes from the book The Digital Photographers Guide to Light Modifiers by Allison Earnest. It is available from and other fine retailers.

This series of images was created for Sarah Jarvela, an aspiring model. The concept of the shoot was to create three different personalities in a one-hour session. I chose to start with a strong headshot using a traditional four light setup (photo below). To obtain a pure white background, the model was positioned close to the white background so the lights illuminating the set would also illuminate the background. (Incidentally, the background lights were adjusted to record 11/2 stop brighter than the main light, ensuring a clean white background.) Two side kicker/accent lights, both fitted with directional grids, were placed just behind Sarah to create very hard, directional accents on the sides of her face. The main light was a medium softbox, placed high on a boom stand at a 45-degree angle to camera right, high and above the camera axis.

This headshot was created using hard-edge double kickers. SUBJECT: Sarah. CAMERA: Nikon
D300, 24–70mm f/2.8 lens, Lexar media. SETTINGS: AWB, manual mode, 1/100 second, f/20, ISO 200.

For the next photo, I simply powered down the two accent lights to the right and left of the model, moving them further from the middle of the background. Additionally, the model was moved farther from the background to ensure a crisp, neutral gray background. Remember the Inverse Square Law!

The accent lights were turned off to create a simple photograph of Sarah. SUBJECT: Sarah. CAMERA: Nikon D300, 24–70mm f/2.8 lens, Lexar media. SETTINGS: AWB, manual mode, 1/125 second, f/16, ISO 200.

The funky pink chair seen in photo below had sat in my prop room for quite some time just waiting for the right session. Sarah’s choice of pink clothing proved to be the perfect pairing. With the same main light (a medium softbox) attached to a boom stand, placed close to the model and pointed down, the light was very soft. Two softboxes, attached to monolights, were used as kickers—so the light accenting the model was also soft and diffused. The light on Sarah’s right leg came from a small strip softbox. Lastly, the background lights were turned on. The model was quite pleased with all the images she received and was surprised how different they all appeared in such a short session.

Changing to a 80–200 f/2.8 lens compressed this image nicely. A kicker was also added to the
right of the model for increased separation. SUBJECT: Sarah. CAMERA: Nikon D300, 80–200mm f/2.8 lens, Lexar media. SETTINGS: AWB, manual mode, 1/100 second, f/16, ISO 200.


Staying updated with the latest photography equipment, props, and techniques is essential to creating fresh images. On a recent trip to Photo Plus Expo in New York City, I fell in love with Drop it Modern backgrounds ( One of their unique, custom fabric backgrounds proved to be perfect for the next set of images, shot for my friend Michelle Lopez.

The background, made of heavy fabric with black velvet patterns, absorbed a tremendous amount of light. To illuminate it, a Speedotron focusable spotlight was used with custom cookies/gobos designed by Colorado CustomMetal ( The focusable spot, attached to its own 1200W power pack, produces intense, direct light that allows cookies to be placed between the modeling light and the lens for special effects.

The Speedotron focusable spotlight can be used with a custom cookie (here, flowers) to produce designs on backgrounds or for special effects

For the next photo, the main light was a single Hensel Integra monolight with a 22-inch silver beauty dish and white diffusion sock attached. Two kickers/accent lights with 7-inch parabolics and barndoors were placed to the left and right of the model to add further separation and depth. These were set to record at one stop more than the main light. As you can see in the set scene, the camera-right kicker was further diffused with a white scarf. The barn doors on the other kicker were closed to create a more directional light source.

Kickers to either side of the model added separation and depth. Notice that the lights were modified with barndoors to control the light illuminating the subject SUBJECT: Michelle Lopez. CAMERA: Nikon D300, Lexar media. SETTINGS: AWB, manual mode, 1/125 second, f/6.3, ISO 200.

The photo below was created by turning off the main light (the beauty dish) and the focusable spot. I also changed the model’s position and moved the monolight with the barndoors (to camera left) higher and closer to the model. This became my new main light. An incident-light reading was taken and the exposure adjusted accordingly. Just by moving a couple lights and changing the model’s pose, I produced a very different photograph in one session. Try to think outside of the box and you’ll be amazed how your style will change.

This is the same lighting setup as in the previous photo—except the light with the barndoors (to camera left) was positioned closer to the subject to become the main light. The Speedotron spotlight was turned off and the right kicker repositioned to the pose. SUBJECT: Michelle Lopez. CAMERA: Nikon D300, Lexar media. SETTINGS: AWB, manual mode, 1/125 second, f/8, ISO 200.

No comments:

Post a Comment