Studio?! We don’t need no stinkin’ studios!!!! 8) So tonight I finally had the chance to do some portraits using a 3 light configuration. I’ve been dying to try out the beauty dish in a studio setup and so I finally got to do so tonight. I even persuaded some models to work with me. 🙂
So in the first setup, we did a single speed light that had been gelled as the background light. This light is directly behind the subject and lights the back plane. Then, I put the beauty dish up on a stand and used a silver reflector for the classic “clamshell” beauty light combo. It’s used lots in fashion stuff, but does very well on wrinkly people if you want to minimize wrinkles. The beauty dish chucks light down and the reflector fills in any shadows. It’s cool light. So this was the first setup of the night. Only 2 lights.
OK, next, in setup 2, I added an additional light to the background. This helps bathe that back plane in color/light. For the colour background shots I blasted them each with a gel. For the super white blown out high-key background, the lights were fired straight up with no gels. The beauty dish and reflector fill remain unchanged.
So, finally, we switched things up again for another cool look, still using only 3 lights. This time, I lit the background with a single gelled speed light. I still used the beauty dish/silver reflector combo as the main & fill lights. But, I added a 1/8th spot gridded hair light to add more dimension to the light. It makes a sweet little highlight/rim light that adds another layer of loveliness to the light.
I also got to do a comparison shot between umbrella light and the beauty dish. This is really neat to be able to see the difference in the quality of light. The umbrella light is unquestionably softer. It wraps more and it is more fitting for these little people. The beauty dish has far more contrast and hard edges in the light. But it just depends on what you want to accomplish in your lighting. Jostens and other portrait people almost always use huge soft boxes because they are the softest light on the planet. But for brassier shots, the beauty dish has more punch. Also, the catch lights in the eyes are more pleasing from the beauty dish (they’re round…like the eye) 😉
So there you go. Three lights put to good use. We have lighting, colour, gesture, direction, depth, and mood. Just by moving a few lights, you can have a tremendous amount of versatility! Gotta love that!
I’m now officially addicted to light modifiers. I can’t stand bare flash and I want to control and shape the light. Make it work for me. I’m open to just about any kind of solution and option available too. I don’t discriminate that much. 😉 Enter, the Gary Fong Lightsphere. It’s been around for a number of years now and had several updates and redesigns. The latest is the collapsible version. Before, you had to carry around an awkwardly sized tupperware bowl with you. They don’t fit well in your camera bag. They don’t fit well anywhere. So, the newest version remedied that problem. It collapses down to only an inch and a half in size. Pretty slick. That fits in the gear bag easily.
The general concept with the Lightsphere is to take the light from an external flash and make it bigger. Bigger light is softer light. More diffused light. More even light. Think of clouds in front of the sun. Light is softer and more diffused because the light source got bigger – instead of the 93,000,000 mile away sun (a huge light source, but so far away it’s small — like the light from a flash) – you have clouds becoming a giant soft box. The Lightsphere takes the small light and makes it bigger and spreads it out. That’s basically all it does, no magic. But it’s handy in SOME circumstances.
Hardcore strobists and professionals may poo poo the Lightsphere, calling it the “Fong-Dong” (due to its, *ahem*, Phallic design). And as a directional light shaping tool, it’s not that great. In fact, it’s downright poor. But, as a solution for on the move, candid “I need some soft diffused light and don’t have no time for off camera flash solutions” it rocks the set giving you really soft, flat, even,
boring, light. Plus the new version collapses down flat-ish so it fits in your bag nicer. Did I already mention that?! 😉
Don’s Photo sells this thing for $90 Canadian Bones. That’s a bloody ripoff for this thing. You can seriously get similar results by plopping a $3.00 tupperware bowl over your flash head. It’s not worth $90 bucks. B&H Photo sells it for $56.00. Any of my border folk friends reading this, have it shipped to Donna’s and save the mad cheddar on this. Even at $56 US bones, it’s still pricey. But then again, everything in photography is an overpriced ripoff.
Buy the Gary Fong Dong Lightsphere Collapsible if you: a) need a quick on-camera light solution b) don’t have time to do a much nicer off camera lighting setup c) have an extra $90 bones you don’t mind parting with.
Don’t buy the Gary Fong Dong Lightsphere Collapsible if you a) want/expect cool & nicer directional off camera lighting b) will lose sleep over losing $90 bucks.
In the gallery below are pictures of the Lightsphere Collapsible product itself, as well as sample shots from it being used in a real life lighting situation – candid shots from Ethan’s Birthday party. All those B-Day party shots are on camera in TTL mode. Finally there is a comparison shot of off-camera light modifiers using a bounce umbrella, shoot through umbrella, Lightsphere and a Soft Box, so you can take a look and see for yourself the quality of light that is produced.
I got a second flash from my folks for an early birthday present! (LOVE YOU!!!) 😉 And I’ve been putting it to good use. With just two lights you can create some pretty fun portraits. Throw in a set of Honl Gels and you’ve got a portable studio with you no matter where you go. And that’s what I like, having very simple and effective setups that can go anywhere and pretty much do anything. Versatile? You betcha! Person wants a shot, is wearing red and you only have a pink backdrop? Hmm. Unless you are going to a candy striping convention, it might be nicer to have something different back there. Now you can! A gelled second flash and a wall and away you go!
How can does this all work? Well it has to do with principle from physics called the inverse square law – which I’m not getting into here. Be it enough to say that light has depth of field and you can control it and use it to your advantage.. You can essentially light 2 different planes – one for the subject and one for the background. You’ve experienced this before. If you take a flash photo of someone close to your light, they’re super bright while the background is totally dark right? That’s why everyone hates “flash” photography. It looks crappy. BUT, you can use this law of light to your advantage. You can light subject and background independently of each other.
In all the portraits in this post, the subject is about 6 feet or so from a white wall. We put one gelled flash back near the wall and lit it up. We also made the flash shoot through objects to put the pattern up there. So you get color and pattern for the price of one. What a deal! Then, we used a shoot through umbrella with another flash to light the subject. It makes for a really cool, simple and effective portrait. You’re only limited to your imagination! Be sure to read more about this on the strobist blog, David Hobby rocks the set!
Last night my wife saw a spider and sent me on a mission to go squash it. She said, “it’s huge!” I said “is it Macro worthy?!” 😉 I get downstairs and behold, here’s a tiny spider about the size of your pinky nail. I thought it was cool and went and grabbed my macro setup. In this case I used off camera flash to add dimension to the photo. I noticed that this poor spider had lost a limb and had this big bubble of bug blood oozing off of it. Yuck! But a cool photo.
I new it was in trouble so I put it on a piece of white computer paper and card stock corner to act as a make shift light box. The light went from my SB-600 camera right and also from my pop up flash too to try and wrap light around the whole spider with minimal shadows. Worked out OK as an impromptu Macro shoot.
R.I.P. little spider. 😉
“Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.”
~ George Eastman
Don’t you just love those sage proverbs from the giants? I stumbled across this quote in a Kelby Training video. It is absolutely true and backs up my theme of ‘Light is Everything.’ Watching how other photographers use light is really amazing too. In Cliff Mautner’s Essentials of Creativity class he talks about how he uses light in extreme ways. Histograms?! “We don’t need no stinkin’ histograms!” he says. Hehhehehhehe… 🙂
When you know all the rules, you can break them – and it looks like you are breaking them on purpose vs. you look like a moron who doesn’t know what he is doing. The moron and the pro might do the exact same thing, but somehow, it is different when the person knows the light.
As an aside, George Eastman founded the Eastman Kodak Company and invented roll film, bringing photography to the masses. He was like digital v.0.01! 😉 He was also an incredible philanthropist donating millions of dollars to various causes and schools.