Having written a bit about shooting documentary style photos I want to give you some tips on how to do basic lighting in a studio for portrait, fashion and commercial purposes. This is a shot from one of my assignments at Norsk Fotofagskole. It was a part of the photo marathon we had the last semester in second grade. The task was to shoot a commercial for glasses. We got the assignment early Tuesday morning at it was due to the day after. Having quite a few friends in Trondheim I started making calls finding models suited for these types of photos. I got two yes-es and had hoped for just one, but since I had the opportunity and it didn’t do much to have two models I booked both models. The next step in completing this task was to get the main accessories and getting an idea of what the final result should look like. I went straight to a shop that sold spectacles and asked them to lend me some glasses. Making a deal with them sending them photos after the shoot I got to borrow quit a few spectacles. Next up I had to figure out what my models should wear. Since I had experience shooting school portraits and glasses is something many can relate to studying I wanted to have this kind of feel to the photo, but raising the idea of quality by having the models tie their hair back and wearing straight, light colored shirts.
With the help of my friend Sascha Njaa I rigged the studio and did the shoot in two hours. Here is what I wrote almost two years ago about the technical specifications:
Lighting the scene
This picture is lit by four Elinchrom BX Ri 500. There are two flash heads with strip-light softbox on each sides and behind the models pointing at an 45 degree angel at them, one flash head at a tripod with a beauty dish and grid almost straight on the models and one octabank shooting straight into the ceiling on the left side and about a two meters away from the model. I have also two polystyrene boards with the black side facing the models and another one with white side up in front and facing up reflecting into the models eyes.
So why do I use this lighting setup? Setting up a studio like this from back to front as I usually do I want a main light source to light my subjects. The ABC of lighting techniques you should always set up a flattering light, the types of lighting varies from model to model and from expression to expression on the models. Having two models some might say that I complicated the scene a bit, but having the right equipment and an idea before you start rigging the studio, it helps a lot. The main light source in a typical school portrait comes from a slight angle, the more know Rembrant-light comes from an angle of 45 degrees from either the left or the right side of the subject and the nose is casting a shadow across the face furthest away from the light source. It also creates a triangular light shape beneath the eye furthest away. This models the face quite drastic which was not in my plan. Another setup that I use quite often is the butterfly lighting that I used at this particular shot. The main light placed straight in front and above of the model pointing slightly down making the nose casting the shadow straight above the subjects over lip. To even out the shadow that can be a bit to sharp I placed a white board below the models angeling it upwards and evening out the shadow and also casting light into the iris. The second light I set up was what I call an ambient light to further lighten the faces but also the background in the scene. Modifying this light source with a large octabank / softbox this doesn’t do much to the shadows in the models faces but evens out harsh shadows created with the beauty dish (main light) even more than the white board below the models. It also helps me light my white background a bit so it does not turn totally dark, but gives it some tone to it. The two black boards on the left and right of the models adds some contrast to the subjects. Had it just been just white walls around the studio the colors would look a bit washed out. The two light sources on the left and right, positioned further back of the models gives highlights to both the shoulders and the sides of the models helping me sculpt out their faces. In straight on school portraits you just might use two light sources, one main light and one on the background. Shooting with a white background, depending on the setup, stray light might do the same job as the two light sources behind the models. The two light sources behind the models are modified with two strip light softboxes. This is because I don’t want any light spill on the background and I also want large light to hit the models faces not creating any harsh shadows.
Shooting portraits in studio you might consider having a plan for each shoot, bring some accessories in form of clothes or spectacles to give the model something to work with. Plan the lighting and the feel before starting rigging the studio. It also helps having an assistant to help you out both rigging and giving you creative feedback as you work towards a final photo.