Super Simple Lighting Setups to Kickstart Your Fashion Career with Jeff Rojas

August 2nd, 2016


Super Simple Lighting Setups to Kickstart Your Fashion Career with Jeff Rojas


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the August issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


Strobe lighting can feel extremely intimidating when you’re first trying to understand light. What constitutes great lighting? What would a professional photographer consider great lighting versus terrible lighting? The truth of the matter is that it’s an extremely subjective topic among most photographers, and you’ll rarely find two photographers who wholeheartedly agree with one another regarding what defines great lighting. That’s simply because every photographer has their own preferred style of lighting, albeit some more traditional than others. The fashion industry isn’t any different.


Let’s begin by noting this important tip: Fashion lighting focuses on the attire in an image. Your job is to navigate the audience’s attention to whatever subject matter you’re trying to showcase. For example, if you were photographing a commercial campaign for running shoes, you’d probably want to highlight the shoes in an image. While that sounds pretty rudimentary, I often see photographers who forget that simple concept. You’ll see photographers who want to break into the fashion industry focusing more on the subject and not on the clothing, and that’s counterproductive. Obviously this rule can be broken, but I recommend sticking to it until you can master navigating the audience’s attention successfully.


Throughout this article, I’ll dissect a couple of lighting styles for fashion photographs. The idea behind these setups is for you to use them to create your own lighting style. Draw inspiration from each lighting setup to recreate something you can call your own.




Simplicity is such a beautiful thing. This is one of my go-to lighting setups for fashion editorials and look books because it’s a simple setup that can easily be converted to a mobile lighting kit. This image uses a Deep Parabolic Umbrella in Rembrandt position, which is 45 degrees from our subject and 45 degrees overhead. For this image, my modifier is the Profoto Umbrella Deep White XL with diffusion material. My light is placed around 6 to 8 feet from the subject and my subject is 4 to 5 feet from the background to ensure that both my subject and the background are lit evenly.


If you find that the lighting is too dark on the shadow side, you have a couple of options. Introduce a reflector or white V-flat on the opposite side of the light. You can also place a second light with a softbox to fill in some of the shadows. If you decided to use a second light, you’ll want to be very cautious of cross light, as the second light will produce its own shadow if the light isn’t dim enough. To test the shadow of your second light in this case, turn off your main light temporarily and use the second light only to see if there is any shadow produced. This is a setup any photographer should feel comfortable using in a pinch.




If you’ve ever gone through my portfolio, you know just how much I love dramatic lighting setups. Most of my images have lots of contrast and texture. That’s because contrast and texture go hand in hand. You cannot see texture without contrast or shadow. Any object or person that is evenly and flatly lit does not have a lot of texture. While flat, even lighting is great on the face in order to reduce skin blemishes, it’s not always great in showcasing clothing (which is the point of fashion photography). Designers spend countless hours selecting intricate pieces of material to use in their work, along with piping, tulle and metalwork to complement them. If you’re using flat light to photograph clothing, you’re likely doing a disservice to the designer.


The set of images in Figures 1.5 and 1.6 were shot using a very simple lighting concept. The main light is placed to accentuate the subject’s face, the second light is placed to accentuate her clothing and the third is placed to light the background.


The main light is modified by a silver reflector, which creates a lot of contrast on the subject’s cheekbones, but it’s also placed far enough away so the light is broad enough to light the top half of her body. The second light is a beauty dish with a diffuser, placed on the opposite side and 45 degrees from our subject. It helps us lighten the shadows in the image. This ensures the shadows do not fall to black. The final light is an open gridded beauty dish placed to our subject’s side, used interchangeably between images, depending on where I’m trying to draw the subject’s attention. For example, the background light is used in Figure 1.5 to ensure the earring can be seen and that the audience’s eyes are drawn to that area.




My favorite high-key setup is far from traditional. I learned it from one of my first photography mentors, and modified it to fit a subject full length. This setup requires a bit of creativity and a less technical approach.


The main light in this image is a 21-inch white beauty dish with diffusion material, and our second light is a 6×4-foot softbox directly behind our subject, also with diffusion material. The subject is placed about a foot from the background light, as you can see in the image in Figure 1.12. Use your subject to block the strobe light from flashing directly into the camera. The main light is placed 2 to 3 feet from your subject and facing down 45 degrees to accentuate her jawline and cheekbones, while simultaneously creating lots of texture in the metal pieces on her dress. The main light does a great job of creating lots of contrast and texture in her hair, accentuating her beautiful braid.


This is a simple setup that creates a lot of drama. It requires very little equipment to produce, so it’s great for those who are shooting in their living room, second bedroom or garage.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the August issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Choosing Portable Light Modifiers with Michael Anthony

August 2nd, 2016


Choosing Portable Light Modifiers with Michael Anthony


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We hear the saying all the time: Light is light. But not all light is created equal. The secret to natural and beautiful light is the right modifier for any given situation. While I love the thought of carrying a 5-foot softbox to every shoot, as a location-based wedding photographer, it’s not practical to carry around an entire studio kit.


Your gear should not be a hindrance to connecting with your client. I have always found that it is best to be able to set your gear up and break it down in a matter of seconds rather than take minutes to set up an off-camera lighting shot. While understanding your gear is very important to making sure you are able to quickly get the shot you need, the type of lighting modifiers you choose is just as important.


This article looks at how to choose modifiers for portable lights like speedlights and the Profoto B2 system.


How to Choose the Right Modifier


Before understanding when to use each modifier, it’s important to understand exactly how each modifier behaves. Modifiers increase or decrease the softness, output and fall-off of your light source. There are three basic things you need to understand about light modifiers before applying them in the field.


  1. The larger the light source in relation to the subject, the softer the light.


When you choose a large light modifier such as an octobox, your light will appear softer. By softer, I mean the transition between light and shadow. Softness refers to the amount of gradient between the two light points. Keep in mind that distance from the subject affects the softness of a light source. The sun is a huge light source, but because it is 92 million miles away from Earth, it causes hard shadows on subjects. If you placed a speedlight extremely close to a wedding ring, the light would appear softer because of the size of the speedlight in relation to the surface of the ring.


  1. The closer the light source is to the subject, the quicker the fall-off of the light.


This is simple physics, and can be illustrated with the inverse square law of light. As a light source gets closer to a subject, perceptive contrast may increase since the light falls off more quickly into the shadow areas. This is important to understand because the closer a light is to a subject, the softer it is. That is generally true, but contrast from fall-off can make a light appear harsh. Removing a light source a bit farther away from a subject, you are allowing the light to essentially wrap around them, which could give you a perfect blend of softness and correct fall-off.


  1. The color of light varies in different circumstances.


The color theory of light took me longer to understand than any of the subjects I listed above. The reason many images look unnatural when using flash is that the color of the flash does not match the ambient light in the scene. The key to good-looking flash images is to take into account hardness, softness and color. Color is one of the easiest factors to control with flash.



The Best Modifiers for Portable Flash


We use a variety of portable modifiers for our flashes. The key factors for me are portability and durability. We have used all of these modifiers, and through our experience, these are the best ones to use for wedding and location-based shoots.


  1. Walls


I don’t think you were expecting walls in my list of portable modifiers. At most locations, walls are readily available, and they don’t have to be carried from set to set. The way we use walls on location is to bounce light off of them to instantly soften an artificial light source. Because walls are attached to structures, it is easy to find ones that are large enough to create a soft light source. You won’t find a softer light source than this out in the field.


By placing your subject close to a wall and placing a light directly behind them pointing at the wall, you are creating beautiful short-side light on the faces of your subjects. If you are not doing this now, try it on your next shoot, and I promise it will blow your mind.


  1. Softboxes/Umbrellas/Collapsible Reflectors


Softboxes or umbrellas are the obvious choice when you are looking to soften lights in an open area where there are no walls. These work great in a park or natural area where there are not many natural places to modify light. Choose a softbox that is collapsible or small enough to be carried easily. I use the Westcott Rapid Box to modify speedlights, or the Profoto OCF 2-foot octobox if you are using the B2 system. Note that the latter is not collapsible and must be carried, but it is light enough to not cause too many problems. These light sources soften light enough to give you a good balance of portability and quality of light.


I often use five-in-one reflectors to add fill to my off-camera flash, or to modify natural light. I use a 42-inch collapsible model that easily folds up into the laptop area of my shoulder bag. Reflectors often require an assistant to operate correctly, so when I am shooting solo, I do not use them except when the client is willing to hold it underneath their chin.


  1. Grids


Grids are a necessity to help control light spill from your flash. While having an assistant available to feather light is wonderful, it is not always practical. The grids we use are part of the MagMod system. MagMods are an intuitive flash modification system that allows you to control the color and spill of speedlights. The trade-off is that they increase the footprint of your flash by adding large magnets to the head of the light, reducing portability. The gel system allows you to control the color of light, which we will talk about next.


  1. Gels


Flash gels provide color control of your speedlights and strobes. They are a necessity for creating light that is natural and matches the ambient light in a given scene. MagMod has created very useful flash gels as part of its modification system for speedlights. They allow you to use creative or corrective color. Get the MagWallet to organize your gels—they are very easy to lose and expensive to replace over simple Velcro gels. I also love the Profoto OCF gel system to modify the color of my Profoto strobes.



How to choose the best modifiers for a given situation


The answer to this question is both simple and complex. The simple answer is that you choose the modifier that best matches the conditions of the ambient light. For instance, if you are shooting on a cloudy day and there are soft shadows everywhere, use a soft light source to match the ambient light in the scene. If you are shooting at noon outdoors, use bare flash to match the hard shadows caused by the overhead sun.


The complex answer is that rules are made to be broken and the vision of the creative director takes precedence over general rules in any given situation. As the artist, you are making creative decisions daily based on your style, expertise and the needs of your client. If your style of photography consists of hard light and sharp shadows, you made the decision to use a harder light source in a softer ambient environment.


Another rule to consider is to match the color of your light with the ambient light in the scene. This is always more believable than the result you get using light at 5200k (the native color of flash). Outdoors, the sun is typically lighting a scene, and I prefer to use either a 1/4 or 1/2 CTO gel to match the color of the sun. In open shade, or when your scene is lit primarily with the blue sky, it is best to use the bare flash, but when you have sunlight in your scene, match the color of your light to that of the sun.


In addition, when you are indoors, pay attention to the color of the ambient light. You will be shooting with incandescent or fluorescent overhead lighting, so it’s important to have those gels available.


Like all rules, this rule can be broken. If you read my article on creative color balance in the lighting edition of Shutter last year, you saw how we use gels to completely change the color of ambient light in a scene.


Lastly, when purchasing modifiers, it’s essential to look into brands that are durable and consistent. Profoto, Westcott and MagMod are all high quality. While they can be pricier, I have found over and over again that it’s best to spend the money one time rather than twice because the first product broke when you needed it. Trust me on this.


For a more in-depth look into the modifiers we use, check out our video.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the August issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

6 Lighting Tips for Bodyscapes with Matt Meiers

August 2nd, 2016


6 Lighting Tips for Bodyscapes with Matt Meiers


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the August issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


Bodyscapes are the perfect addition to boudoir and fitness photography. Some potential clients may hesitate at first, and understandably so. Posing for photos that reveal so much of themselves can be quite unnerving.


“I was a little worried that all the insecurities I have about my body would stand out in pictures,” clients have said.


Then, when their curiosity takes over, they just can’t get over that feeling of, “What if I posed for photos like that? How good could I look?”

Now that the thought has been planted, let’s get you started. Lighting bodyscape photography can be very simple. Having said that, it can also be quite frustrating, since just the slightest movement of your light, subject or camera can make a world of difference.


Some of these tips may also apply to fitness photography and other genres, but for now, I’ll stick with bodyscapes.

1. Have a plan.

It goes without saying you should start with a plan. What are your client’s goals? What do you want your final image to look like?


  • Silhouette?
  • Just a hint of light grazing across a shoulder or collarbone?
  • Dramatic hard light accentuating unique facial features?
  • Maybe some nice light brushing gently across your subject’s torso or lower back?
  • Do you want the light hard or soft?


You may not want to use the same light and modifiers to make her collarbones pop as you would to show the smooth curves of thighs, hips and waist. One of the great things about shooting bodyscapes is once you get it right in camera, there’s not much editing to be done in post-production. Depending on the type of photos you’re going to be taking, you may not even need to have hair and makeup done.

2. Background.

If you’re going for impact, a black background is best. If you have access to a black backdrop, use it. If you don’t, shoot toward the open side of the room and raise your shutter speed to knock down the ambient light. Just remember that if you are using a flash, don’t go higher than your camera’s sync speed, or you will get that nasty black bar across your photo.

3. Grids, barn doors and flags, oh my.

Controlling the light is a very important aspect of bodyscapes. I use a combination of grids, barn doors, flags and whatever else it takes. If you’re not shooting full-length body photos, a smaller stripbox will work fine. Most of the photos in this article were shot with a Paul C. Buff Einstein with an 8×36-inch softbox, along with an egg-crate grid. There is no reason you can’t use natural light, or even a ringlight, for bodyscapes. If you don’t have strobes or access to a window, you should be able to find a speedlight, trigger, small white umbrella and stand for a little over $100.

4. Move your camera. Move your lights. Move your subject.

If you’re not getting the results you want, don’t give up and move to an entirely new pose and lighting setup. Move one of these three things: light, camera or subject. Don’t move all three at once. The slightest adjustment can cause very dramatic changes.

First, move the camera. It’s the easiest of the three to move, and you’ll see new results the quickest. It may be best to start off on a tripod so there’s no guesswork about where you were when you shot that last frame, and you won’t need to reposition yourself because your tripod is already there.

If you’re not getting the shadows exactly where you want them, feather your light in one direction, then the opposite. Now move your light up, then down. Use your modeling light when you’re shooting with strobes if you can.

5. Experiment.

I love to experiment. One of the best opportunities to do so is at ShutterFest. If you have never been, you owe it to yourself to change that. The number of people willing to pose for the camera, both models and photographers, never ceases to amaze me. There are people all over the place sharing ideas, time and even equipment. With a plethora of wardrobe options and people willing to assist you, it just cannot be beat.

  1. Practice.Don’t have a model? That’s okay. Just use a mannequin, a peach or nectarine. Yes, fruit. You mean you never noticed how much a peach looks like a derriere?

    We photographers have dream jobs. There aren’t many people circling the sun right this second who can make the impact we do with our clients. So, if you’ve never tried bodyscapes, I challenge you to start now.


One memorable bodyscape client wrote this of her experience with me: “Then he showed me one where I felt like I looked phenomenal. I’m not an overly emotional person, but I just started crying because for the first time, I felt like I had long, thin legs and a trim, sexy body. I felt pretty. I felt sexy. I’m crying again as I write this because I’m truly overwhelmed by how amazing this whole experience has made me feel.”


But I think I got more out of that session than my client.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the August issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

How I Use Light to Shape My Style with Sal Cincotta

August 2nd, 2016


How I Use Light to Shape My Style with Sal Cincotta


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the August issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


Lighting offers probably one of the easiest ways for you to stand out from your competitors, mostly because of the endless ways it can be used and the seemingly complex nature of understanding how to both shape and control light.


I learned early in my career that all light is not created equally. You have to control the light. Merely turning on your flash does not make you a lighting expert. I have learned to respect light. After 10 years of shooting as a professional, I am still a student of light. Where I was once intimidated by it, I am now fascinated by what you can do with it.


I encourage you all to be curious about light. It doesn’t matter what kind of light—off-camera flash, studio strobes, natural light, Ice Lights—be curious and experiment.


In a world where “everyone is a photographer,” how in the world do you stand out? If you have been following my messaging at all, you know I am constantly talking about standing out from the crowd and the myriad ways to do so. Lighting is a perfect way to do it. The average beginner is terrified of light. Perhaps better stated, terrified of anything other than natural light. They don’t understand power, shaping, balance, etc. This is a perfect opportunity for you to figure this out and rise above your competitors.


This leads me to my point: How do I use light to shape my style?


There is no substitute for speed.


If there’s one thing that makes me batshit crazy, it’s watching photographers stumble in front of the client using their gear. Speed. There is no substitute. You are not Annie Leibovitz. Give it a rest. You are working with normal clients who don’t have time for all your technical lighting ratios and chimping in the back of the camera. If you are a wedding or baby photographer, good luck on a hot summer day getting a bride to stand around for 20 minutes while you get dialed in. And that baby? Yeah, she is more than likely screaming bloody murder after just 60 seconds.


You have to learn how to move with speed and efficiency unless you are working at a commercial level, where you have the luxury of more time and extra hands, versus a wedding day where the bride decided to give you 20 minutes to get all the creative shots.


That speed, no matter what your niche is, comes with practice. I have learned over the years, through lots of practice, how to get to my vision with the tools available very quickly. In fact, here is something not many people know about me or my studio: No matter how much I have spent on a piece of equipment, it doesn’t come out of the box or get used in production until I have read the entire manual and had at least one chance to get out there and practice with it. This simple best practice allows me to get comfortable with a new piece of equipment and ensure I can work with it quickly to keep my clients from getting bored or frustrated watching me try to figure out my new gear.


Practice new techniques.


There are a million ways to light something. That is part of the beauty of what we do. Lighting is its own art. This is what has made me a student of light. I am always trying new techniques. It can be something I see in my mind, something I saw a commercial photographer do or something I saw in a Hollywood movie.


My process is to reverse-engineer a look. By reverse-engineering, I learn how they did it and, in the process, I am practicing and gaining a better understanding of light.


From there, I want to add my own flare to it. I start practicing and altering what I just learned until I find something that feels like me and my style. Don’t overcomplicate practice. You can practice on a can of soda, you can practice on a dummy or you can practice on a friend. Grab someone, anyone. It’s not about the final image. That’s not the point here. The point when I am practicing is to learn about the light. I usually don’t have a plan to use the final image, so my subject—and what they are wearing or what their makeup looks like—is usually irrelevant.


To modify or not?


The next step is figuring out light modifiers. Modifiers allow you to control and shape the light. Obviously, the bigger the light modifier, the softer the light. However, soft light might not be what you are after. This is where you need to practice. I will admit, this becomes a little tough without spending money on equipment. This is what trade shows are for. Visit any of the lighting booths at a trade show for demonstrations of light shaping tools.


Keep in mind, we can be talking about speedlights or studio strobes, but the effect is the same. You need to control the light, or you look like a complete amateur with light all over the place. We call this light spill. It’s a sign the photographer has no idea what he is doing and is not in control of his light. Don’t get me wrong—sometimes, when moving fast, we can get a little sloppy. If that’s the case, you’d better be able to fix this in post production, or the image won’t have that professional look. We always strive to get it right in camera.


Here are some of my favorite tools for modification.


For speedlights, I love the Rapid Boxes by Westcott. These travel well and are cost effective. And when it comes to ease of use, there is nothing better. It gives you ultimate portability.


For strobes, I am a huge fan of the Profoto B1 and B2. I love their new collapsible beauty dish when I’m using any sort of light modifier. When portability is a nonissue, I love their metal beauty dishes, both white and silver, and their grids for more control.


Something else to consider for any light source are grids, gels and snoots. These are things I have in my bag of tricks at all times. I may not use them, but when I need them, I need them. Over time, you will need to built your lighting kit. There is nothing worse than not having what you need to make a great image.


Regardless of what you decide to do here, just know that this will have a dramatic impact on your look and feel.


The right tool for the job.


I don’t just go out there and buy all the latest and greatest toys—although, trust me, I want to. There is nothing more limiting than not having the tools you need when you need them. Above, I mention this regarding light modifiers, but it also pertains to the actual light.


There are times when a speedlight just doesn’t give you enough power. Imagine a wedding or high-school senior shoot on location at 1 in the afternoon with a high sun. That speedlight is not going to put out enough power. In addition, the recycle time will be five seconds between shots. That’s just not going to fly. In a situation like this, you need a strobe putting out much more power. I would use my B1 putting out 500 watts of power versus the 60-ish of a speedlight. There is no comparing the two, but we need both in our toolkit.


Now, let’s flip this. Let’s say we are working in a hotel room with a bride getting ready or we are in someone’s home for a newborn session. We might need a little pop of light—could be a main light or filling for shadows. Either way, a B1 puts out way too much light. It’s like bringing in a jackhammer when all you need is a screwdriver.


Then, of course, there are other scenarios where we need something soft, instant and WYSIWYG. Enter the Ice Light 2 from Westcott. Yes, I travel with all of these, because each has its own strengths and weaknesses.


Photographers get all too caught up in the latest and greatest cameras and lenses—which is very important, but lighting tools will last you. They are worth investing in. Build your toolbox very much like a carpenter does. Have you ever seen a carpenter run around with just a screwdriver and a hammer? If so, I promise you don’t want this person working on anything for you.


Go for the dramatic.


You still need to figure out what your style is all about. There is no right or wrong answer here. I only encourage you to seek consistency—in your lighting, which impacts your marketing, which impacts your website, which impacts the clients you attract. I don’t get clients looking for “open and airy” images. It’s just not my style. I don’t show pictures like that on my website. I don’t shoot that way or light that way. So there is no confusion with my clients. In fact, my clients often see an image online and say to me, “I knew this was one of yours!” Yes! That’s exactly what I want.


With all those tools at my disposal, I lean toward a hard-edged light. No light modifiers and directional. If I have a choice, I usually use a silver reflector versus a white one—again, for that hard specular light. This technique can be seen in many of my images on my site and in my portfolio. Does that mean I never use anything else? Of course not. If I am working a headshot, I light it a little differently than I would a bridal or beauty portrait.


By lighting this way, I have created a look and feel for my images that allows me to stand out in a saturated market. Without an alternate light source, there is no way to accomplish this look and feel that allows me to stand out and create impactful images my clients love.


It all starts with experimentation. Get out there with one goal in mind: play. Play around with lighting, modifiers and techniques, and see what happens. You’ve heard of the “happy accident”? Well, sometimes that accident becomes your signature look. Don’t be afraid to be a student and learn. We all started somewhere. And for me, the journey will never end. Every day, I want to be a better photographer.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the August issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Understanding Lighting Patterns with Craig LaMere

August 2nd, 2016


Understanding Lighting Patterns with Craig LaMere


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the August issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


When I first got into photography, I had no idea how much goes into creating amazing images. I thought you were either blessed with artistic talent or you were not, and that is what made certain photographers great and others not so great. Since I have been in the industry for a little bit, I have found that what I thought about talent is kind of true and kind of not true. What I have found out, from all my speaking and teaching I do around the country, is there is definitely not a lack of talent out there. There are some amazingly talented shooters, but what is missing is a lack of fundamental knowledge of the individual parts of photography.


While there is a lot of commonality in the different genres of photography, like composition, exposure and aperture, there are a lot of very specific points of knowledge in the different genres. Landscape photography has certain challenges that product photography does not. Commercial photography has pitfalls that photojournalism does not.


Trying to tackle all the parts in one article would turn this into War and Peace, so this month, I address the basics of lighting and lighting patterns. Understand light patterns and how to use them to convey any mood you want, any look you want, so you become an educated creator and not just a talented picture taker.


Lighting patterns have been around since even before anyone thought it would be a good idea to invent the camera, and have been used by painters forever. I have racked my brain trying to remember where and when I was introduced to lighting patterns, but I can’t for the life of me remember. I just know I was introduced to them or I stumbled across them, and they became the foundation of how I shoot people.


I’m a huge believer in previsualization when it comes to creating images. I feel like I should be about 95 percent sure what my images are going to look like before I ever push the shutter button. When your client comes to you with a vision in mind for their shoot, they expect you to be able to deliver their wants. Some clients might want a soft glamor look they saw in a magazine. Some clients might want a super-badass look like they see with professional athletes in ad campaigns. Some clients might want a very stoic and proper portrait to hang in their office.


Each of these scenarios is very different, and each one has a totally different type of light or different combinations of light to create the look. Over the next few issues, I will cover some of the combinations you can use to create any look you can dream up. This month I lay out what I believe to be the foundation of lighting: lighting patterns.


Split Light


Split lighting is when you have divided the subject into two halves with light. One half is in the light and the other half is in the shadows. The light comes directly from one side and a horizontal plane splits the face or body in half.


When to Use: I use short split lighting when I want a very dramatic and moody image. I either split the face or the body.


General Setup Directions: The key is to not let light that is unwanted spill onto the lit part of the subject. Place your gridded strip light, on a horizontal plane, on the side you want to light, and feather the light just enough to allow one half to be lit. I often add a fill light to bring some details out of the shadows.





Rembrandt lighting is when the shadow from the nose connects with the chin to create a triangle of light on the cheek below the eye. This lighting pattern is very dramatic, proper and stoic.


When to Use: I use this pattern for elegant, stoic and moody images. I also use it for formal and regal portraits. This pattern should never be used for smiling or laughing images.


General Setup Directions: Place the light to the side of the subject at a 45-degree angle and bring it around till the shadow from the nose connects with the cheek, making a triangle of light under the eye.





Loop lighting is when the shadow from the nose creates a loop on the side of the nose. This is the most flattering pattern for general use because you are filling both eyes with light and still creating some depth on the side of the face opposite the light source.


When to Use: I use this pattern for glamour, bridals, seniors, older clients and any situation that needs to be bright and soft.


General Setup Directions: Place the light to the side of the subject at a 45-degree angle and bring it around until the shadow from the nose disconnects from the cheek, making a loop shadow on the side of the nose.




Butterfly light, or Paramount lighting, is when the light source is in front and above your subject with the light facing down on the subject. The light is called a beauty light, as the eyes are filled with light, the light is straight onto the subject and any skin flaws are lessened and the cheekbones are hollowed, making your subject more beautiful. The pattern is signified by a shadow under the nose that resembles a butterfly.


When to Use: I use this pattern for headshots, fashion, glamour and when I have a client with really bad skin. I use it to showcase the subject’s face.


General Setup Directions: Place the light in front and above the subject. You will angle the light down until the shadow from the nose makes a pattern resembling a butterfly directly under the nose. You want to be careful of making the angle too steep, or you will make raccoon eyes, which are black pockets in the eyes. Some people do not like how dark the shadow is under the chin on the neck. You can add a fill card under the light and kick some light into the shadows.





Short lighting is considered a feminine lighting pattern since it slims and flatters the face of the subject. In portraiture, short lighting is used on females to make the face seem narrower. Short lighting is usually not used on men in portraiture, since it is not typically pleasing to make a man look slimmer and less masculine. But if you have a male with a large face or a very round one, short lighting may be far more flattering for your subject than broad lighting.


When to Use: I use short lighting for formal women’s portraits when I want to slim, and when I want to give my images power, confidence and depth.


General Setup Directions: Short light is typically shot at a 45-degree angle so you are able to get light in the subject’s eyes. It can be used in a loop or modified Rembrandt pattern. You want the smallest part of the face toward the camera and nose facing the light source so the short part of the face is being lit. Short light is the exact opposite of broad lighting. The easiest way to short light is having the subject turn their face to the light source.




Broad lighting is in general a masculine lighting pattern due to the width the light creates in the subject’s face. In portraiture, broad lighting is used on males to make them look larger and more masculine. Broad lighting is usually not used on women in portraiture, as it is not typically pleasing to make a woman’s face more broad, especially if they have a larger or round face. The exception being when I’m shooting fashion or glamour and l feel the subject’s face will be flattered by the pattern.


When to Use: I use broad lighting for formal male portraits and when I want to convey power and dominance in my subject.


General Setup Directions: Broad light is typically shot at a 45-degree angle so you are able to get light in the subject’s eyes. It can be used in a loop or modified Rembrandt pattern. You want the largest part of the face toward the camera and nose facing away from the light source so the “broadest” part of the face is being lit.




Rim lighting is when you use a light to add highlights to your subject. It can also be seen as back lighting, but a true rim light is when a glow is added along the edge of your subject, outlining them in light.


When to Use: I use rim pattern when I want to separate my subject from the background or when I want to emphasize someone’s form.


General Setup Directions: Place the light behind, to the side and parallel with the subject. The height of the light will determine how far up the body of the subject the light goes. The one thing you have to be careful of is bringing the light too far around the front of the subject, or you will put light on the cheek or nose of your subject.


Hair or Separator: Hair light is used mostly to separate the hair from the background.


When to Use: This is done in case you have a person whose hair could get lost in the shadow because of how dark the hair is.


General Setup Directions: Place the light above your subject and behind enough so there is no spill of light onto the face of your subject. I do not use hair lights. I find them too confining and restricting. If your subject is static, it works well, but if your subject moves, they can easily be out of position. When I need to separate my subject, I light up the background behind my subject rather than the hair itself. This accomplishes what you need, and it does not hamper the rest of the shoot.


Now that you have the building blocks of lighting, next month we will put it all together and start creating specific moods.


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How I Planned the Shot: 5 Tips for Finding & Booking Models with Alissa Zimmerman

August 2nd, 2016


How I Planned the Shot: 5 Tips for Finding & Booking Models with Alissa Zimmerman


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Models are the number-one finicky variable when planning shoots. Planning around one person (or multiple people) and having faith they will show up on time, professional and ready to go, is enough to keep you up at night.


Models can either make or break your shoot—expression is everything in getting the right shot. We have had our fair share of shoots fall apart because of a model who didn’t understand her angles, face, body, etc.


Here’s a list of my top sources for finding models, plus how we word our pitches for booking them. Hopefully this helps your shoot-planning success.


  1. Ask a friend, family member, employee or even a complete stranger.


We all have an attractive friend or family member. For shoots that are meant to build your portfolio, you may not have the budget to hire a top agency model. Who is going to say no to being asked to model, especially a young female? Come on, we live in the narcissistic era, this part should be easy.


Tapping into your staff (if you have one) is a good source for models as well. Often when we are traveling, I will throw on a dress and “model” for Sal to get a shot when we find unique locations. These impromptu shoots can be done in a way that hair and makeup don’t need to be professionally done, and your subject can pose in a way that doesn’t show her entire face.


There is also the option of approaching a complete stranger in public and asking that person to model for you. Language is extremely important here because you don’t want to send creeper vibes (especially if you’re a male photographer approaching a younger female). It’s as simple as this:


Hey, sorry to bother you, but I am a professional photographer and am planning a photo shoot for my portfolio. You have a great look and I would love to have you model for me. Is this something you’d be interested in?


From here, give the person the details of the shoot (date, time, location) and start painting a picture of the concept to get them excited. Tell them what’s in it for them as well. When we do trade photo shoots (known commonly as TFP, or “trade for photos”), we specify that we will give them any images Sal edits. This way, if Sal ends up loving and editing only one image from the entire shoot, we are not on the hook to send them every image we took.


  1. Reach out to previous clients you enjoyed working with.


We enjoy working with past clients for couples shoots (weddings and engagements) because they are a real-life couple, and we have already witnessed their on-camera chemistry. Expression is everything. Chemistry on camera is the secret ingredient that can turn an ordinary photograph into a magically romantic work of art.


Working with previous high school senior clients is almost a guaranteed way to get more business. Their generation is all about social media, showing the virtual world how great they look. Take advantage of this, don’t mock it. Word of mouth is everything in our industry, so provide these people with the best experience possible so they share your images with all their friends.


Select clients who photograph well—people who enhance your portfolio, not just someone you had a good time with. Remember, these shoots are for you. It’s okay to be critical of the person or people you’re hiring (even if you’re not paying). You are investing your time, effort and, more than likely, a good amount of money into wardrobe and other details. Make sure the models are exactly what you want to execute your vision.


Keep the language simple when asking your clients to model for you. Give them an incentive for helping you out. We tell them something along these lines:


Hey guys! Hope you’ve been well! We are putting together a stylized shoot for our portfolio next week, and would love to have you model for us if you’re available and interested. We got some amazing images from your [engagement session/senior session/wedding], really enjoyed working with you and think you would be a perfect fit for the shoot we are planning. Let me know if this is something you’re interested in, and I’ll send over all the details!


We offer client models a free 16×24 canvas. Another added bonus: By having your clients model for a second session, you are creating more revenue if you bring them in for a second sales session.


  1. Look to social media platforms for models with a little more experience.


Everything’s done via social media these days. Finding models on Facebook and Instagram is much easier than you might expect (especially if you have a decent following).


Instagram models are everywhereyou know, the insta-famous girls who have over a million followers for simply being pretty. They love working with photographers to get more images to post online for their followers. All you have to do is reach out and ask if they would be interested. What’s the worst that could happen? You don’t get a response? Okay, move on.


You should offer to pay girls who have outrageous numbers of followers. This gets their attention, as I’m sure photographers contact these girls daily about collaborating for free. Also, send some of your images or a link to your portfolio so they can see what they can expect from shooting with you. Tell them something like:


Hi, I am a professional wedding and portrait photographer based in the St. Louis, MO, area. We will be in Los Angeles next month, and are putting together a photo shoot for our portfolio. I found you on Instagram and think you would be a perfect fit for the look we’re going for. I have attached some of our recent work for you to get an idea of what we do. Let me know if you’re interested in working together, and I’ll send over all the details for the shoot. Please also let me know what your daily rate is, as this will be a paid shoot. Looking forward to hearing from you!


There are also Facebook groups dedicated to the modeling and photography communities in most major cities around the world. This is a great way to connect with models: Simply request to be a member, and post a casting call on the wall.


Another way to find models on Facebook is to simply post a casting call to your own page. This works really well if you have a decent following because your followers will start tagging people they know and sharing your post, which greatly expands your reach. I post something like:


MODEL CALL: Looking for a real-life couple to model for an upcoming bridal shoot. Wedding dress and hair/makeup provided, groom will need to provide a suit. Hair and makeup will start at 1:00 p.m., will need you both until about 7:00 p.m. For anyone interested and available, please email photos of you and your significant other to, and I will respond with exact details for the shoot. Please feel free to share this post! Thank you!


  1. Maximize resources with Model Mayhem—the correct way.


Model Mayhem is a website database of models, makeup artists and hair stylists. The site is notorious for being the home of the world’s most unreliable group of “creative professionals,” as they like to call themselves. Used correctly, Model Mayhem can be a great resource for finding quality models at a reasonable price point.


We use Model Mayhem primarily when doing international shoots, as a large portion of the international model base is agency-represented. These models are on the site to do shoots for themselves outside of agency regulations. Jackpot! These are the type of models you should be looking for—the ones who want to work with other talented people in the industry to build their portfolio while also helping build yours.


You can either post a casting call for models and hair/makeup artists to contact you, or you can browse the database and reach out to each person directly. We prefer reaching out directly so we have control of the look of the model and don’t waste time weeding through any unqualified people who respond. Here’s a sample pitch:


Hi, we will be in Tokyo, Japan, next week and are planning a few photo shoots for our portfolio in and around Tokyo. I am looking to book a Japanese female model on July 19, 21 and 22. This is a paid shoot. We will need the model available from 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. Please let me know if you would like to work together and your availability ASAP so I can plan accordingly. Thank you!


A strong piece of advice, and a rule we live by when booking models through Model Mayhem: Always book a second model as your Plan B, assuming that your Plan A will be a no call/no show. It’s sad and unfortunate, but a reality. Get the model’s contact information and confirm with them the night before and the morning of the shoot.


  1. Hire your models through an agency.


The first time we took the leap from Model Mayhem to an agency-booked model, we were hesitant because of the common misconception that agencies charge an arm and a leg for a subpar model. We were relieved after Sal took his first frame and we all looked at the image straight out of camera. Worth every penny.


There is something to be said about a model who understands how to pose not only her body, but her face as well. I can’t stress this enough: If you want to take your images to the next level, hiring a true professional model will elevate the quality of your imagery tenfold, guaranteed.


Going through an agency can be expensive, sure, but it doesn’t have to be. When reaching out initially, tell them your budget and ask if they have any “new faces” available. These are the newly represented girls in the lineup who may not have much of a portfolio and are looking to get out in the industry and get some work under their belts. It doesn’t mean these girls are inexperienced; it just means they are new to the agency and don’t have the level of experience as some of the five- to 10-year veterans (who are booking jobs at an astronomical rate).


Agency-represented models are reliable and professional, and have always been extremely fun for us to work with. They are just as excited to be modeling as you are to be shooting. Remember, this is their job. They need these jobs to make money, and they want these images for their portfolio just as much as you want them for yours.


When reaching out to an agency, language is key. State your purpose and who you are quickly and efficiently. Agents don’t have time to read your novel of a life story, nor do they care. Get to your point, state the facts, speak in bullets and be specific about what you’re looking for so they can help you find the right model:


Hi, my name is Alissa Zimmerman. I represent Salvatore Cincotta, wedding/portrait photographer, educator, author and editor-in-chief of the photography education magazine Shutter. We have our three-year anniversary issue coming up in July, and will be in L.A. on June 18 looking to do a shoot for our cover—our covers normally revolve around a stunning headshot, and we would love to work with one of your girls. 

Can you please let me know what the process is to book a model for this shoot? Below is more information about it:

-Date: June 18, 2015

-Duration: 8 hours

-Location: Hair and makeup at our apartment in Manhattan Beach, shoot location TBD

-Hair/Makeup Start Time: 1:00 p.m. 

-Wardrobe: Provided

-Pay: Negotiable—need to know model’s rates and agency fees. Final image will be delivered hi-res to agency, as well as printed versions of the magazine (however many you want!).

I have attached images of our most recent covers for you to get an idea of what we do. Looking forward to hearing back from you. Thank you!


Always be upfront if you have a strict budget—depending on the city and the caliber of model you want, you can expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $1,000 for an eight-hour day, plus the normal 20 percent agency fee on top of that.


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Creating the Super Soft Portrait with Michael Corsentino

August 2nd, 2016


Creating the Super Soft Portrait with Michael Corsentino


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I love soft lighting, but I don’t use it very often, so I was looking forward to creating these images and having a chance to flex my soft-light muscles. My design concept for this series of portraits called for a classic, elegant, soft editorial look with super soft lighting, elegant wardrobe and natural-looking makeup and hair. I also knew that I wanted a painted backdrop and a few props to add to the overall editorial quality I was after. Based on these guidelines. I was able to reverse-engineer the technical requirements and determine the right tools and techniques needed to get the job done.


Having a solid idea of what you want to accomplish before you shoot provides an invaluable roadmap for you, your models and clients. I encourage you to deviate and step outside the box.


But start smart, with a plan.


The Backdrop


It’s no secret that when it comes to backdrops, I’m a snob. I typically opt for clean and classic seamless colors like white, dove gray and black. For my money, these are far more timeless than much of the printed fare I’ve seen. The custom-painted Oliphant backdrops that I do lust after don’t come cheap, at around $1,600 each. You’ve seen them in the pages of Vanity Fair, and countless other publications and ad campaigns by iconic photographers like Annie Leibovitz. One day in the not-too-distant future, one of these will be mine.


In the meantime, I’ve found an amazingly high-quality close second that’s a fraction of the cost. Emily Soto’s “Eleanor” hand-painted canvas backdrop was the perfect fit for the classic editorial look I had in mind when I was designing these portraits. It’s available exclusively though Seamless Photo.




My concept for this series included two props. I recently added a couple exciting new items to my inventory of studio posing props: a set of distressed apple boxes and a vintage A-frame ladder. These are perfect for a variety of posing applications. I hired a New York City prop house to create the apple boxes, and an online garden supply company provided the vintage ladder, which I had custom-painted. Both of these props provide myriad options for standing, seated and floor-based posing.




Okay, let’s geek out on all the technical stuff. One light and the largest modifier you can get your hands on is really all you need to create beautiful soft portrait light. There are numerous ways to approach this style of lighting, some that include multiple lights, overhead scrims, etc. As long as it delivers the desired effect, I like to keep things as simple as possible. This way I can more easily focus on the concept, posing and being creative rather than getting caught up with an overly complicated setup.


My modifier of choice for this look was Elinchrom’s 74-inch Indirect Octabank (Model EL26158, now discontinued, but replaced by the new 75-inch Elinchrom Indirect Litemotiv Octa Softbox Model EL28000). I chose this modifier because of its size, shallow profile and the indirect orientation of the strobe inside it. These three characteristics create a soft-light trifecta that produces gorgeous soft portrait light when placed close to your subject.


Remember, the larger the modifier and closer it is to your subject, the softer the resulting light. The indirect light orientation is an added bonus. For the strobe inside the Octa, I used an Elinchrom ELC 1000ws digital head.


At this point in my career, I’m kind of a nut about rigging and grip. Good grip equipment is worth its weight in gold for the obvious safety reasons but also from a usability standpoint. Two of my favorite and most useful pieces of grip equipment in the studio are Manfrotto’s 387XBU wind-up stand and the Mega Boom 425B I use for my keylight. Using the wind-up stand means I don’t have to muscle my light and modifier up and down as I make height adjustments, while the Mega Boom allows me to control the keylight’s angle, pitch, direction, etc. via four-way geared cranks. Wireless triggering was accomplished with Elinchrom’s new digital Skyport HS controller, and I used Sekonic’s new L478 DR EU to meter and wirelessly control keylight power in 1/10 stop increments. This is a sweet meter, the first to offer wireless control of Elinchrom strobes; it also puts a complete strobe control center in the palm of your hands.


Images were captured using my Phase One IQ250 medium back, DF+ camera body, and 80mm f/2.8 and f/3.5 150mm Schneider-Kreuznach leaf shutter lenses.


Creating Super Soft Light


The first thing you’ll need to create soft light is the largest modifier you have at your disposal. For this shoot, I used a 74-inch Elinchrom Indirect Octabank. Repeat after me: The larger the modifier, the softer the light. This modifier has several other factors that make it the perfect candidate for soft light. Its shallow profile and indirect orientation of the strobe inside it (meaning it points away from the subject and toward the inside of the Octabank) reduce contrast and significantly soften the light produced. As you can see, choosing the right modifier plays a pivotal role.


The way the keylight is positioned is also an extremely important factor in creating this soft lighting effect. As illustrated in the included lighting diagram, the keylight is positioned at a 90-degree angle from the subject and camera position, rather than the 45-degree angle associated with Rembrandt lighting. This angle creates a wider dynamic range and softer, more gradual transitions between the highlights and shadows. The front-to-back position of the keylight relative to the subject dictates the amount of triangle created on the subject’s cheek, one of the hallmarks of Rembrandt light.


Creating soft light is all about—you guessed it—working with soft light. Feathering is a required technique when working with the softest part of the light coming from a modifier. The light at the edges of a softbox or Octabank is the softest light possible, and it’s truly beautiful. Shoot a few tests, and you’ll quickly see for yourself. Try one shot with your model illuminated by the center of your modifier and then another lit by the light coming from the edge of your modifier, and you’ll immediately see the difference. There’s no comparison. By moving backward and forward—again, relative to the model—you’ll be able to modulate the amount of feather and find your lighting sweet spot. So get your feather on.


You’ll also need some mechanism for fill light if necessary. This can be a second light, a reflector or a white foamcore V-flat like the one I used for the finals from this shoot. The amount of fill you use—and the decision to use it at all—is subject to taste and context.


The amount of fill light can be modulated by simply moving the reflective surface being used closer or farther away from your subject and keylight. You’ll need to experiment and find your sweet spot, just as you did when establishing the amount of feather to give your keylight.


Soft Light, Get Your Soft Light!


At the end of the day, you can achieve gorgeous super-soft lighting with a wide variety of modifiers. Ideally, you’ll want the largest softbox or Octabank you can get.


Once you have your modifier picked out, follow the tried and true guideline: The closer the light source is to your subject, the softer the quality of light will be. To further heighten this effect, orient your light and modifier at a 90-degree angle relative to your subject, rather than the more common 45-degree angle you may be used to. This increases the dynamic range between the shadows and highlights, and creates gradual, smooth, beautiful transitions.


Lastly, if you can use a modifier with an indirect strobe orientation, make that your go-to, like I did here. Using an indirect modifier—one with the strobe facing in and to the back instead of out toward your subject—produces even softer, more pleasing light.


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Let There Be Light: Create Your Own Lighting in Photoshop with Dustin Lucas

August 2nd, 2016


Let There Be Light: Create Your Own Lighting in Photoshop with Dustin Lucas

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the August issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Photographers are constantly battling with light to capture an epic moment, especially when the sun is hiding behind clouds or is out of the frame, causing distracting glares across the client’s face. It can be a nuisance, but Photoshop can help create an epic scene, no matter where the sun is.

In this article, I demonstrate how to add light rays in an image to give you a more dramatic look that leaves your clients in awe. You may not be a fan of post-process lighting, but if the light happened naturally, you would take it in an instant. So who cares how you do it? Let’s look at some techniques for creating light rays and using brushes for efficiency.

Once you have processed the color correction and made some local adjustments, you are ready to set up your plan of attack for this new light. Remember that we need to use the direction of the natural light for this effect. It looks like it’s coming from the left-hand columns. This is important for creating a photorealistic effect.

Basic Light Rays

Create a new layer and name it Light Rays. Make sure you have the foreground color selected as white and the background as black. With the Light Rays layer selected, navigate to your top menu bar and click Filter < Render < Clouds and click Enter. (1) Your layer will fill with this filter effect. Now you need to adjust the threshold of this layer. In the menu bar, select Image < Adjustments < Threshold and click Enter. (2) No need to make any adjustments, just click the OK button. So far we have a patchy black-and-white layer that we need to create our directional light rays. (3)

We now need to add a blurring effect to this layer. Let’s use the radial blur tool. In the menu bar, select Filter < Blur < Radial Blur and change the settings accordingly. A good middle ground setting is 80 to 90. The blur method is key because it replicates the linear effect we want with light rays. Change this to Zoom, and the Blur Center preview changes accordingly. For quality, choose Best. We are now ready to examine our light source direction. (4) Since the lighting is coming from the left in the image, we can click in the center of the preview and drag the center radiating lines to the upper left corner. This gets us close to our ideal direction of light. (5) After clicking OK, we need to adjust the layer effects. (6)

Change your layer’s blending mode to Soft Light and begin adjusting the opacity and/or fill. (7) I have dropped the opacity down to 75% so there’s no distraction. Now we are ready to start masking out the unwanted areas and lessening the effect in others. (8) That was pretty simple, and we could make an action for this for increased efficiency. The only custom part is the direction of light; this can be easily done by recording all the steps and keeping the Radial Blur dialog box toggled on. (9) This allows all the steps leading up to the radial Blur to automate. You can change the direction of light, click OK, and the remainder applies.

Leading Lines With Light Rays

You may need a more customized lighting; you need to paint in specific strokes for this. Let’s look at how to get this more dialed-in artistic approach.

With our previous Light Rays layer turned off, create a new layer called Light Rays 2. Instead of adding a filter, I want to brush the light rays into the image. I will paint multiple dots in the image where the light rays need to be coming from and going to. First, choose a foreground color again; for a color image, choose something that matches your sunlight. This image is desaturated, so white will work fine.

Select your brush tool and open the brush settings panel. Currently we have single brush strokes set up with a soft edge. (10) We want to be able to vary the sizes of the dots, space them out accordingly and randomly scatter them as we drag the brush around. First, click on the Shape Dynamics settings and slide the Size Jitter to 100% and Minimum Diameter down to 0%. (11) Spacing will be an issue for the dots; we can change this with the Brush Tip Shape settings. Move the Spacing slider to around 70 and the Hardness to 40%. (12) Now, we need to check the Scattering option. Check Both Axes, move the Scatter slider to 1,000% and begin painting the area where you want the light rays to be. (13)

Your layer is now ready to have the Radial Blur applied at 100% to maximize the length of each ray of light. (14) If we zoom in, you will notice some grain. We can soften this again by striking Command and the “F” key. (15ab)

Selecting different layer blending modes greatly lowers the effect; leaving it at Normal works for this image. You can increase the effect by simply duplicating the layer; hold Option, Command and the “J” key. (16) This doubles the effect, allowing you to lower the opacity as needed. To move and change the size of this layer, hold Command and the “T” key. This allows us to maneuver the angle of the rays to be slightly more realistic and lead those lines right to the couple. (17)

Fine-Tune Your Lighting

Attention to detail is very important. I need to bring back some sharpness and tone into these hazy light rays. I can sharpen the light rays by selecting the layer and navigating to Filter < Sharpen < UnSharpen Mask. Set the amount between 150 and 200. The radius can stay at 1. (18) This provides some definition to the light rays. Now let’s get some of our dark tones back. Make a Levels adjustment layer and drag the left slider toward the edge of the histogram. (19) This effect can be added by duplicating the levels layer, or lessened by dropping opacity. Be aware that darkening effect is applied to the entire image, so mask out the areas the light ray does not affect. (20)

To create your own light rays, adjust brush opacity when painting. You may also adjust the scattering amount and build up your light rays rather than make a single one for the entire image. As you see, I should separate the light rays with the columns. (21ab) Lowering the radial blur amount helps, along with hardening your brush edges.

Final Results

Now that we have masked out the subject and brought back some definition, this image is starting to look much more dramatic. We could also turn on the two circular lamps to complement the light rays. Turning on the lights is very popular as well. I recommend you adjust the settings I have used, and play around with these tools.

Although this look is not for everyone, make it your own. That’s the point, after all. If you do try this out on your next edit, always follow the natural light direction and work on separate layers.

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the August issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

3 Next-Level Tricks for Off-Camera Flash with Vanessa Joy

August 2nd, 2016


3 Next-Level Tricks for Off-Camera Flash with Vanessa Joy


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This past year, I’ve been stepping up my off-camera flash game. I’ve been getting a grasp on it overall, and it has now found a home in my workflow and shooting style. Now I’m looking to take it up a notch, to find ways to start molding and modifying it with more precision and creativity.

For the lighting issue, I’m excited to talk about a few new tricks—and, quite frankly, epiphanies—that I’ve discovered and started using in the last six months. If you’re ready to join me in dedicating some time to bettering your OCF skills, then this is for you.


One-Light Magic

I like using just one light. Not because I don’t want to work with a five-light setup so every picture is perfect, but because I want to be mobile and have an easy and fast setup. Wedding photographers don’t always get a ton of time to set up, if any at all, and the last thing I want is my bride and groom standing around while I futz with lights.

When I use one light, I put it in one of two positions around my clients—in front or behind them. This part isn’t rocket science, but let’s chat about it anyway.

I put the light in front of my clients when I want to fill in shadows cast by the sun. Could I use it for other things? Sure. But my clients want that light and airy feel that my brand portrays, so my goal is to give that to them under any circumstances.

These images were taken on a cloudy day, and, as much as we like to say that means we’re shooting under a big softbox, that’s exactly the problem. We’re shooting directly under a huge softbox. When light is directly overhead, even when it’s diffused, it casts shadows under eyes, just like what was going on for this wedding day. So, I just plopped my Profoto B1 on a stand and used it to fill in the shadows.

When my clients look at my photos, they don’t understand why they get a warm fuzzy feeling. They shouldn’t understand it. But they should know that they can expect that from me even if the sun isn’t shining on their wedding day or engagement session.

For this shot, I used a Profoto B2, held by my assistant to camera right behind the brush. Why behind the brush? Because that’s where the sun typically would have been shining through. This helped create that warm glow that this overcast day in the forest simply didn’t provide naturally. I used a CTO gel on the light as well (more on colored gels next).


Color Me Pretty

One of the next-level steps you can take is to add color. You can do this to color-correct or color-enhance.

Take this photo below. I put on a CTO gel (fancy talk for medium orange) on their faces because I wanted to cool down the image overall so the building lights wouldn’t appear drastically orange and the night sky would become more blue since we were past twilight. This is a good example of using a gel to color-correct.

Now, the technique I mentioned above can go terribly wrong if you overcompensate for the color. I did this in the photo below by mistakenly putting the dark blue gel on my light instead of the lighter blue. There was no Lightrooming/Photoshopping that was going to help me there. Learn from mistakes!

Additionally, you can make use of all the other gels in that pretty little gel pack and create any color light you’d like. I don’t normally do this for weddings, but for fashion and portraits, it’s quite fun. It can easily enhance otherwise dull backgrounds and create a fun rimlight around your subjects as well.


Control Your Light

I’ve been working on controlling the light with my OCF. If you look back at my night pictures from two years ago and even last year, you’ll see a lot of light spill, particularly on the ground. I’d try to darken it in post, but that doesn’t always work so well without some serious Photoshopping. Truth is, unless it’s intentional, it’s a good indicator that you haven’t mastered light control yet (still guilty!). Someone told me once that you should never reveal your light source when shooting natural light or otherwise. I think that rule applies here.

The easiest thing to do is get a grid and start playing around. They make different grid degrees so you can determine exactly how narrow of a beam of light you’d like for the given situation. The best way to learn this is to just pop a grid on in a dark area, turn on the modeling light on your strobe and see the light change as you switch grids. When you use this with actual subjects, use the modeling light, especially if your subjects move. This way, you can always tell if they’re in the beam of light you’re creating.

This photo is an example of grid use on the backlight that is behind them camera left. I wanted the light to just kiss them so the image kept its nighttime ambiance and wasn’t flooded with light or light flare. To light their faces, I had the Profoto portable beauty dish with the diffuser attachment to soften things up.

Now that I’ve inspired you to try a few new things—which usually means buying a few new toys—I’ll take it one step further and show you how to put them together in the video. When I first get my toys, I sit there staring at them blankly before attempting to figure them out without directions. Allow me to save you a few minutes of your precious time so you can get shooting right away.


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