Transitioning from Natural Light to Studio Light

There are many parallels between natural and studio lighting and photography. Most people who teach studio photography and lighting don’t teach it from a natural-light perspective. When I tried to learn it all those years ago, it became even more confusing than when I started. The old saying “Light is light is light” applies here. In this article, I break down studio lighting in a way that’s easy to understand, from the perspective of a natural-light shooter who painstakingly learned how to light in a studio.

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Anatomy of a Location Lighting Kit

Deciding which lighting equipment to bring on location is all about striking a balance. The sweet spot is having enough tools to get the job done right and handle any curveballs that come your way. What you want to avoid is bringing so much gear that it becomes burdensome. I’ve done it more times than I care to admit. What you need from one situation to the next differs depending on a variety of factors. This article is a case study about choosing the tools for a location shoot.

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Low-Powered Strobe, High-Powered Results

These two portrait sessions were all about breaking my f16 habit in studio, going in the opposite direction and using extremely low-powered strobe and wide apertures to recapture some of that vintage portrait magic. I used the widest aperture available, f3.5, on my Schneider Kreuznach 150mm LS lens. On a medium-format DSLR, this is equivalent to approximately f1.4. Both subjects were photographed using the same two lighting setups, one with strobe only and one with strobe and constant lights. In each case, the strobe served as the keylight.

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Advanced Beauty Lighting

I covered the basics of beauty lighting several months ago. This month I take you on a deeper dive into beauty lighting. We’ll look at a more advanced setup I used recently to produce two killer looks for the same model. There are constants in beauty lighting: a strobe with a beauty dish acting as the keylight, a reflector or second strobe to fill in the shadows from the keylight, and classic clamshell lighting. Add a stellar creative team, additional accent lights to amp up the look and maybe some colored gels for that extra wow factor.

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Creating Editorial-Style Lighting for Bridal Sessions

I have always been attracted to the work of Annie Leibovitz, Mark Seliger and other modern fashion/editorial photographers. A long time ago, I decided to incorporate some of the inspiration they have given me into my wedding photography. Everyone who follows this type of work knows that creating studio editorials can be a big production. Getting the best results requires complex lighting setups, large modifiers and a set with either a regal feel or an industrial look. We don’t usually get all that at the local banquet hall.

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Moody One Light Male Portraits

It never ceases to amaze me what’s possible with just one light, whether it’s a strobe or constant, plus a little know-how and creativity. A recent assignment I shot for one of Orlando’s top modeling agencies is a perfect example of the magic you can create with one light. I’d been asked to shoot promotional images of Kino, a newly signed model. The agency wanted dramatic edgy shots that highlighted his chiseled features and ripped physique. It was the perfect assignment for a couple of cool one-light setups.

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Creating Window Light with Strobes

Nothing beats window light. It’s broad, diffuse, indirect, soft light that’s flattering to anyone in its path. But what do you do when the sun has set, there is no window or Mother Nature isn’t cooperating? With the right tools and techniques, you can re-create it. I’ve seen this sun-drenched looks-like-daylight-but-isn’t look used often in Gap ads. The light created for these images has the open, airy quality you get from daylight streaming in through a large window. It’s perfect for Gap’s brand. I’ve always loved this quality of light and wanted to use it in my own work. How they did it was the big question mark.

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