A Tall Lighting Challenge

A young lady of my acquaintance designs costumes for her high school’s drama productions. She has used some of my performance photos for her portfolio, but needed a few posed images as well. When we met the other night, I saw two interesting challenges for a guy with only two lights. In the first place, she needed head to toe portraits.  In the second place, she arranged a space with a narrow black background, and two of her models have very dark hair, while the other would be wearing a black hat and mostly black clothes. Here are some of the resulting images, explained in the captions.

Normally, I would try harder to separate the model from the background, but I liked the pose and, really, these are pictures of the clothes, not portraits of the models. I used an SB800 with umbrella for the key light above/left. The SB600 is behind/right, throwing a little bit of hard light on the right. I decided not to crop or edit out the light flare.

Anyone involved with high school theater knows that too few boys get involved. This young lady was hilarious as an amorous fortune-hunter in Charley's Aunt. I used the same lighting set-up as above, but with the SB600 aimed primarily at the hat. Notice how the cross lighting on the shoulders separates her from the background.

One of the common approaches for separating dark hair from a dark background is to rimlight the model. In this case, I placed the SB600 directly behind her and pointed it at her head. I aimed a little low, but I think it's enough rimlight to suggest the shape of her head. I also like that the light from behind shows the translucency of the sleeve material.

Another approach to separation: light the background. In this case, I simply turned the SB600 away from her head and toward the background. Unless I really like the background, I prefer rimlighting. But as you can see, this clearly separates the model from the background.

If I had three or four lights, I’d add a hairlight from above and probably use something low/front/right to lighten shadows a bit. But you can do an awful lot with two lights, if you’re willing to play and experiment.

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Filed under Dance and Theater, Lighting

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