I tested several variables at last Thursday’s practice session. Using the same black background and a single lens, I shot all four models using two lights in different configurations.
For the key light, I tried a bounce umbrella, a shoot-through umbrella, and a Gary Fong Lightsphere – the Lightsphere both on and off the camera.
But I’ll write about that later, because today’s post is about the second light and the black background.
In my theater publicity work, I often get to choose between two backgrounds: a black wall or a black curtain. If I get a blonde or silver-haired subject in light colored clothes, no problem. But most of the time, I must use one of my lights to separate the dark-haired, darkly dressed subject from the dark background.
There are a lot of lighting techniques you can use to achieve this separation, especially if you have a boom stand or a convenient low, white ceiling in your camera bag. I don’t. I carry two flash units and two basic stands, a couple of umbrellas, some gels and a foldable reflector.
I use one flash and the reflector for key light and fill, so the second flash becomes either a backlight or a background light. In other words, I either point it at the back of the subject or I point it at the background. Each choice offers pros and cons, as described in the captions.
Next time: Can you use a Gary Fong Lightsphere instead of an umbrella? (Actually, you can use a piece of paper or a fat guy in a white t-shirt instead of an umbrella, so we’ll really just talk about quality and control of the light using different kinds of diffusers)