Making Two Lights One Big Light

I tried to simulate window light, even though it was pitch dark outside.

Too many of my recent projects required generic, even lighting. The theater rehearsals, the award recipients (see the previous post), the quickie headshots: Time constraints demanded that I set up hit and run lighting I could depend on for a flattering, if boring, look, regardless of the subject’s features, skin tone, hight, etc.

Last night I rebelled. Asked at the last minute to capture some publicity shots of a local theater’s preparation for their annual holiday show, I decided to go for a more dramatic look.

I wanted to simulate window light, so I placed both of my flashes and umbrellas together on one side of the piano. I placed the SB800 at about eight feet, angled down toward the piano bench. The SB600 was about 6 feet up,  at the same angle as the taller flash, but a couple of feet to the left. The umbrellas were edge-to-edge in a kind of diagonal figure eight.

Local legend Jimmy Calire is probably no more than five feet from the flashes here. Not only does the light fall off as it reaches Jonathan in the background, but Jimmy creates some shadow as well. Still, I think an image like this can be far more arresting than a more evenly lit shot in the local paper.

Our proximity to the corner did produce a little bit of fill light, so the shadowed side of the performer’s faces were not completely dark. On the down side, many images include the room’s clutter and/or brightly and busily painted walls.

The bigger the light source, the softer the light. The two umbrellas combined to simulate a single, very big light. The closer the light source, the less light on the background.  Had I moved the lights closer to the piano, I may have cast the background into deeper shadows, but it would have been hard to keep people at various distances adequately lit. After I see the images on my computer, I can always think of a hundred ways to do them differently. For now, I’m happy that I did these differently from what I’ve been doing lately. Directional lighting is a lot of fun, and I look forward to playing with this a lot more. In fact, tonight I’m shooting a two-person play rehearsal, and I suspect they’re going to look like the cover of Meet The Beatles when I get through with them.

I cheated a bit on some pictures by sliding the lower flash around to provide more fill, but I still tried to keep the directional feel to the light. I think this could pass for window light to anyone except a photographer.

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Filed under Dance and Theater, Lighting

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