Reckless Lighting

My old friend Buddy Wilds did the first sitting so I could set up my lights without also trying to reassure an actor or actress who didn't know me.

My old friend Buddy Wilds did the first sitting so I could set up my lights without also trying to reassure an actor or actress who didn’t know me.

It seems like not that long ago that I had to pry myself away from studio-style shooting to relearn how to shoot in “available” light, but the other night I showed up for a theater shoot with my entire lighting kit and no idea what was needed.

Turns out, they wanted headshots for the program. No problem, except that I hadn’t done that sort of thing for, oh, maybe a couple of years now?  Sure I’ve been shooting all those in-office headshots for the Orfalea Foundation website, but I do those with minimal gear: one umbrella-ed strobe and one on-camera fill.

I don't typically use lighting this dramatic for theater shoots, but I'm beginning to think I should.

I don’t typically use lighting this dramatic for theater shoots, but I’m beginning to think I should. This lighting would not suit most actresses. In fact, it would likely get me slapped.

I had the entire lighting bag, so of course I felt I had to use three lights, for better or worse. I set up the Photek Softlighter II with an SB600 as my key light on the right, an SB800 with dome diffuser on-camera as my fill, and an SB600 with a Sto-fen Omnibounce diffuser on the left as a hair/accent light. Not at all what I would have done a couple of years ago, when I was all about shoot-through umbrellas and ultra-soft light, but I was feeling a little reckless. There’s this weird combination of hard and soft light in these photos, but dimensionality and a variety of textures too. I’m not sure if they are appropriate for the program, but I kinda like them. That’s the thrilling recklessness of the amateur, I guess.

I don't light women the same way I light men, but with very young women it barely matters.

I don’t light women the same way I light men, but with very young women it barely matters.

In retrospect, I’m satisfied with the key and accent lights, but I think in the future I will return to the Gary Fong Lightsphere for my on-camera fill, because I think a softer fill would have helped me balance the transition from the key on my right and the accent light on my left. Or maybe I’ll just get reckless again and use whatever I pull out of the bag first…

Harder light on the left, softer light on the right. You can really see it in his hair.

Harder light on the left, softer light on the right. You can really see it in his hair. Technically, it’s all pretty soft light, but the harder directional light from the left renders more detail, and obviously so.

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Filed under Camera Gear, Dance and Theater, Lighting, Portraiture

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