Studio Lighting with Emilie

May 21, 2013  •  Leave a Comment


I really enjoy fashion style shoots in a studio as it offers a great opportunity to combine the technical and creative aspects of photography. The technical aspect has more to do with lighting setups than camera settings. Generally, when shooting in a studio I set my ISO to the lowest setting (either 100 or 200 depending on camera manufacturer), shutter speed of 125 or 160 (any faster and there is a risk of flash propagation delay) and an aperture of between 9 and 11. Aperture is perhaps the only setting I would consider changing during a studio shoot. However, I usually just set my camera to these settings and then forgot about them. Lighting configurations and output power settings require a little more thought and attention. Prior to any studio shoot I make a few sketches of the lighting setups I want to use during the session. I have found that I need about 30 minutes per lighting setup. A light meter is a very handy tool during the lighting setup as I can adjust the lighting power to get the desired exposure without having to pick up my camera.

On the creative side I spend some time before the shoot deciding on “the look” I want to achieve. I usually use the web or fashion magazines for some inspiration. This serves as a good kick start for the photo session but generally the shoot will then evolve naturally from this point. Perhaps the most important aspect of all is communicating and interacting with the model on what style of photos I hope to get out of the shoot. The experience level of the model will generally determine how much direction is required in terms of poses and mood. However, inevitably as photographers we will need to demonstrate the pose we want for a particular shot. I have to admit that when I was certain no one was watching I have been practising some poses in front of a mirror (I think I would have to move if my neighbours ever observed me doing this). I look completely ridiculous but it’s the best method to show the pose to the model rather than trying to explain verbally. In a studio right seems to become left, left becomes right and this hand becomes the other hand. Anyway, for my most recent shoot with Emilie-Valentine at Studio Blanco I thought I would share three of my lighting setups I used. Emilie was a fantastic and enthusiastic model who, although new to modelling, was very relaxed and confident. When demonstrating some of the poses I wanted she found it very amusing. However, seeing the photos she really liked how she looked trying out my so called “eccentric” poses!      

For the first setup I wanted something quite simple so I went for a white background with a beauty dish as the key light (on a boom arm). I had two softboxes aimed at a small angle towards the white background. This was to overexpose (by one stop) the background and hence ensure it would appear perfectly white in the images. I had Emilie stand as far away from the background as possible to limit any flare from the softboxes. I was framing from just above the knee so there was no noticeable light fall of from the relatively small key light. 

For the second setup I wanted to try some silhouette type of images so I simply turned off the key light. The more "eccentric" poses work best when going for a silhouette effect as it's really the outlines that define the image.

I then went for a clamshell lighting configuration for some head and shoulder portraits. The beauty dish was still used for the key light and I simply moved a softbox directly underneath it to lift any shadows cast under the eyes and nose. The softbox was set to 1 stop lower than the key light.

For the final setup I wanted a slightly different style and removed all the seamless paper backgrounds. I wanted to use the texture of the studio brick walls to add some interest to the background and at the same time have a dramatic shadow cast from Emilie. I used one studio strobe with a gridded reflector. This gives a dramatic spotlight effect with rapid light fall off and creates a natural vignette framing effect. I asked Emilie to pose towards the light as any indirect poses would cast very hard shadows on her face.


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