Thursday, May 9, 2013

Five Classic Lighting Recipes

As much as I like to experiment when it comes to lighting, there are times I need the sure thing.
Text & Photography By Tom Bol Published in Shooting
Five Classic Lighting Recipes
Rim Lighting


Another single light technique is rim lighting. Rim lighting illuminates a side profile of your subject creating a dramatic portrait. This technique requires a single softbox and a dark background. I start by having my subject turn sideways to my camera, facing my large softbox. I make sure I have a dark background behind my subject, or I set my exposure so the ambient room light is underexposed three stops or more. Rim lighting doesn't work as well on bright backgrounds.

Next, I have my subject move sideways towards the camera until they are just past the edge of the light. The softbox looks like it is aimed behind my subject, but in reality the light will just clip the side of my subject's face. If your subject moves closer to the softbox, you will lose the rim lighting effect. I like to experiment with hand positions, jewelry and eyeglasses; these aspects make great rim light portraits. In post-processing I often boost the contrast of these shots to make the lighting more dramatic.


Have you ever seen a beauty shot where the subject seems so vibrant and lively it really catches your eye? I constantly embarrass my family at the checkout line in the grocery store. I'm the guy staring at the bikini model on the magazine cover trying to see what catchlights are in her eyes and what lighting technique was used. More often than not, clamshell lighting is the technique being used.

Clamshell Lighting
Clamshell Lighting

Clamshell lighting can be achieved a number of ways using one light, two lights or a combination of lights and reflectors. This lighting style is done by placing one light high in front of your model, and another light or reflector aimed up directly below your model. Clamshell refers to the clam-like configuration of the two softboxes. You shoot between the narrow gap of the two softboxes. And the results are stunning. Two light sources fill in all the shadows and skin blemishes, and the dual catchlights in the eyes make the shot spring to life.

I use two clamshell techniques. The simplest way to create this beauty lighting is to use a softbox as your overhead light, and a silver or white reflector from below aimed up at your subject. Place the reflector as close to your subject as you can, so it reflects plenty of light from the overhead softbox.

I really like to use a silver reflector here. Silver produces a shiny, specular light that works well to balance the light from the softbox. If the reflected light is too intense, I will lower the reflector. A Lastolite Trilite does an excellent job as well with clamshell lighting. This reflector system uses three angled reflectors aimed up at your model, filling in shadows and producing dramatic catchlights.

The other style of clamshell lighting I like is using two square softboxes, one aimed from above and the other from below. I leave a small gap between the boxes as a shooting window. Using two strobes allows me to adjust power quickly and change the ratio of my clamshell lighting. I often set the bottom light at lower power than the overhead light to avoid strong underlighting effects.
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