Bob Marcotte, Marcotte Photography, Fresno Photographer, Fresno Photography,
21 Nov 2008 This Little Light of Mine…
 |  Category: Lighting, Photography, Studio

One of the blogs I read regularly is PrettyGirlShooter.   Besides being an excellent shooter, JimmyD is also very open to sharing his techniques. I admit that I have taken many of his posts into the studio with me and recreated his lighting. One of my buddies who has been shooting much longer than I have often tells me that he’s amazed at how quickly I grasped studio lighting.  I am no ‘Rembrandt’ in the studio (excuse the pun) but Jimmy’s lessons really made it quick and easy to understand.  Jimmy, I owe you a good scotch and the steak that goes along with it.

CodyShadow1 ready This Little Light of Mine...

This is a business /hobby that is gear crazy.  As the holidays approach, I would like all of you to know that I want / need every light, every camera, every byte of software that came to market in the last five years.

ALP7 web This Little Light of Mine...

At least that’s what I thought at the beginning of my photographic journey.  As I’ve read Jimmy’s posts, he often demonstrates how little gear you need to shoot pro quality.  So, as a tip of my hat to the mentor I’ve never met, this post is all about shooting with one single little light.

maternity This Little Light of Mine...

This maternity shot is one of my faves and is published in the Photography-On-The.Net 2007 yearbook. POTN is an excellent site for getting good shooters to critique your work in a (mostly) positive environment.

In my opinion, the shadowing and depth of field are what give this shot its intimacy.  That light is created by a seven foot by four foot diffusion panel and a single Alien Bee 800.  Not many shooters work with diffusion panels but it’s simply a pvc frame that you can build yourself cheaply with white ripstop nylon (available at fabric stores) pulled across it (and held on by elastic strips sewn onto the corners).  We’re talking less that $50 here (or at least we were before the markets crashed). I like using it when I want soft, even light over a torso. The Alien Bee had barn doors attached to prevent spill. (I even use it as a background on occasion – please check out my post about making sharks smile to see what it looks like.)

The real benefit of the diffusion panel is that it breaks down to a bunch of pvc pieces and a sheet of nylon. What could be easier to transport than that? You can even purchase ready made kits online (I bought a smaller one at Calumet).

I wanted shallow DOF so I metered for f/2.8 and shot using a tripod. And if you’re curious, the background wall is a styrofoam insulation panel (bought at Home Depot) spray painted copper.

The shot of Alyssa directly above the maternity shot is similar in that it was a single light but this time I used large softbox (I didn’t have my diffusion panel yet).  I like the light better in the maternity shot than in the Alyssa shot.  The softbox just doesn’t give the soft light the diffision panel does in my opinion.  Another benefit of the diffusion panel is that you can change the size of the light source by moving the light closer or further away from the panel. In Alyssa’s shot, I would have enjoyed making the light source a little larger to capture more of her hair, which could use a little more separation from the background, but I have to admit, Alyssa is so beautiful not many people have commented on that. She’s also as easy to work with as she is beautiful.

Minnie1A This Little Light of Mine...

This picture of Minnie was actually a light test.  I had rented the studio to another photographer and dialing my lights in one at a time (yes, sometimes you set up lighting for photographers that rent the studio but don’t know squat about lighting) when I saw Minnie standing close to the softbox. I grabbed my camera instead of the light meter and caught this shot.  Minnie is one of the few perfect models I have ever shot. She was always herself but always aware she was in the studio. Shooting her was effortless and I am sad she moved away. Why do I bring all this up? Because this is the same single light and same softbox as I used with Alyssa, however, Minnie was standing closer and the light is sweeter. In case you’re new to this, the closer the light is the sweeter the light is.

MichelleD Profile This Little Light of Mine...

The next two shots are also single light shots but employ a beauty dish instead of a softbox or diffusion panel.  The beauty dish is modified with a nylon cover that softens the light a little more. The shot above is the beautiful profile of Michelle Deighton, a contestant on America’s Next Top Model. Why she did not win it all is a mystery to me, she was flawless in the camera and in person.

Her shot was taken with the beauty dish camera left and above but just out of the frame. Again, the sweet light is up close and that’s where the beauty dish was.  The background is just spray painted styrofoam. No, I’m not cheap – I’m sexy and affordable.

LightShower This Little Light of Mine...

This shot I call ‘Light Shower’ features Anne Rutherford.  We had just finished a fashion spread for a local mag and had some ‘play’ time in the studio.  It’s a single light modified by the beauty dish as with Michelle’s shot but boomed over her.  I like the way the light falls off and highlights her hair.

The shot at the very top of the post is Cody and is the only shot taken with ‘hard’ light. The AB800 is modified with a grid and is set up high and to camera left. The shadows are deep and dramatic and Cody’s profile is beautiful in this light.

If you’re searching for a point to this post, it’s that you can be very creative with a single light. You can modify that light with inexpensive diffusion panels, softboxes, beauty dishes or just grids.  That, and read excellent blogs like Jimmy’s!

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4 Responses

  1. 1

    Thanks. Now none of my hats fit. They’re all too small!

  2. 2
    Unbearable Lightness 

    Minnie’s light is indeed sweet, and she has the most sassy little profile.

    What an interesting dissertation on lighting. As a model, I am very aware of how crucial it is to work with photographers who are good, no–GREAT, with lighting. My first shoot with a male model was very, very special to me, and I chose the photographer, a man from The Netherlands who is a professor of photography. He teaches lighting. And I was right in the choice. The shoot went beyond anything any of us, individually, could have imagined.

    Thank you for the text and pictures that show some of what you learned about lighting. Since a photograph is really light recorded, the importance of it is organic.

  3. 3

    Beautiful lighting and composition. Nicely done.

  4. 4

    I love my Alien Bees and do many shoots with a similar setup.

    I taught a class about month or so ago using the same key-light setup (Alien Bee with barn doors plus the diffusion panel). It was the first time many of the students had seen this type of setup, and they were quite surprised by how much more light shaping flexibility it offered over umbrellas and softboxes.

    In addition, I used a reflector for some fill light and a shoe-mount strobe with a medium snoot for the hair/backlight (which was attached to the top of the light stand supporting the backdrop).

    Pretty simple stuff, really, but the results were beautiful because they focused on the model and not the lighting, like this one of yours:

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