Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The answer to the lighting challenge!

Last week I posted this picture on facebook and another one here on the blog, and wanted to see who could reverse engineer the lighting. It's a good exercise to try when you see a picture you like, since it helps you think about the way light behaves, and can allow you to figure out and learn from other people's work...how to recreate the lighting and so forth. Hey, it's not like most pictures you see in magazines or on billboards come with behind-the-scenes info in them! Plus it's fun when you get the answer right!

I only got a few responses on the facebook page, and both people came pretty close. I wasn’t surprised that no one got the exact setup…it was somewhat of an unusual one!

Here is another shot, taken with the same setup:

So where to begin? Let's start with the main light...first thing that you notice is that it's very big, which you can tell from the very soft shadows where her arm bends and on the skin by the shirt seams etc. Big light relative to the subject yields softness. Another clue is the background...which is one of those blue wood barriers around construction sites (the ones that usually say "POST NO BILLS")...which is lit uniformly as a result of a huge light source far away from the wall. You can also guess that it is on-axis (with the camera lens) since there really are no shadows on her face at all.

The next clue is in the eyes, which are the place to look if you're trying to reverse engineer lighting! In Kendra's eyes there are actually two clues. The first is a dead giveaway: you can actually see the giant light source itself as a catch light and you can again tell it is on-axis since the reflection is right in the middle of the eye. The second way to tell it is on- axis just by looking at the eyes is that you can see my reflection right in the middle of her eye, as a slit-like area where there is no catch light, since I am standing in between the light source and the model!

So we have established that the main light is a single huge light source on camera axis. What could be that big as to also illuminate the wall behind her? You can tell it's not the 60-inch umbrella I own since you can't see spokes in the catch lights. An 8-foot octabox could do it, but c'mon, I have a budget to adhere to and that is just not something you carry around outdoors! Likewise, it could probably be a softlighter or something similar, but I don't have one of those either! A big translucent scrim or a white sheet or shower curtain with some strobes blasting through it would work too, and can be done on the cheap, but that's not what I used here.

OK, OK, enough already...I'll show you what it was!

Behind the scenes!

We turned a corner and were probably going to end the shoot at that point, but instead we randomly found these big light cubes and just had to do something with them! It turns out that the other sides were open and they apparently sell clothes and stuff inside the cube thingy, but one of them also doubled as a pretty neat huge softbox. And they meet the definition of "available light" being that they were available for me to shoot in front of :)

As for the hair/rim light that you see off to camera right, that was just a bare strobe on a V.A.L. about ten feet back to camera right, held by my pal Frank.

Wasn't that fun? I think I will do little contests like these once and a while and totally at random, only next time there will be a prize! Maybe a custom photoshop action made by yours truly, or something else cool that I have on the way (ooo! mystery prizes!) The only catch is that I will announce these contests on my facebook page first, so facebook fans will get a several-day head start! And the first correct response wins it! So go over and become a fan on facebook won't cha?

Model: Kendra Richards
MUA: Tatyana @ Visage Allure
Assistant: Franklin Abreu

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