Posts Tagged ‘lighting’

Adaptalux’ miniature lighting studio gets Laser, UV, and Arm-s lighting arms

30 Dec

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Adaptalux Studio, the miniature lighting studio launched on Kickstarter in 2015, is on the receiving end of some new special effect lighting attachments called the EFX Lighting Arms. The new lighting arms bring three special effects to Adaptalux Studio: Laser, UV (ultraviolet), and Arm-s (super-bright with a TIR lens).

As with the existing Adaptalux arms, these new EFX Lighting Arms plug directly into the Studio and are flexible enough to be arranged in nearly any position. Adaptalux explains that its UV EFX arm features a purple anodized connector, while the Arm-s has a silver finish connector and the Laser arm has a red finish connector, helping distinguish them from each other and existing arms.

The UV EFX arm features a UV LED coupled with a UV Band Pass Filter, the latter of which is able to filter out 99% of visible light, according to Adaptalux. The Arm-s EFX arm, meanwhile, has a super bright white LED joined by a built-in TIR lens, which “greatly improves the amount of light reaching the subject,” the company explains. Finally, the Laser EFX arm features laser diodes with a focus-able lens to produce a red beam of light.

Adaptalux has 48 hours left in its EFX Lighting Arms Kickstarter campaign, where it’s already raised about $ 16,000 more than it needed to bring this idea to fruition. But funded or not, backers have 2 more days to get a single pack of either the Laser Arm or Arm-s Arm for a pledge of $ 50, a single pack with the UV Arm single pack for a pledge of at least $ 70, or a triple pack with all three arms for a pledge of $ 160.

Here are video intros to all three of the new arms, embedded for your viewing pleasure:

Shipping to Laser/Arm-s single pack backers is expected to start next April, while UV single pack backer shipments are expected to start in May 2018. To learn more or put down your pledge before the campaign ends, head over to Kickstarter.

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How to use Off-Camera Flash to Create Dramatic Images with Cross Lighting

01 Dec

Learning to use off-camera flash allows you to create and shape light, giving you plenty of new opportunities for dramatic photography.

But for many photographers, starting up with flash can be intimidating. It’s not just a matter of aiming a flash at your subject and hoping for the best. Choosing the wrong angle or positioning for your flash can have a negative effect, casting unflattering or irregular shadows.

A tennis player lit by off-camera flash cross lighting

A tennis player lit by off-camera flash cross lighting

I remember when I was starting out with off-camera flash I would sometimes get images where the light simply didn’t look right. But when it’s used effectively, flash adds to an image – it shouldn’t make the lighting seem unnatural or otherworldly (unless, of course, that’s the effect you’re going for – to each their own!).

But where’s a good place to start? Where should you put your flash in order to get good light? This article will show you one method you can use called cross lighting that you can use to create dramatic images with off-camera flash.

What is cross lighting?

For both beginners and pros alike, cross lighting is a very quick and simple setup that results in a dramatic, well-lit shot.

Like the name implies, this setup features two light sources on opposite sides of the subject. Hitting your subject from both sides adds a sense of depth to the image, while still producing natural-looking light.

An example showing an off-camera flash cross lighting setup for a portrait of a tennis player.

An example showing an off-camera flash cross lighting setup for a portrait of a tennis player.

The key or main light

Typically you want your light that will provide the most illumination, also know as the key light, placed in front of the subject and a bit to one side. For portraits, you will typically want to use a modifier on your light, such as a softbox or umbrella. This isn’t a requirement – but it will help soften the shadows and create more flattering light on the subject.

The purpose of this key flash is to light up the subject’s features and put a sparkle of catch light in their eyes.

A demonstration of the key light only in a cross lighting setup - How to do Cross Lighting to Create Dramatic Off-Camera Flash Images

We convinced this model to act as our stand-in for a few quick portrait shots. Here is an image with only the key light, an off-camera flash positioned to the right of the camera.

Add a second flash as a rim or separation light

The second light is placed behind the subject on the opposite side as the first one. The purpose of this light is to create an “edge” of light around your subject. This is traditionally called a “rim light” or a “separation light” since it helps to separate the subject from the background.

Demonstration of cross lighting on a subject

By adding a second light to the left of the camera and behind our model, we’ve created a rim of light that separates him from the background for a much more pleasing and dynamic image. Notice the highlight on his hat and hand on the left side.

Voila! This quick setup is an easy way to get started and start exploring the creative potential of a shoot. As you begin to snap pictures, you may find something about your setup that you want to change, but the cross lighting gives you a solid foundation from which to build.

An alternate setup of the previous cross lighting example with the off- camera flash locations reversed

We’ve flipped the orientation of the lights for this shot – while keeping the same cross-lighting style. Now our key light is on the left, and the rim light is provided from the right.

Quick to set up

One of the reasons I love using this setup for off-camera flash is that it takes away the guesswork and provides a solid foundation of light that you can then begin to work with and modify.

And also that it takes only moments to set up! When you start lugging around multiple flash units, light stands, and modifiers, it’s nice to have a consistent starting position that provides even lighting.

An example image showing the setup of flash units for cross lighting - How to do Cross Lighting to Create Dramatic Off-Camera Flash Images

An overview of our setup, with the flashes oriented for cross-lighting and our subject right in between.

The final image of a carpenter, photographed using cross lighting - How to do Cross Lighting to Create Dramatic Off-Camera Flash Images

The final shot, where the light has given a sense of depth to make the subject stand out from the clutter behind him.

It’s a good idea to get the correct flash power for your key light dialed in before adding your second flash. Trying to figure out the correct outputs for two lights at the same time and adjusting in your camera on the fly is a recipe for a headache.

Cross lighting with a single flash

One of the reasons this setup is so easy and versatile is because you don’t necessarily need to use two flash units – the sun can step in as either your key or secondary light.

This approach is particularly effective at golden hour. As evening falls and soft, warm light floods across the fields, you have a ready-made separation light. Many natural light photographers are already familiar with this and use this rim light in their shots.

Example of a portrait shot with cross lighting using a single off-camera flash as a key light and the sun as a secondary light

The key light here is an off-camera flash fired into an umbrella just outside the left edge of the image. The sun, coming from the right, acts as the secondary light. The key here is in balancing the flash with the natural light.

The benefit of adding an off-camera flash as a key light is that you can create a much more dramatic image with dark, rich colors. Colors lose their vibrancy as they get brighter. By keeping the exposure low and using your off-camera flash to light up your subject, your background can be full of vivid contrast and color.

Using the sun as your key light

The sun doesn’t always have to play second fiddle to your flash. You can create the same effect by using the sun as your key light – coming in at your subject from a slight angle – and then using your off-camera flash as the rim or separation light.

The biggest drawback here is that you can’t adjust the power of the sun quite as easily as you can on the back of your flash! However, taking the time to learn how your camera settings can make a picture darker or lighter, and how you can use this skills in conjunction with your off-camera flash, will give you allow you to build the shot you want.

Cross lighting with a flash and a reflector

Here’s the last variation of this setup. By setting up your off-camera flash on one side of the subject and angling a reflector just right on the other, you can mimic the effect of two light sources. This approach might take a bit of practice and a steady hand, but it’s a fun way to learn what you can accomplish as you learn how to control light.

An example of a portrait using a reflector and sunlight to create cross light

Here we used a reflector to provide the key light from the left side of the shot, while the sun comes from the back right.

Give it a shot

Learning to maneuver and shape light is a fun challenge. Being able to quickly and reliably get top-notch results with flash is an important aspect of photography – especially if your model or clients are waiting impatiently for you to get your lighting figured out.

By starting with cross lighting and working from there, you have a reliable method for nailing some great shots. Please share your comments, questions and cross lighting images in the comments section below.

The post How to use Off-Camera Flash to Create Dramatic Images with Cross Lighting by Frank Myrland appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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The Isolite intelligent modifier system lets you change a photo’s lighting after it’s taken

01 Dec

An intriguing new lighting system called Isolite just launched on Kickstarter. The system of hardware accessories for strobes and speedlights comprises what parent company Phototechnica calls the “first ever intelligent light modifier.” What does that actually mean? Basically, with Isolite, photographers are able to modify the lighting in an image after taking it.

Phototechnica stresses that this process involves turning on and off actual lighting in the image, not simply lightening /darkening it or adjusting contrast—this is the real deal, not a post-processing trick.

The Isolite system doesn’t require a 3D render or special camera to enable light changes during post-processing. Raw images are converted by the Isolite converter, which enables users to adjust the image’s lighting before outputting it as a raw DNG file. That final DNG file can then be edited with compatible software like Capture One and Lightroom.

Phototechnica lists the following capabilities on its Kickstarter campaign:

  • Turn real lights on and off after the capture has been made.
  • Push, Pull, Paint light after the capture has been made.
  • Hard and soft light in one capture.
  • Adjust the exposure and ratio of each light source after the capture has been made.
  • With selective masking of each light source, difficult or impossible lighting control can be done with ease.
  • Light can be animated after capture turning still image captures into full motion video.
  • Using our proprietary tools, online images can be brought to life with light.

Here’s a video intro the further explains what the Isolite system is and how it works:

As far as hardware is concerned, the Isolite system features the Duolite and Beauty Dish Kit. The gear is designed to work with popular Speedlight sizes, most legacy Speedlights, the newest Profoto and Tri/Bowens Mount Strobes, plus there are adapters for using it with Elinchrom products.

Phototechnica is offering the Isolite Dualite through Kickstarter for pledges of at least $ 195 CAD (~$ 150 USD), a Dualite Speedlight Kit for $ 250 CAD (~$ 195 USD), Isolite Studio for $ 500 CAD (~$ 390 USD), and the Isolite Deluxe Studio for $ 1500 CAD (~$ 1,165 USD). The campaign is also offering early bird versions to backers who make pledges starting at $ 95 CAD (~$ 75 USD).

For now the campaign has a long way to go before its funding goal is met, and only 15 days to get there, so we’re not holding our breath on this one. But if the campaign is successful, shipments to some backers are estimated to start in May 2018.

To find out more or put down your own pledge, head over to the Kickstarter campaign.

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Strobist Lighting Cookbook

29 Nov

Introducing the Strobist Lighting Cookbook. Read more »

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How to turn household lights into cheap DIY lighting modifiers

27 Nov

This article was originally published on Jake Hicks blog, and is being republished in full on DPReview with express permission from the author.

There is an almost endless supply of lighting modifiers available on the market right now—some are cheap, and some of the better ones are certainly a lot more expensive. But does cost directly relate to quality?

Well, a lot of the times yes it does, especially if you’re referring to build quality. In general, the more you spend, the better-made and more durable the modifier will be. But does that extra money you spend mean you’re getting a better lighting modifier overall? I would have to say no; in fact, for less than £15/$ 20 you can get some stunningly beautiful light from a homemade lighting modifier.

Read on to see examples of the stupidly cheap DIY lighting modifiers I’m referring too.

I’d like to think that my work is known for its creative approach to lighting. The reason for that is because I strongly believe lighting is the single most important subject in a shot.

I can honestly say that I’ve ‘saved‘ some frankly awful shoots through engaging lighting alone. Terrible locations, inexperienced or even no experience in the model/subject can certainly make a shoot hard, but far from impossible to pull off engaging results. Dynamic lighting can bring a boring room to life and flattering lighting can enhance any subject, lighting really is the one and only tool you need and should have complete control and mastery of.

So what makes good lighting? Well that is probably a topic/article/book/anthology for another day as there are certainly a lot opinions on the subject, but I think no matter how experienced or inexperienced you are as a photographer, we all know what we don’t like and we definitely know what we do like when we see it.

In this article I aim to show you a couple of very cheap alternatives to professional lighting modifiers that I think create some beautiful light that are very functional in a lot of situations.

Regular Household Lights

The lighting modifiers we’ll be taking a look at are the dome-like frosted globes. These can be fantastic at lighting a scene in a shot, as they spread light everywhere very evenly. It also turns out that, not only do they spread light everywhere, but they also create a beautiful portrait light as well. Let’s take a closer look at the lights in question.

I purchased two white frosted dome lights from IKEA. One was small and the other was far larger. The smaller one is intended to be used as ceiling light in a bathroom. The reason it’s intended for this is because it casts light everywhere from a very small source close to the ceiling making it ideal for small rooms and corridors.

Small bathroom ceiling dome light.

The second one I purchased was far larger and is actually originally intended as a table lamp. Again this dome-like design is perfect for casting light over a large area without being overly harsh.

Large table lamp dome.

Where can you get them?

I got mine from IKEA and they are silly-cheap.

The small globe is a ceiling light called VITEMÖLLA and it can be found here for £13. The one in the picture looks slightly different as it has a white base compared to my silver one but the dome (the important part) is the same.

The large dome is a table lamp called FADO and that can be found here for £15. It’s worth pointing out and making sure that you get the white one. There are several of these FADO’s in a variety of tones so just make sure you choose the white one as the others will be fairly useless.

Regular Photographic Modifier

I also wanted to get a bit of a gauge on how the light from these domes looked compared to a regular photographic lighting modifier. For the sake of this test I actually compared them to a few shots taken with a 22″ white beauty dish.

There’s a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, it’s probably my most used lighting modifier so I have a very good idea of how the lighting looks with it. And secondly, the beauty dish is pretty pricey compared to these domes so I thought it would be an interesting comparison.

The image above also gives a nice size comparison and it clearly shows how all three of the modifiers used in the test look when side-by-side.

Getting the Domes ‘Shoot-Ready’

Obviously the domes are designed for an alternative purpose to a photoshoot, so I needed to do make a few adjustments before they were ‘shoot-ready’.

Small Dome

The smaller dome was fairly simple: I just removed the inner wiring and bulb housing and then I simply rested it atop one of my standard dish reflectors. I could have taped it on but there was no fear of it moving or tipping out so I just left it as it was and it was fine.

The small dome was easily made shoot-ready by removing the inner workings and then simply resting it in a current reflector dish.

Large Dome

The larger dome took a little more work, but not much. I simply removed the inner workings once again and then found an old speed-ring to attach it too.

A speed-ring is the metal rotating mount that attaches modifiers like softboxes to your flash head. I’ve acquired a few over the years that I no longer use so I simply taped one of them to the dome. With strong tape like gaffers tape it was surprisingly snug and there was no fear of it coming loose even when mounted on its side.

The large dome was taped snugly onto an old speed-ring which enabled me to attach it to my light horizontally if needed.

The Setup

The actual lighting setup was nothing fancy, but I also wanted to try out some alternative colouring ideas at the same time.

The model was positioned about 5 feet from the white wall behind her. I had the main lights positioned about 2 feet in front of her and above eye level, and then I also had a small softbox on the floor at the models feet with an orange gel* in place for the entirety of the test.

*Obviously you don’t need to the orange gel but I was seeing how much the gel was washed out by the modifiers so that’s why I had it in place.

A very simple setup that involves two lights; a key and orange gelled fill light.

The Results

After I had taken a few shots with the beauty dish, I switched that out for the larger dome. Then, after a few more frames, I changed it too the smaller dome. The resulting images should speak for themselves.

Beauty dish Images

Beauty Dish Shot – Click to Enlarge Beauty Dish Shot – Click to Enlarge

The Small Dome Images

The small dome setup
Small Dome Shot – Click to Enlarge Small Dome Shot – Click to Enlarge

Large Dome Images

The big dome set-up
Large Dome Shot – Click to Enlarge Large Dome Shot – Click to Enlarge

CAUTION: I’m using LED modeling bulbs in my flash heads which produce very little heat. If your flash heads have tungsten modeling bulbs, these globes will get VERY HOT as there is nowhere for the heat to escape when the globes are in position on the heads. Be sure to turn them down or off entirely.


I think you guys can draw your own conclusions from the images above and however you feel about the three looks, I think one thing is very clear that we can all agree on: you don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money on expensive modifiers to produce beautiful light.

The beauty dish obviously produces a more directional light, and you can see that by how dark the background is compared to the other setups. The other dome shots throw light everywhere so more light is spilling onto the background. Because of this beauty dishes directionality and lack of spill, you should notice that the shadows on the models face are darker too. In contrast, the domes are bouncing light around the room and that spilled light is filling in a lot of the shadows on the models face. This gives the appearance of a far more flattering light as a result.

This dome spill is far from being a bad thing either; in fact, if you’re using the domes in a small space you can use that spill and bounce to really blend the subject into a scene with just a single light. This type of modifier is perfect for location shooting or environmental shots, and it’s certainly something I’ll be using for that type of work.

The small dome actually produced a far better light than I expected. Its small source creates a contrasty light that falls off quite quickly, leaving brighter highlights and darker shadows as a result. I also found that this creates some nice shimmering effects on the skin and makeup as a result of the hard-light properties.

I was really excited to try the big dome, as I thought it was going to be far and away the best looking lighting. Although I wasn’t disappointed, I still feel the resulting light didn’t look like I expected. The light was very clean in that there was a very smooth transition from shadow to highlight, which was nice, but it was still darker overall than I expected.

As a singe beauty light I think the small dome won for me with its look. If I was shooting in a larger area and wanted to illuminate more of the subject in a scene then the big dome placed a little further away would surely be the best choice.

In hindsight, I think I know where I went wrong with this test and what I would like to do differently next time.

You’ll notice that the light stand did not move the entire time, so from the small dome setup to the big dome setup the angling of the flash head caused the light source to get a lot closer to the model, which required me to turn the power of the head down. That’s not a problem normally, but when I turned the power of the head down, I also reduced the amount of light that bounced around the room. This in turn reduced the amount of light falling back into the shadows making the light appear darker than it actually is.

I would like to try this big dome again, but move it further back from the model, thereby allowing that light to bounce around the room and giving a far softer impression to the lighting—perfect for environmental shots.

Closing Comments

So there you have it: a couple of great lighting modifiers and at the cost of just over £25 for the both of them! That’s pretty damn impressive in my book, and you’d be crazy not to grab at least one of them and give them a go. Of course, if you really wanted an excellent dome modifier then you can always grab the Profoto frosted dome one here for a cool $ 177! I’m sure that’s miles better 😉

As always, if you have any questions then let me know. If there was something that didn’t make sense and you wanted clarification on then let me know. Also if you’ve ever tested a DIY modifier that has provided excellent results, I’d love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments!

Jake Hicks is an editorial and fashion photographer specializing in keeping the skill in the camera not just on the screen. To see more of his work or read more tutorials, be sure to visit his website, like his Facebook page, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

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Lighting 103: Takeaways

10 Nov

Abstract: Some parting thoughts as we wrap up Lighting 103.

Hopefully, you have enjoyed our discussion of color and light in Lighting 103 v1.0—or at least found it useful as you expore your own lighting.

Coming next will be a whole new section: The Strobist Lighting Cookbook. (More info on that soon.)

But for now, here are some takeaways as we wrap up our module on color. Read more »

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5 Lighting Setups You Can Do Using an Octabox

06 Nov

Choosing a lighting modifier is always tough because it’s inherently limiting. Do you go for a large soft source or something with a little more contrast? Or something that plays well with the modifiers you already own? One modifier that appears limiting is the Octabox, because generally, they’re a pretty large source.

You could literally point them anywhere in the region of your subject and get an acceptable photo. I’ve even heard them referred to as “idiot lighting” because they work so well, you don’t have to be clever to use them. It’s not really an insult, it’s more of a reflection of how easy they are to use.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use them more subtly though. That’s what we’re going to look at in this article. Your first setup will be the default one most beginners use with lighting. This is a good thing. It gives you a good handle on what the light looks like. But before you begin, let’s talk about the quality of light.

Quality of Light

Generally, when you refer to the quality of light, you’re referring to how hard or soft is the light source.

There are two parts to it though. First, there’s the actual size of the light. A large source is softer, like your typical 4-5 foot Octabox, while a small source, like a 7″ reflector is quite hard.

Soft light

Second, you have the distance to the source. An Octabox placed far from your subject will appear as a smaller source, and become quite hard looking. It’ll also need more power to reach the subject because the light will fall off. This brings us to the concept the f relative size of the light source.

Relative Size of a Light Source

The larger the source of light is in relation to your subject (you may be lighting a still life), the softer your light will appear. A medium source close to your subject will appear softer than a large one further away. So how do you make a larger source softer? Easy, bring it as close to your subject as you can without it appearing in the frame.

Which Octabox?

I currently own three Octaboxes. An Elinchrom 135cm (53″), a Godox 120cm (47″) and an Elinchrom Deep Octa 70cm. For this article, I’m using the more expensive, but really versatile 135cm. You could use the much cheaper Godox. It’s not as soft, but still more than useable.

Setup #1: Light Position to the Front and Side

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

The Octabox lights both the face and the background in this position.

This is the basic one-light setup. It’s the typical light at 45º to your subject arrangement. Put the light in front of your subject and off to the side (either side, though I opted for the right side for my example).

Your subject can be straight on, or face either direction and still be lit acceptably. You could use a meter aimed towards the light to determine your aperture, but as it’s one light, you could just look at the back of the camera to determine your preferred exposure.

Depending on your preference, anywhere from f/4 to f/11 will work fine, just set the light power to match what you want. The larger aperture of f/4 will give you a softer look overall, while f/11 will have much more in focus.

It should go without saying, but you should always focus on the eye that’s nearest the camera for the most pleasing look.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

A behind the scenes image, shot from the side.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Setup #2: Light Position to the Back and Side

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

With the octabox moved around, the light on the subject is more dramatic. Because it’s no longer aimed at the background, the background goes dark.

For this setup, you just move the light 90º towards the background. This time you have to be more careful about your subject position. They’ll need to be turned towards the light more.

This gives us a short lighting pattern, which is more dramatic. You’ve seen this look before if you’ve read my article about lighting positions. It’s a really slimming look that adds more drama to a portrait.

You’ll also notice that compared to the previous setup, the background is much darker. Because the light is now angled away from the back wall, less of it is lit by your light, rendering it much darker. In the case of these two shots, the subject hasn’t moved, just the light.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Setup #3: Lighting From Behind (Backlight)

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox
This a little more exotic, as you’re letting the light wrap around the subject. Your subject will need to be right against the Octabox for this. Allow the light to wrap around and expose for the subject’s face.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Behind the scenes shot.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Bonus Tip:

You can also add a second light to create a high-key portrait here. Technically high-key has all tones above middle grey, so really, you’re just using the Octabox to create a white background.

Move the subject away from the Octabox a little bit. Make sure that the light from the back isn’t flaring over the shoulders to lose definition. If you use a light meter, make sure the aperture reading aimed at the Octabox is the same or lower than the one aimed at your front light.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Adding a second light will create the white background look that’s currently popular. Technically with high-key, all the elements are above zero, so the black in the dress means this isn’t actually a high key shot, though this lighting can provide that look.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Two lights and one reflector used here.

Setup #4: The Tabletop

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

This is a very popular look with fashion and editorial portraits. The front of the Octabox should be parallel to the floor above your subject.

The subject should be placed at the edge of the octa, even back from it slightly. This allows the light to wrap down and around the body. A reflector should be used to aim light back into the face as well to fill in shadows.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Setup #5: Lighting From the Front with No Diffuser

For a much edgier look, pull off the front diffusion panel. As I’m using an Elinchrom, I’ve swapped my inner diffusion panel for the white deflector that comes with the 135cm. You can just use the inner diffusion panel. With the Godox, just remove the diffusion panel.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Stand in front of the Octabox and make sure your body or head is blocking the center of the light to minimize any hotspots from the light. Because you’ve allowed the silver part of the Octa to be visible, you get way more contrast in the light.

It’s still a large light source, but you get more highlights on the skin from this look. It also acts like a huge ring light, so you get diffuse shadows all around the subject, for a very cool look.


How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Get Shooting

Even if you’re just running with a speedlight and a Godox, you’ll still be able to get more options from your light using these five setups.

Remember to keep the center of your light above the subject’s face where possible. Have fun and feel free to post your octabox shots in the comments below!

An Octabox can be used on location as well.

The post 5 Lighting Setups You Can Do Using an Octabox by Sean McCormack appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Pixelstick creators unveil the Colorspike: An incredibly versatile LED lighting strip

06 Oct

The inventors of pixelstick have launched a new Kickstarter campaign to fund their latest creation: a strip of LEDs they’re calling the ‘colorspike.’ Like the pixelstick, it can be controlled via an app to produce a range of effects; unlike the pixelstick, the colorspike panel is more about lighting and color than it is about fun effects or light painting.

At about two feet long, the colorspike consists of a strip of LED lights that the user can program to produce a massive range of different colors and pulsating lighting effects. The results, when used in concert with, say, portrait photography, can be striking:

The idea is that stills and video photographers can use these to add easily controlled color to their shoots, while videographers can also include flashing lights to emulate emergency vehicles, fire, lightning and any interrupted lighting.

The colorspike panels are controlled via a smartphone app that allows colors and effects to be selected from an existing menu or to be custom mixed for the occasion (and saved for later use). Finally, groups of color spikes can be controlled together from the app to create more complex set-ups, and users can determine brightness, color and pulsation patterns via the app or the interface on the panel itself.

For on-location shooting, a battery is supplied that the company claims will last at least 45 minutes; and for those working near a mains power supply, a DC adapter also comes included the kit.

The colorspike is being launched on Kickstarter with a price of $ 270, and kits of four can be had for the discounted price of $ 1,000. The company, Bitbanger, expects delivery to begin in March next year if the target of $ 120,000 is reached—and given they’ve already reached over half of that goal with a full 42 days left in the campaign, chances are good the colorspike will become a reality

For more information on this nifty new lighting accessory, visit the colorspike Kickstarter page or Bitbanger’s website.

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Lighting 103: Becoming More Intuitive with Color

29 Sep

As your understanding of light and color grows, how does it affect your daily shooting? Like most things that seem complex at first, color pretty quickly becomes a secondary thought process, just like tying your shoes.

I just had the above archive photo picked up by a nonprofit, to promote children's books. Looking at it, I'm reminded that creating a natural looking color need not be complicated at all.

This was a little more than a snapshot, done with on-camera flash, and no gels. And the thought process behind the light is a good example of how you'll start to see and control color, even if you're just grabbing a snapshot. Read more »

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How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

15 Sep

When it comes to lighting, there is an infinite choice on how you can light your portrait subjects. That’s great and it’s addicting, but when you are starting out it can also be overwhelming. To counter the inevitable information overload that you will get researching lighting, it is a good idea to know a few basic setups that you can fall back on should you be pressed for time or should you need a backup. This article will introduce you to a basic two light setup often called clamshell lighting.

It will provide you with a beautiful soft light with faint shadows and glorious catchlights. Clamshell lighting works very well and it is very flattering for men and women of all ages and it could be a very useful technique in your toolkit.
How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

What is clamshell lighting?

In a nutshell, clamshell lighting is a configuration where two lights are placed facing toward your subject at a 45-degree angle. Your key light is facing downwards at a 45-degree angle and your fill light is a facing upwards at a 45-degree angle. The resulting appearance of your lights from the side somewhat resembles an open clamshell (imagination may be required).

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Set-Up

Apologies for my stick figure skills, but here you can see just how easy clamshell lighting is to do.

If you start with your main light on axis (directly in front of your subject), raised up and pointed downward, you have a basic butterfly lighting set-up. Adding the second light from below serves as fill and eliminates any heavy shadows caused by the key light. This combination results in soft, flattering light that works well with almost any subject.

What you need

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Set-Up
To create a clamshell lighting setup, you need two light sources. If you have modifiers to soften your light, all the better, but as long as you have two light sources you can get started with clamshell lighting.

I do recommend starting with a pair of softboxes roughly the same size. Once you’ve mastered that, you can then start experimenting with other modifiers such as beauty dishes and strip boxes.

Setting it up

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup
Start with your key light (your main light source) and place it in front of your subject. Go closer for softer light and faster light fall off, or further away for a harder light. Place it above your subject, pointed directly at their nose. Meter for your desired aperture (we’ll use a hypothetical f/11 from this point) and take a test shot.

If everything is setup correctly you should have a decently lit image with deep shadows under your subject’s nose and chin.

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

Now, take your fill light and place it directly underneath your key light. Point it upwards toward your subject at 45-degrees and meter this light for two stops below your preferred aperture, which would result in f/5.6 for our hypothetical aperture of f/11. If the effect is too strong and your fill light is obliterating the shadows, turn the power down. If it isn’t doing enough, turn it up. The main thing to look out for is that you need to ensure that your fill light is not overpowering your key light. This would result in your image being lit from below with your shadows being filled in from above. This is not a good look to go for.

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

What to watch out for

The main thing to look out for is that you need to ensure that your fill light is not overpowering your key light. This would result in your image being lit from below with your shadows being filled in from above. This is not a good look.

Now that you have two lights sharing the same vertical space, stand behind them and shoot through the gap. If there isn’t much of a gap, raise and/or lower both of your lights (change the angle of each and take another meter reading if you need to) until you have enough room to work in the middle.

That’s all there is to it. Clamshell lighting is really is easy to set up and with a bit of practice you will be able to get it up and running in a couple of minutes.

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

Note: The softbox at camera left is NOT on so isn’t doing anything.


Although I suggested using two evenly sized softboxes, to begin with, that is by no means a restriction of any kind. Feel free to use any kind of modifier you want and experiment liberally. Have a pair of strip boxes you want to use? Go for it. Do you want to use a beauty dish as your key light and an umbrella as fill? Sure. How about a snoot and a small soft box? Absolutely. Use what you have at hand.>

Also, you are not limited to just using two lights from the front. Feel free to add rim and hair lights and a background light as your images require.


How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

This image included a third light serving as a background light.

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup


If you’ve made it this far, hopefully, you can see how useful a basic clamshell lighting setup is, and how it might serve you. It’s easy, fairly compact and produces lovely, flattering light. If you’re still not sure, I urge you to try it for yourself. You may very well fall in love with it.

The post How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup by John McIntire appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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