Today I photographed Baillie Phillips in my studio. I first brought her in for some pictures of a young girl carrying moving boxes for some stock photos. After we were done with those rather mundane shots, I had her dress up a bit for some fashion shots. We changed the lighting around just a bit from the stock photo shots to add a bit more drama and shadows to these pictures. Stock photography typically has to be lit somewhat evenly, where I like a bit more harder edge to my pictures.
Below is a lighting diagram showing how this was set up. Fstops of the light are approximate. I typically like to pull my subjects away from the background so I can light them independently from the background. If they were closer to the background I would need to use flags to control the background light spill on them. I also have to use a longer lens to compress perspective since they are so far from the background. The beauty dish was directly overhead, maybe a bit in front, pointed down. I pulled the fill light way back so it would give a nice even spread of fill light.
Remember, the light measurements are NOT at the light face, they are t the subject. So the power on the fill light was turned up a fair amount so I could get F5.6 at the subject, while the overhead beauty dish light was turned way down to get F10, since it was a lot closer than the fill light.
Another important thing to remember is the light falls of at an inverse square rate to the distance. So the further the light is from the subject, the slower it falls off, and inversely, the closer the light it to the subject, the faster it falls off. So the overhead beauty dish fell off quickly from her forehad to her shoes, while the fill light fell off very gradually from front to back.
When the light is in close to the subject, movement of just a few inches can really affect the look of the picture. When the light is further away from the subject, placement is not so critical. Why? Because of that inverse square light falloff thingamajig. The closer the light is to the subject, the faster it falls off, so very slight movement of the light or subject can really affect the photograph.
Another thing to remember is the bigger the light source is (relative to the subject), the more “wrap” it has and the “softer” the light looks. I like the beauty dish quite a bit because I can get it in close and it is a fairly big soft source when close to their face, yet falls off quickly and becomes harsher as the light moves down their body. I also have more control of the light with a beauty dish than with a softbox. I often rake the beauty dish light down the front of their body, using the light penumbra as my key light. In other words, I use the edge of the light to rake down the front of my subject rather than the main part of the light.
The good thing with my photograph is that after several years of practice I have my camera and lighting pretty well figured out. Once I have my lights set the way I want them, I can concentrate on my subject rather than my equipment. I might tweak the lights just a bit or move my subject around, but I can focus on them rather than the technical details. This just comes with lots of practice and getting to know your equipment. I don’t even have to think about my camera or lights anymore, any more than a carpenter things about their hammer. I can now concentrate on the creative part.