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© 2019 by Gavin Doran | New York City Photographer

3 Easy and Effective Lighting Set Ups

July 3, 2017

When I first started playing with lighting, my immediate assumption was more lights = better final image.

 

This couldn't be further from the truth. Light should only be used to the extent that it serves your creative vision. Beyond that it can be unnecessary at best and tacky at worst.

 

To begin with, I'm going to list my materials used and why I use them. 

 

MATERIALS:

 

1. Broncolor Move Kit

 

This kit isn't for everyone, but to due to my more natural, "in the moment" style, I need a unit that is small and portable while still giving me enough power to battle the sun. It's also fairly weather resistant and has held it's own on days it could have understandably quit on me.

 

2. 2x Broncolor MobiLED Flash Heads

 

These flash heads produce better quality light at a more consistent color temperature than any other lights I've tried. Due to the fact they are LED's, they also can be doubled as video lights which certainly comes in handy when conducting video interviews in the field or even when I'm setting up camp in the dark on those early morning shoots.

 

3 .Elinchrom 69' Rotalux Octa 

 

This thing is huge and has 2 layers of removable diffusion that produces a beautiful and soft light. It has a slight hotspot in the middle so I'll show you how I use that to my advantage in the upcoming layouts.

 

4. Broncolor 2x2 Softbox

 

This guy is little and great for producing more contrasty and dramatic portraits. It's especially useful when I am in a rush and don't feel like bringing/putting together the giant Elinchrom Octa. I also use it as a fill light whenever things get too dark.

 

5. 2x Avenger C Stands

 

These things are tanks. I mean they could literally double as weapons should you ever be unfortunate enough to have someone break into your home. Very heavy and especially necessary if there is even a slight breeze outside. As any pro will attest, some of the modifiers double as kites and having that extra weight is not fun lugging around, but more than worth it to protect your investments attached to the top of them.

 

 

3 LIGHTING TECHNIQUES:

 

1. Single Light

 

Much of my work doesn't require more than this, as I prefer images that don't appear overly contrived or manufactured. Although simple in idea, it's not always simple in execution unless you have a strong familiarity in directional lighting. 

 

To start, I will typically use my 69' Octa. This allows for a large and soft quality of light that is wrapping and flattering to any subject. I place the light around the same distance away from the subject as the width of the octa itself, above the subject, facing down at 45 degree angle. As I said before, there is a hotspot in the middle of this modifier. Because of this, I then turn the octa slightly to the side, feathering the light and getting a beautiful falloff onto my subject. 

 

2. The Sandwich 

 

The Sandwich is just a name I like to use in order to help people remember the light placement of this technique. My main light will still be typically placed in the same position as a single light set up, however, there will also be a second light placed in exactly the opposite position-the "sandwich". What this does is create backlight, helping to separate the subject from the background and creating light glow around my subject. I use this when trying to place more emphasis on a subject or convey a sense of prestige. Sometimes I'll also use this technique with the sun as my second light, placing it slightly to the side of my subjects head and not only creating backlight but also a nice warm flare to help things feel more natural.

 

 

3. The Sandwich w/ a Fill

 

Again, building on the previous technique, this one adds another light to the opposite side of the subjects face/body. Sometimes the Sandwich technique can be a little heavy and unbalanced on one side. To ensure that things don't go too dark, I'll use the sun as my backlight and use the smaller 2x2 soft box to pop a small amount of light and fill in the deeper shadows of the image. If it's dark outside, I'll have an assistant hold a reflector here and put the other MobiLED as the backlight. 

 

 

There you go! My 3 easy and go-to lighting techniques. Just as I laid it out, I will typically use an additive lighting approach. It helps keep things simple so that I can understand what effect each individual light is having on my subject in order to get a more balanced and cohesive final product. More often than not I don't need a million lights, and when I find the look I had envisioned, I stop adding. The only things I will use additional lights for are to illuminate the scene my subjects are in. For example, if there is a lamp in the scene that isn't powerful enough, I'll throw a small flash with some CTO gel behind the lamp shade to add mood to the image. Outside of things like that, these techniques will take you 90% of the way there with whatever vision you come up with.

 

Have a great 4th of July and happy shooting!

 

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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