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Lighting notebook: Ring light as key or fill


From:

Lighting with Flash: Basics

with David Hobby

Video: Lighting notebook: Ring light as key or fill

All right, we're back, and now we are going to be using the ring light that we used as a fill earlier as a key light. So the first thing we did was to take some red felt and just tape it to the white wall that we had for our backdrop. We stretched it out to get the wrinkles out of it, taped it up nice and firmly, and then hid it with some gapers type, with the sticky side out, to get rid of any lint. This is a nice pure-red reusable and very inexpensive backdrop.
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Watch the Online Video Course Lighting with Flash: Basics
1h 50m Appropriate for all May 10, 2013

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In the Lighting with Flash series, photographer and Strobist blog publisher David Hobby demonstrates how to use compact flash units in a variety of lighting scenarios. In this first installment, he covers the basics, starting with ambient window light and ending with a four-light shoot of a model. Along the way, the course covers a variety of fundamental lighting concepts as well as accessories such as ring lights and softboxes. The course includes diagrams and detailed explanations of the lighting setups.

Topics include:
  • Starting with window light
  • Adding a flash and umbrella
  • Using multiple strobes
  • Layering and creating a cone of light
  • Creating classic ring light glamour
Subject:
Photography
Author:
David Hobby

Lighting notebook: Ring light as key or fill

All right, we're back, and now we are going to be using the ring light that we used as a fill earlier as a key light. So the first thing we did was to take some red felt and just tape it to the white wall that we had for our backdrop. We stretched it out to get the wrinkles out of it, taped it up nice and firmly, and then hid it with some gapers type, with the sticky side out, to get rid of any lint. This is a nice pure-red reusable and very inexpensive backdrop.

I got this at a fabric store for I think 5 bucks. It was remnant. So we are going to take our orbus ring flash adaptor and we are going to use that as a key light. This is the only light in the frame here at first. It's a very signature look and exactly what you are going to expect out of a ring light if you've got a background right behind your subject. And here it is. What you are going to see is that tell-tale shadow that wraps around the subject onto the background and just says, we shot with a ring light. Now that's one look of the ring. The other thing--and I'm not real big on that shadow; in fact, we'll get rid of it in a minute.

But the thing I really like about the ring light here is what it's doing to her hair. This is a specular highlightm and there's another one coming off her lips that is happening because the light is coming right out from right by the lens, it's bouncing off those two items, and coming right back into the lens. So this is a really good way to give a cool texture to someone who has particularly dark hair for instance. You are going to get back strong speculars anytime you use a ring just because of the geometry of the light involved. Now let's go to the shadow for a second. Back to the diagram, if we decide to add a flash between the subject and the backdrop, we can dial that flash up or down as much as we want.

We can dial the power up on that flash just enough to erase that ring shadow or we can keep going, as in this picture which I've made a black-and-white conversion out of, and go ahead and raise the level of the background up even further. When I raised this red up, it started becoming more of a hot pink and was a little distracting, so I thought this picture was better with the color taken out of it and converted into black and white. Now, after we added this light to backdrop and sort of manipulated the level of that shadow behind her, we took another light in and we brought in from high camera left and now what's happened is the ring light has become our fill light. It's working in a secondary way.

That light is still behind Ramona erasing that ring shadow, but just at a lower level and leaving that tone where we want it to be on the backdrop, and this is all serving as a foundation in a picture that's completely lit by flash, and the key light is coming in from upper camera left in a LumiQuest SoftBox III. Now we can use that hard key light because we've already raised our shadows to the level that we want them to be with the ring fill, so that gives us the ability to use a fairly hard, what would be a harsh light source, and not to have those shadows falling too far off the edge of the table.

And the fill level is really important when you are using hard lights. The more you manage your fill, the more you can get away with those hard angular light sources. So I'm a big fan of ring flash as fill light because it gives me the ability to do more interesting things with my key light. And frankly, I'm more of a fan of ring flash as fill light than I am of ring flash as a key light.

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