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In the Shooting with Wireless Flash series, award-winning photographer Jim Sugar demonstrates his approach to using off-camera flash in a variety of lighting scenarios, sharing practical tips along the way.
In this installment, Jim shows how to light and shoot a portrait with a dramatic look. He demonstrates a variety of inexpensive lighting tools—clamps, gels, and other light modifiers—to light the subject and the background. He also shows how to offer direction, pose the subject, and make him or her feel more comfortable. The course wraps up with tips on distinct ways to effectively light and separate the subject from the background, using gels, adjusting lights, and modifying the ratios between multiple strobes and the ambient light in the room.
So here we are here in a great studio that has lots of space and a piece of seamless and lots of room to do this photograph. And today we're going to photograph of a woman, a great model, dressed as a Celtic warrior. And in order to show off the line of her body and the equipment that she's carrying, we've decided that what we need to do is make sure that there's no flash on the camera. So in fact, we've moved the strobes off the camera.
And at least for starters we're going to use four lights. So two of the lights are to be bounced into umbrellas. and then we're going have an overhead shot and then another backlight with the diffuser that's located behind the model. So let's put this one in place. This one I want on the left-hand side. So I'm going to move it right on the edge of the seamless and the model's going to sit on the stool. And I'm going to move this in pretty close, as close as I can get it at least for starters.
On the other side we're going to use this umbrella. But one of the big differences is this umbrella's larger. So it's more diffused even than the other one. But I'm using a different colored gel. Because these strobes from the factory often come slightly blue, they often have a blue cast, I've taken then and just warmed it up a little with a color temperature orange gel, a CTO gel. And that's going to take the natural inherent blue quality of the light and make it white.
So here on the on the left-hand side we've got an orange light or a warmer light, and on this side we have basically a white light. In the course of doing the shoot with the model I can swap these two umbrellas and I can move the yellow side or the warm side from the left to the right. So I'm going to put this one in place right now. And I'm going to put this light essentially in the same position as the first one, but on the other side. So the third light is a top light.
And this one is an SB800. Excuse me, this is an SB900. My assistant Loren is going to give me a hand with this. And it is attached to a very very large boom pole. And we're going to take this and make it a top light. And we've attached two things to this strobe. We've attached a diffusion material that comes with the Nikon strobe. It is almost identical to a Sto-Fen gel. But this one's made by Nikon. And we've also taken some black wrap because I want to keep the light off the background.
So on the one hand I diffused it but I'm not allowing any light to spill onto the background. So it's going to be soft on the model, it's going to define the top of her head and her shoulders, and she's going to be holding this fantastic sword. And so with one light I'm able to light that entire object, her head and shoulders, the sword. And one of the things I can do by having this light on this fantastic boom pole is I can control both the amount of diffusion and the brightness of that strobe with distance.
So I'm constantly thinking in terms of distance for positioning each of these strobes. Because distance becomes a really important way to affect the quality of the final image. How do we mold the light, how do we shape it, how do we make it stronger, how do we make it weaker? And the sum total of all these is to give us a really really beautiful photograph. And that's the aim of this exercise that we're doing right now. So we're going to add one more light, a backlight, again with a Nikon strobe. We've done something unusual with it.
Rather than allowing it to be white and translucent, which it normally would be, we have wrapped this diffuser in black wrap. So it's going to create a clone of light, and by angling it up very very close to the black seamless it's going to have a very rapid falloff on the seamless background. And if I do it properly and it has to be positioned absolutely perfectly, but if I do this properly it's going to create a glow of light, almost a cone of light, on the background.
Loren, could you put this on for me please? Thank you. So Loren is going to use the adjusting clamp, and he's attaching it to one of the legs of the stool. And you can see how quickly and easily he does it. And it is one of the nice things about the adjusting clamp and taking advantage of the stool. What I what I don't have to do here is use a light stand. And that's a fantastic advantage. And I can use the model's body to block that light from the photo.
So I've now got four lights and I haven't even touched the camera yet. But I've lit the picture and pretty quickly here, I'm going to have a real good sense of whether or not I've done it properly. Let's see if I've got it right.
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