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DPChallenge Forums >> Photography Discussion >> Lighting Lessons -- anyone care to teach me?
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01/17/2017 10:22:19 AM · #1
So it's another year and I'm still trying to figure out lighting. I really want to understand this, but it's so elusive (for me, at least).

So here's the first lighting question: How do I increase contrast?

I have a small dining room where I shoot. When I was using hot shoe flashes, I could get the light to fall off really quickly. With the alienbees, I can't get the same effect. Even when I turn the all the way down.

So here was my latest shot as it came out of the camera. The lighting was what I wanted: a light from the left (gridded strip box), a light from the right (snooted) and a hair lighting behind. I actually got almost exactly what I wanted -- if I made just a few changes to the RAW file.

Original:
Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1193725.jpg

Adjustments in RAW -- more contrast, a bit brighter and blacks and bit more black.
Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1193724.jpg

So in this posted version, there was no spot fixing of lighting and the ratios are basically what I was looking for.

How do I get that out of camera? It seems like I'm basically there if I only need to make some few easy tweaks in the processing. Is it because it's just a small room and you can't do much with big lights in a small room?
01/17/2017 02:07:39 PM · #2
If I only knew what to tell you. I am impressed with your straight-out-of-camera image.
01/17/2017 03:25:04 PM · #3
Me too. There is truthfulness in it which is a marvelous quality.
The one posted, by comparison, shows little mishaps (the ear a bit too enhanced, the left index finger etc - the sleeve on the other hand is just so nice)
Ask Johanna - once I begged her to teach me about lighting. One of her best advice was something in this vein: use what lighting you have and if you like it that's just right, you don't need a lot of knowledge
01/17/2017 03:34:17 PM · #4
A couple of links that should help

Snap Shot

Inverse square law

Shaping Hard Light with Mark Wallace

Do you use a light meter?
I know a lot of people don't these days but they can really make setting up lighting much quicker.

Message edited by author 2017-01-17 15:36:13.
01/17/2017 04:17:13 PM · #5
I'll have to look through the links -- thanks! I know about the inverse square law, but was able to use it much more effectively with hot shoe flashes. I started watching the first video, and it does sound like my biggest problem is my lack of space. He moved his model 11 ft away from the background. I think that's the entire width of my room. I've turned down the source so that it could fall off faster. But it's obvious that I need to grid more. But I still wonder how they get the deeper contrasts in small spaces.

I do use a light meter for the main light, but then am a loss as to what else to meter and how to adjust the other areas.

Hmmm... in "talking" through this, I've never worked with flags... Maybe I need to be flagging things some more?
01/17/2017 04:20:36 PM · #6
maybe a dumb question but have you gone thru lighting 101 at strobist?
01/17/2017 04:27:53 PM · #7
I did awhile ago. I think I need to revisit it. Everyone said it was wonderful, but it seemed so basic. I think I wasn't finding all there was to find. Thanks for reminding me. I'll go look again. I also bought the strobist guys lighting videos and forgot about them until now. They're somewhere on my computer, and I didn't make it all the way through, because I stopped to experiment. I'll go back and revisit both.
01/17/2017 04:30:40 PM · #8
just went back to strobist and realized that a lot didn't apply because I didn't have much equipment. It will be well worth going back now that I have more stuff and more experience!
01/17/2017 04:30:42 PM · #9
Lack of space doesn't have to be a roadblock. You just need something that will cut your light output. A neutral density gel will do it.

Or if you are shooting through something (like a softbox), you could add layers of printer paper to block some of the light (if you don't have any, buy some gaffers tape to affix the paper).

In fact, this can be better than moving away. As you move away, your light source will get smaller relative to your object, and thus the light will get harder. If you want the soft light, you need to have the lights closer. I know, this seems weird, just think of the sun. It's a helluva lot brighter and big that your light source, but it's much harder light (look at your shadow) than your flash.
01/17/2017 04:34:06 PM · #10
Originally posted by giantmike:

Lack of space doesn't have to be a roadblock. You just need something that will cut your light output. A neutral density gel will do it.

Or if you are shooting through something (like a softbox), you could add layers of printer paper to block some of the light (if you don't have any, buy some gaffers tape to affix the paper).

In fact, this can be better than moving away. As you move away, your light source will get smaller relative to your object, and thus the light will get harder. If you want the soft light, you need to have the lights closer. I know, this seems weird, just think of the sun. It's a helluva lot brighter and big that your light source, but it's much harder light (look at your shadow) than your flash.


I have an extra baffle in my softbox, but adding more is an interesting idea -- especially for other modifiers. Which brings up a question:

I have a large softbox (too large, I'm finding), but when I bring it in very close for really soft light, it creates monstrous catch lights. I've seen the pros using really big softboxes/octboxes, but don't notice their catch lights being huge...?
01/17/2017 04:37:35 PM · #11
Originally posted by giantmike:

Lack of space doesn't have to be a roadblock. You just need something that will cut your light output. A neutral density gel will do it.

Or if you are shooting through something (like a softbox), you could add layers of printer paper to block some of the light (if you don't have any, buy some gaffers tape to affix the paper).

In fact, this can be better than moving away.

If you are trying to get the light to "fall off" faster from one side of the model to the other I think the inverse-square law dictates that the light be closer to the subject, with the intensity reduced to make a correct exposure on the near side.
01/17/2017 04:41:24 PM · #12
Originally posted by GeneralE:

Originally posted by giantmike:

Lack of space doesn't have to be a roadblock. You just need something that will cut your light output. A neutral density gel will do it.

Or if you are shooting through something (like a softbox), you could add layers of printer paper to block some of the light (if you don't have any, buy some gaffers tape to affix the paper).

In fact, this can be better than moving away.

If you are trying to get the light to "fall off" faster from one side of the model to the other I think the inverse-square law dictates that the light be closer to the subject, with the intensity reduced to make a correct exposure on the near side.


Yes -- I've tried that.

But that must be my problem. I'm moving it in closer in order to have it fall off faster, but because of that, I'm getting a softer light with softer shadows.

That's why the hotshoe flash gave me more contrast, because I had it close in -- but it was a smaller source!

So I really can't have an abrupt fall off and still a high contrasty subject if I have a large light source!
01/17/2017 04:50:15 PM · #13
It might help if you post a picture of your space and the lighting equipment you're using, and/or a roughly-to-scale diagram.
01/17/2017 04:56:26 PM · #14
Did you use a black backdrop in your image? I seem to be able to see background items

01/17/2017 04:57:11 PM · #15
Personally I think all you need is a nice large (north facing) window or softbox. The snooted lighting from behind makes his ear look grotesque. The hair light just puts a hot spot on his bald head. I would ditch the snoot and reposition your hair light to work as a rim light if its only purpose is to separate him from the background. Less is more. The contrast seems fine. (Not lighting related but it would be good to see a little more of his face.)
01/17/2017 04:58:40 PM · #16
You may already know this, but the light meter you need to be using is an "incident light meter" like LumiPro (which is what we used to use) that has a hemispherical white dome and measures the light falling ON the subject; you hold it where you want to measure the light. So you can turn the main light(s) on and set & measure that, then turn them off and set the fill lights so they fill to whatever percentage of the mainb lights you desire, then shoot with both sets on and exposed for the main lights. That's how we shot with both strobe and non-strobe back in the day; we had a strobe meter that did the same thing, measured the intensity of light falling on the subject, and we'd dial in the balance we wanted. Of course, I'm a dinosaur. Everybody's electronic these days. But it worked great for Yousuf Karsh :-)

ALBERT-EINSTEIN-1948-by-YOUSUF-KARSH-BHC1111.jpg
01/17/2017 04:59:34 PM · #17
The image detail says an aperture of f4.5
To lower the power of the light you could increase the aperture accordingly.
DOF with lighting is very different (in the shot shown) as only what you light will show the DOF anyway
This will let you control the light power more and increase sharpness throughout the image

Message edited by author 2017-01-17 18:22:39.
01/18/2017 05:00:18 AM · #18
Originally posted by vawendy:

Originally posted by GeneralE:

Originally posted by giantmike:

Lack of space doesn't have to be a roadblock. You just need something that will cut your light output. A neutral density gel will do it.

Or if you are shooting through something (like a softbox), you could add layers of printer paper to block some of the light (if you don't have any, buy some gaffers tape to affix the paper).

In fact, this can be better than moving away.

If you are trying to get the light to "fall off" faster from one side of the model to the other I think the inverse-square law dictates that the light be closer to the subject, with the intensity reduced to make a correct exposure on the near side.


Yes -- I've tried that.

But that must be my problem. I'm moving it in closer in order to have it fall off faster, but because of that, I'm getting a softer light with softer shadows.

That's why the hotshoe flash gave me more contrast, because I had it close in -- but it was a smaller source!

So I really can't have an abrupt fall off and still a high contrasty subject if I have a large light source!


Have you tried using gridded softlight modifiers? The grid on a softbox is intended to restrict the spill of light to the side and making the falloff faster, but still soft.

01/22/2017 01:35:40 PM · #19
Here is an article which may bear on your situation (I haven't watched the linked video) ...
01/27/2017 01:56:44 PM · #20
This article[ seems even more relevant to your situation ...
01/27/2017 02:14:24 PM · #21
It doesn't answer directly to your but maybe someone could find it useful. For one of my Yellow Ribbons I opened this thread about the lighting of that image.

As for the contrast, the hardest the light, the more contrast you have in your image (in any case the right settings in camera can add contrast before the editing too).
01/28/2017 02:14:24 AM · #22
Hmmm, sounds like you're using the wrong modifiers. Do you have a beauty dish with a grid? I swear by that thing.
01/28/2017 12:15:09 PM · #23
Ok -- I'm really behind on this thread and I need to catch up. General, thanks for the links! I'll take a look. Tangy: Didn't know you could grid a beauty dish!! I have one -- I'll look into a grid.

Alex, HECK YEAH!! That's the lighting I want!! Looking at your lighting guide, how far away were the lights and what types of modifiers? softbox with one layer of diffussion? Double? Gridded? I really really want that dramatic look, and I don't seem to be getting it. Also, what size soft box? I'm thinking I have way too big of a softbox for a very small area.

Just realized that my bedroom is significantly larger than my dining room. I'm hoping Jeff won't mind if we sleep in the middle of the dining room and turn the bedroom into a studio. :)
01/28/2017 12:18:09 PM · #24
Oh, and I have the right type of light meter. Still don't use it very effectively, but at least I'm using it now (I'd just do a hit and miss before :)

And yup, I'm using the aperture to then change the power of the light. I tried opening it up, simply because I kept getting too much light on the background, so I wanted a shallower depth of field. I need to angle the lights more since I don't have the room to trust the inverse square law. I can't get it to fall off fast enough in the small space. (that's also why I was trying to decrease the power of the light.)

But teach us, Alex!
01/29/2017 08:45:32 AM · #25
This guy does great lighting tuts in a small home studio for Adorama.
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