Glamour Lighting SetupsSubmitted by Michael on Thu, 2011-03-03 11:33

Speedlights as backlight for “Star” photos

Please note: I am going to take a couple of weeks off from blogging for personal reasons. I'll send an email to the newsletter subscribers once I am back - which will be soon.

But now on to a situation that you might find yourself in sooner or later: Do you have a model that belongs onto a big stage with spotlights shining bright on her? Lucky you! Congrats! You are going to shoot her like a star, right?

Now do you also have a big stage with spotlights? A stage where you can quickly go and shoot some frames with her? No? Do you know anybody who can let you into a theatre? No? Oh, oh.... life is a bitch, isn’t it?

No problem. With a little bit of luck, you might have a black backdrop or black curtain and a couple of speedlights at hand. That’s pretty much all it takes to introduce some “big stage” feeling to your photos.

If you also add an umbrella to the mix, then the photos will turn out much more charming than they could ever turn out on a real stage.

In this video I am taking some photos of HA-L who is a music producer (Avex Trax). While her artists are usually on the big stage she herself is working in the background... until now. Because with the lighting tactic I just mentioned I pulled her onto the stage - at least photographically. The lighting setup requires a bit of effort, but it’s not that hard. Setup takes 10 minutes max. Have a look at the video:

Here’s the lighting diagram of the shoot. It’s a tiny little bit more complex than what you usually see on this blog - but don’t let that freak you out:




Model: HA-L

Postproduction: Gina Hernandez

Graphic Design: AlexZlatev





I wish you good light!


Related Links:

This video on Youtube: Speedlights as backlight for "Star" photos

Hard to get my thick German accent? Here's the transcript!

Hey fellow photographer, how is it going? Welcome to glamour lighting setups. My name is Michael Zelbel and here is the topic of today’s show.


Today I would like to give you an example of how you can shoot photographs in a tiny tiny room and make it look like a big stage. Now if you know how you can use light in order to transform your location into something completely different, then this gives you a lot of power as a photographer and often times your subjects they are going to love it.


And like today’s model which is cousin HAL and she is a music producer for some pretty well known artists and that means that her people are usually on the big stage in the limelight but she herself is invisible. Now she is always been in the background and I found that is not fair, right? That is why I wanted to shoot some frames which have the feeling like she is on the big stage, now just more charming that the regular stage light.


The way I introduce this big stage feeling into our photographs is this, first of all I used a black back drop which the viewer cannot see where there room ends, it is just completely black so potentially the room where could be really really large, right? Then the second things is I used 2 speedlights in the background and they are firing directly into the lens and that makes them look like they are big spotlights on the stage, now they are not sharp anymore, they are pretty blurry, so the viewer all can’t identify them as speedlights.


But wait there is more! Let us have a look at the lighting diagram. So we have our model Cousin HAL and she is sitting at a table. And on the table I put some silver reflective material to fill in some shades. We are seeing the really backdrop and we are seeing 2 speedlights firing into her back and into the lens.


Another tricky part is, that the main light is coming from the side. It is a little bit behind the models so it is firing mostly from behind and it is going through a big shoot through umbrella which makes it pretty soft. If you have such soft light, it is not really like a stage. Now if we have a look a the photo again, it is so soft, it is much softer than let see a follow-spot on stage would be. But you know my goal was not to perfectly simulate the stage, my first goal was to shoot a really charming photograph and for that I use soft light of course.


Then there is one more important thing which is reflector over here, the other side of the model is reflecting back some of the main light, so that I could record texture of everything in the shadows of her face. Now if you have a look at the image again, in the shadows everything is still there. It is pretty dark but you can see the things and for that I needed some light and that is coming simply from the reflector.


The camera settings are pretty straight forward, 1/200s for syncing speedlights, f/11 for a nice sharpness, ISO200 for good quality that is all standard stuff. The speedlights, they are all in manual. Main light is on 1/8 of power in group A. The back speedlights are down pretty low to 1/32 of a power because they should act as spots but they shouldn’t really completely flare the whole image and that is why I need just a little bit of power over here in group B. Both of the speedlights in the background are attached to one light stand and this is something I did just for convenience. It is not mandatory of course, but I covered the shiny metal part of the clams that I used to attach those speed lights. I covered them with black fabric just in order to be sure to have nothing in the photo which screams "lightstand". You know, a bit of light that is falling onto the metal would make it clear to the viewer that this was done with speedlights which are attached to a light stand. I really wanted to hide this fact. So all in all, it is a little bit of a more complicated lighting set up but it is really worth it. It is really tricky and really good!


So if you want to do similar lighting set up but let us say you don’t have 3 speedlights that you can scatter around the scene, then simply check if you can find other lights sources that are bright enough to serve as a backlight in your scene. It could be, for instance, regular lamps which you equip with a strong light bulb and where you remove the lamp shades so that you can directly look into the light bulb.  They will serve as a backlight as well.


Now this has a cool effect, so try it out and if you do have nice results, then please post a link to your photos in the comments. I would you like to see what is the outcome.


All right that is all for this show, I really hope you can get something out of it and let me know about your opinion in the comments below the video. And I really hope you come back next Thursday when I am back with another video for you, until then have a lot of fun with your camera, your photo shoots and for that I am wishing you...

good light.

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