Glamour Lighting SetupsSubmitted by Michael on Thu, 2010-10-07 09:55

Glamour Lighting Setups: Vertical Sandwich

My dear glamographers, let's get enlightened - every first Thursday. From now on I'm going to post a video illustrating a particular lighting setup every first Thursday of the month. These videos are going to be titled "Glamour Lighting Setups". I hope you find them useful.

I'd like to start of with a more sculptural and artistic setup. I am talking about what I call the vertical lighting sandwich. You sandwich your model with your flashes and - most important - you reverse the lighting context. You underexpose your model while you overexpose your background. Sound's silly enough for your? It sure is, but the results can be jewels for your glamography port. And it's really a lot of fun to shoot this one:




Check out the lighting diagram:



Model: Sasha
Styling: Nizi
Photography: Michael Zelbel
Postproduction: Gina Hernandez
Graphic Design: AlexZlatev

Related Links:



Great set up....how would this work with large studio strobes any tips?

With studio strobes it would work as well. They would have the advantage that they provide modelling light. That makes it easier to position the model at a spot where she is quite dark but there's still structure on her muscles.

  • Use shoot through umbrellas or softboxes as light modifiers
  • Choose ISO100 instead of ISO400
  • The strobes illuminating the model should roughly be on 150ws. Make a test shoot with just these two and check that the sides of your model are well lit. Check in your histogram that there is no 100% black in the image.
  • The strobes illuminating the background might be good at 350ws. Check in the histogram or highlight warnung that not much more is burnt out than you want to. 

Does that make sense?

Good light!
-- Michael

Thank you for the tips! I will try this out soon and let you know the results. How far is the model aprox. from the background?

She's about 6 ft / 2 meters away from the background. The closer you have your model to the background, the more you need to watch out that your background strobes don't spill their light at your model.

Thank you Michael.

im trying it out tomorrow in a studio.

Have you been able to try it out? How did work for you?

Great, Great, just Great. I have four speed lights but only two shoot thrus. Now I gotta got go spend more money . LOL.

Love it.

Mark, actually you don't need more than two umbrellas. Zoom the back-speedlights to 28mm in order to throw the light into the background. Keep them on +1 so that the difference to the other speedlights is not soooo big and to ensure that you don't end up with a harsh ligth-edge pattern on the ground. Keep an eye on that and you should be good to go.

Having said that, well, yes, you can never have too many umbrellas...big...small...doublefolded...

I wish you good light!
-- Michael

Great video. One question. Can you shoot this with two speedlites in the front and continuous lighting in the background (instead of 4 speedlites total)?

Yes, with some caveats. The continuos light would need to be quite strong to match the speedlights and to provide enough power so that the background is white at f/11 or so. So I'd switch it and put the speedlights into the background and the continuos lights to her sides. In any case this is working only for poses, in which the model does not move too fast. If you like to freeze the action while she is jumping, then you need the short burn times of a strobe.

First I want to let you know that I just started to follow you and I'm extremely impress with what you do. I find a lot of inspiration from your videos and learn a lot of new tricks from them. Keep updating and thank you for your the great tutorials.

Thanks a lot Luis! If you have been able to use the inspiration to make a nice photo, then feel free to post a link here so that we can have a look.

Thank you for the wonderful tutorials.
I have just subscribed and am glad i found you. Keep up the good job! :)

I love the lighting that you used - thanks for the tip. I'm looking forward to giving it a try soon!

Hi Michael great shots,amazing lighting. i am starting my own studio business what is the best tips you could give re backgrounds and supports




I don't know if my strategy is the best one, but it's working really good for me. What I am happy with is a set of 3 traditional plain old paper backgrounds (white, gray and black) mounted unterneath the ceiling. I am not using support stands or something because they are not handy. They stand in the way, make the paper knitter and so on. I mean paper backdrops are soooo subject to knitter, you have to handle them with extreme care, really. Here's my suggestion

Step 1:

I suggest going for this very affordable mount:

walimex 5-fold Background Assembling Set

Even though they are called "wall mounts" in my little studio it lives  happily under the ceiling. I believe there are lots of similar mounts out there which will do a similar good job.

Step 2;

Then going for white/gray/black backdrops

I found that the paper quality of gray is much better compared to white (less knittering, less photoshop required) and then that white is still much better than black. So I rather use gray and let it fall so much into shade that it is black no the photo, than using a real black backdrop. However, there are sets where I need black so I don't want to miss it. 

Step 3:

There is one last - but very important - step: get aluminium tubes that go into your paper rolls to support them. The paper backdrops usually come rolled up on paper tubes. That's cool, but what happens over time is that this tubes bend slightly just from hanging in the mount. As a result the paper does not roll on and off plain anymore - it knitters, so you have to exchange the paper. Not good. 

What I did was I got myself aluminium tubes which have the same width like my backdrops and which have a diameter that just fits into the paper tubes. When I hang a new paper backdrop I slip in such a tube and from there on - it's super stable. One of my backdrops here is now 5 years old and it's still not bend or anything. It's working like charm. Don't be tempted to hang your backdrops without such a tube inside. Go to a homedecoration market or order such tubes online. Don't skip this step.

Hope that helps.


Thankyou so much for your help, i really apreciate the advice and i look forward to the rest of your tutorials.



i really love that last shot. Stunning work, Sir.

Thank you, Gerald!

Hi! ..your videos are the answer to my questions! .... thank you!

That makes me happy. And if you got additional questions, just let me know.

I just love all your work and advices with speedlites. However, a question on how to trigger the 4x speedlites without a on camera flash (as shown in the diagram)?
Would appreciate your kind advise/assistance on this as I'm new in photography.

Thanks again for your effort to show us how it's done (i.e. proper diagrams on how to start and where to start from-settings) and not like the others who leave you hanging on there tutorials.

Regards and good light.

Sorry, I simply left out the on camera flash in the diagram, because it does not contribute to the exposure. I personally would trigger the speedlights with an on camera flash. Other photosgraphers might use radio triggers.

Love your videos.. keep up the good work..

Thanks a lot!

The tips are the BEST! I love the video, thanks for helping us tyro photographers out.

I guess the best part of the video is the model :-)

Thanks for a great look behind the scenes!

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

Hey, fellow photographer, in this video, you will learn the lighting setup which makes the human body looking very artistic. Yeah, we will do a light which shows the basic shape of a body, or the basic shape of a pose, but it does not show so much detail. Yeah this is often helpful when you want to shoot posh artistic things Yeah, today we have got model Sasah who is a real sports person. Yeah, and, she is a real sports person. Oh….oh….oh…Now I’m afraid. Let’s do a little something. Okay, now it is good again. Alright, so she will do some really artistic poses on the ground, and jumps and stuff. And we will illuminate it a little bit from the front with umbrella, yeah with front umbrella, and we will draw much more light into the background with such back umbrella. The other side will have the same setup, one umbrella front, one umbrella to the back and this will make our light really sing So, let’s try that out!

So how do you shoot the scene? It’s pretty easy. You use a big white seamless backdrop, use something for the reflection like a glass plate in the front, and you position the model at the back edge of this glass plate, so that the reflection is very much in the front. Then you compose the actual lighting sandwich, with a left bun and right bun and the model sandwich in the middle. For that, of course you use speedlights, two speedlights on each side, one speedlight pointing to the model’s side and another speedlight pointing into the background, throwing a lot of light into the background. Yeah, you go with shoot though umbrellas for all the speedlights, and the camera controls are like this. I choose F-11, you could choose F-16 or something, but I wanted to blur the background a little bit because it was so dirty. And this is also the reason why I choose to overexpose the back speedlights by three F stops, TTL on +3. Usually we would get away with +1 to have a white background really come in white and not neutral gray, but this background, it was so dirty, so incredibly dirty, that I said, go to +3, burn it away as good as possible, then I don’t have to clean it up so much in Photoshop. Okay, that’s already it, pretty simple, pretty straight forward.

Now let’s use a top secret Hollywood action movie imaging trick. You are asking your model to jump right through the center of your lighting sandwich and then there is a secret function in Hollywood, uh, in Photoshop, in Edit- Transform – Rotate 90 degrees. Boom! Now she is falling into, uh, into nowhere. You add a little bit gradient to the background. Now she is falling into the light. Isn’t that spectacular? Just keep it between the two of us. Don’t tell anybody that you know it and we have ever did it, all right?

Alright, so this worked very well and I think the big take-away, actually two take-aways are point A: When you reverse the lighting context, yeah, when you put your subject into shade and background into light, it grabs the viewers’ attention. And the other big take-away is, if you are silhouetting your subject, you communicate the shape, rather than some detail. Alright, I hope this is helpful and you can use it and hope to see you in next video. Good light!


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