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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How to get awesome out of a one light stand

I have to begin this by talking about my model, otherwise this blog would be so technical that most of you who are not photographers will not find it at all interesting. So to keep ratings high I begin with my very beautiful Chanel model. This is my second Chanel model. No, not that Chanel. Boy don't  I wish. My second model name Chanel that is. Pretty much just getting her feet wet with modeling.
Model stats:
height: 5' 9 in (in stocking feet)
Bust: 34 A
waist: 25
hips: 35
skin: clear
modeling experience: No modeling experience.

 Not wanting to overwhelm her, I decided I would do her test shoot by experimenting with a single light set up. All too often I read questions from someone asking what can they do with a single light. Well here is an opportunity to see it done with a few different modifiers and light benders. Before we begin, I have to tell Chanel's story. The first day we agreed to meet, Chanel was seemingly having a hard time with directions. I thought to myself, this is kind of weird, everyone knows where this place is or that place is. As it turns out Chanel is brand new to the area as well as  brand new to modeling. However as I look at the results from her test shoot, (and you are only seeing a few of the shots displayed here).
The second photo is her complexion without any post work at all.
The Technical stuff
I decided I wanted to shoot at different apertures but keep everything else basically the same so that I can see the major affect of a one light shoot in studio. Speed lights are awesome, and I love mine, but I have not tested the range of shooting with a single speedlight in studio. I have, at times had to use a single speed light on location, but there were always ample ambient light, which in itself counts as a lighting source. If someone reading this do it or already have done it, I would love to see your results. Otherwise I am going to try it one of these rainy afternoons.  I used only the Alien Bee 800 for the entire shoot, varying the distance of the light more than the power itself.  I expected  some heavy shadowing so I envisioned B&W shots.  Chanel my model dressed in a dark dress and stood on the white seamless. Knowing that white seamless is not going to look at all white without sufficient light ( you have to get it at least 3/4 a stop higher than your main to blow it out properly and have it appear white and that is impossible with only one light). So to turn strange to creative, think black and white. Some may disagree and decide to keep it a colored or sepia shot and there is nothing wrong with either.
One light with 15 inch ungridded beauty dish and no bounce (photo #1
How was it done:
ISO:  250
Aperture:  f/9.0
Shutter speed: 1/250th a second.
Lens: 50 mm f/1.8
camera body: Nikon D700
Alien Bee 800 strobe (320 watt seconds)
Light modifier: Interfit 15.5 inch beauty dish (modified to attach to the AB800) approximately 6 ft high and 3 feet from model's front and camera's left.

One light with28 inch gridded beauty dish and bounce (gold tone) Photo #3
For the next shot I wanted more skin exposed for the purpose of getting a beauty look from the shot.I then shot the same outfit using a bigger modifer and a zoom lens.
ISO: 250
Aperture: f/16
Shutter speed: 1/25oth a second
Lens: 70-200 f/2.8 @ 122 mm
Light modifier(s): Fotodiox 28inch Beauty dish with  20 degree grid and sock approximately 7ft high and 3 feet from models front at a 45 degree angle with bounce to model's front approximately 24 inches below model's chin and camera's left. Notice how much light is returned to shadow areas by simply bouncing light back onto the model. A reflector is a lot less costly than a speedlight or a strobe and easier to transport as well, so consider that when you are going to go trekking into the woods or down into that basement.
Photos #2 and #5 with wardrobe change and gear adjustment
 After a few more shots, Chanel took a short break and this was a good time for a quick wardrobe  change into a black leather jacket and strapless black bra along with a pair of black pants. As for the photography, I decided to move the light back about 2 feet and open up the aperture a bit. Notice the the shadows are more visible, yet still relatively soft on the face and chest.
Aperture: f6.3
Lens: 70-200 f/2.8 @ 130 mm

Photo #4 Black backdrop full body shot
Curious to know what my results would be without the white seamless, I decided to shoot on black felt without a bounce and the exact same settings as previously. I also wanted to shoot this shot full length so I adjusted the length and Chanel did the shoot in just fishnet tights instead of the black pants because the light meter was showing a fall off of 3 stops which would have been almost no detail at all anyway. I like the results.
Lens: 70-200 f/2.8 @ 75 mm.

The test shoot proved successful. Chanel certainly showcased her talent and now have some good shots she was hoping to get for a few other projects, and I got to spend a couple of hours doing what I really love to do as well as write my first blog in 2013.
My next few projects for the new year are on an epic scale compared to anything from last year. My resolution for the year is to raise my bar out of the atmosphere of 2012 and into the Exosphere of 2013. So no more excuses about waiting to get more lights.

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