How to light the entire model with only one lighting unit

October 22, 2013   7496 views

Every photographer faces so many difficulties in studio working. And as I happens so often the lack of confidence in himself, in his power, his technical illiteracy throws him to using the simplest (even to say “primitive”) lighting schemes: two softboxes in front of model and two softboxes in front of background – this is the most popular lighting scheme in that kind of cases.

So many amateur photographers working in the studio follow the principle “The main goal is to put the light all over the model”. Forgetting about what king of lighting pictures they are creating. How the model’s face looks in this light, what kind of shadows (and amount of shadows) they are getting, what aesthetics of whole picture.  

I always appeal to all photographers who read my blog, who attend my studio photography workshops to make experiments with light, to find their own way of lighting, of creating their pictures. But all those experiments have to base upon knowledge about light, upon their ability to study lighting step by step, level to level, understanding all principles and getting possibility to use all this knowledge in their work.

So here I will tell you about one of very simple task for me, but, as I know, very hard task for most photographers. To light whole model with only one lighting sources. To get the same amount of light on her head, shoulders, body and feet.

You understand that this is not a hard task if you use the lighting source on the big distance from model. So big to have the same amount of light because of almost the same distance from lighting source to her head and to her feet.

But, the task is becoming more and more hard when you move the lighting source towards the model. The face is getting more light than the feet.

And amateur photographers are putting themselves in two kind of deadlocks: the first one is to use additional lighting source for bottom part of the model, crushing all picture aesthetics. And the second is to lower this lighting source to the level of model’s stomach, getting very ugly and untidy lighting picture on their face.

So let’s start. Let’s start to understand lighting better and better.

As I said my task is to put the light on the model and get the same amount of light on all parts of her body, using only one source and drawing up this unit to her face to the distance of 30 centimeters (1 foot).

And before we start I should remind that is easy to look how other people work but so hard to do the same. So the best way I would recommend is not to only look at those pictures but try to do the same in your studio.


Flattening the light all over the model

Look at this picture. I direct the standard reflector to “model’s head” (to the head of the stand in this case). You see that its upper part gets more and more amount of light than the bottom part. Using flashmeter I get 29.0 aperture near “the head”, 13.0 near “the stomach” and 6.3 near “the feet”.

You see what the great gap lies between “the head” and “the feet”. More than 4 stops. And if you don’t have this kind of picture as your “own unique lighting style” we have to declare: “We’ve got spoilage”.

Lets work with this situation.
The first I do is changing direction turning it from “her head” to “her feet”. Look what I get.

Flattening the light all over the model

I have quite narrow spot of hard light with harsh edge using standard Profoto reflector. And in this situation I simply move the spot of light to “model’s feet” leaving “the face” away from this lighting spot.

I get 5.6 near “the head”, 14.0 near “the stomach” and 10.0 near “the feet”. Sure, on the photo we would get “her face” in darkness area.

But I do my third step. I try to stretch the spot of light. To achieve this purpose I use diffusion gel. Two leaves of full white diffusion gel (216). It makes the spot more wide and (this is main thing!) makes its edge more soft and wide. And look what I get:

light all over the model

You see I get the same amount of light all over “the model”. “The head” – 7.1, “the stomach” – 8.0, “the feet” – 7.1. Not more than 1/3 stops. Perfect! It is easy for me but try to do the same in your studio. It will get the great experiment with lighting. Suppose not with the good result from the first attempt.

Let's try to do the same with another way. Using neutral-grey gels.


Now let’s not to move or widen the lighting spot. Lets change its shape.
Look at the initial picture:

Distibuting the light all over the model

The same situation: reflector is looking to “model’s face” and we have “its feet” in darkness.

Now I want to reduce some amount of light on “the head” using grey (neutral) gels. They will not change color of light, they will only reduce light. And nothing more.

I take two 210 neutral-grey gels. Every of them reduce 2 stops of light. And I put them on the reflector with little shift. So I get the bottom part of reflector open (this serves for the bottom part of “the model”) and the upper side of reflector reducing 4 stops of light (this part serves for “the head”). As you can see on the picture:

Flattening the light all over the model

Look at the picture I got with this style of reflector using:

Flattening the light all over the model

You see that the bottom part of “the model” has become darker and the bottom – brighter. 13.0 near “the head”, 11.0 near “the stomach” and “the feet”.

But you see one problem. Unevenness of light on the model. Let’s use diffusion gel to correct it. Half diffusion gel (250) solves this task. Covering all surface of the reflector (above neutral grey gels) it makes light more flatten.

Flattening the light all over the model

Yes! We’ve got it! 11.0, 10.0, 10.0 (the head, the stomach, the feet). Nice result! The same 1/3 stops I got in previous case.

Try it in your studio to get the great experience of lighting!

Good look!