As a photographer I am constantly playing with light trying to get the best out of it. As my work is headshot photography its crucial that my work looks consistent on my website, so my clients know what they will be getting when the step into my studio space.
My studio space is not the biggest in the world but nor is the space I get to set up in at my clients, so I have been developing a lighting set up that works for me. That’s the important bit “That works for me” this is because I need a go to set up to give the best to my clients when I’m in a tight spot. I shoot my headshot’s with strobe and this can be a disadvantage in small areas, even if they are turned to the lowest power setting the light can and will spill into areas of the shot that you don’t want it to. You can use flags and screens to modify the light, but I want to be able to go to clients with minimal amount of kit to get the job done and done well.
I have now developed a 3 light set-up, which works. Sometimes when shooting male subjects I introduce a 4th light called a kicker. The kicker is there to highlight jaw line and add and extra dimension to the shot, it’s a little more masculine.
My original set up was a four light set-up, the traditional high key lighting set up. Two background lights and two front lights, with a reflector used as a fill light Fig 1. In a small space this set-up will cause you problems if like me you want a 100% white background. For this your subject needs to as far from the background as possible or those background lights will spill over you subject and bleed them into the background. I want to get my backgrounds correct in camera I don’t want to waste time in post correcting the background, so I had to come up with other ideas.
I tried different ways of flagging the light in my studio to get this set-up to work, but this need to be a lightweight portable set up. When I’m shooting at my clients I don’t want to be transporting extra stands and sheets of polystyrene to modify the light. I tried other set-ups using one light on the background Fig 2, this worked a little better. But with a reflector dish to modify the light I was getting a hot spot in the middle and fall off on the outside of the image. This meant I still had to waste time in post. I could add more power but again in a small space even the single light will bounce its light around and spill and wrap around the subject.
As this set-up was sort of working I needed to make some fine adjustments. I needed to create an evenly lit background so I tried different ways and found that a strip box on a floor stand gave me the best results. I tried different modifications of the soft box including an egg create modifier. But over all the best results I was getting using the strip box with front removed. Fig 3
The images below are from my studio set-up.
As you can see from the out of camera shot below there is a nice even white background giving the subject the correct amount of separation from the background.
I’m not saying this is the only way to do this, this is my way and it’s the way that works for me. I just hope that if you are having the same problems I might have helped you on your way to getting the results your looking for. You can see more of my work at www.dw-images.com