Full body lighting setup. Part 1

By Oleg Ti,   January 9, 2013,   Views: 10808,   Comments:

Original article by photographer Oleg Ti Studio photography lighting setup with softbox and reflectors

To introduce you to one of many lighting schemes I use, and most importantly to show the sequence and the nuances of lighting, I took the most obedient, and most importantly immovable model – the mannequin.

Oleg Ti Full Body Lighting Scheme tutorial

Photographers regularly use a dummy when giving lessons on lighting installations, so I decided to follow tradition and show you the process of doing so using a mannequin. The aim of this lesson is to create a lighting scheme for a full body photo with dramatic but soft lighting, with detailed shadows and a beautifully lit background with a noticeable focus of light behind the “model”, creating volume and giving the whole picture compositional completeness. As you know, any nice lighting is a series of successive actions by the photographer, who appears to work on an automatic, intuitive level, but this ease of working is preceded by making numerous decisions, creating algorithms and building their own rules of lighting.

Therefore, I will try not only to give you the complete solution – “do this and that”, but to explain every action to compare them with yours - to discuss, understand, see whether you agree or not, and then put them into the treasury of your knowledge and your skills that I hope you will find useful and significant. I made these photos with a medium 50 mm lens, but we could say that the main picture you see at the beginning of this article is shot with a 200 mm telephoto lens as this has been cropped from the original picture.

I used two Profoto D4 2400 watt/sec generators with three light sources. You will see two strobe heads in the pictures, but there is another one (used for fill light), which is directed to the opposite wall of the model. It unfortunately would never be seen in my photos.

For convenience, I will show one photo in every part of the article, so you can browse through them to see what changes occur, and then read my detailed comments next to each of them. It is worth mentioning that the pictures were not corrected in the RAW-converter, except for a small adjustment of colour temperature, and are presented to you in the form in which the picture is visible in the RAW-converter.

So, here we go:

SET THE SOFTBOX NEAR THE MODEL

Oleg Ti Full Body Lighting Scheme tutorial

Firstly, let’s look at this initial image. I just directed the softbox to the model, putting it on her left-hand side. (I’ll use “our side” terms, although when in the studio working with the model, I tend to operate using the “model’s side”, waiting for the clear, exact response to my commands). Too often, photographers use a softbox as an easy source of soft light, not really thinking about what a great instrument is in their hands and what to do in order to manage the light it provides! They often place the softbox in a position that covers the whole model. Therefore, we have made the decision (or if you haven't, now is a good time to do so) to use all the equipment as efficiently as possible, try to analyse what we see, and identify ways to effectively figure out the areas we are not satisfied with.

So, what do we see?

- The task of lighting the model has been solved only partially. The upper part of the model is much more intensely lit than the lower part. Although we do not always have to light the model completely from head to foot, in this case, in order to get a perfect picture we have to do it very carefully, lighting every area of the model.

- The right side of the model (again, if we look from our side) has fallen into deep shadows. This is a “blonde model.” What would happen if we put a real model into this lighting scheme? We'd get absolutely black, uninformative shadows.

- The background is dark and flat. Even a soft shadow in the lower right corner of the background does not help the situation. It looks more like a careless, negligent style of lighting, not a pleasant image of light and shadows giving volume and a nice view to the picture, which is what we want.

TURN THE SOFTBOX TOWARDS THE BACKGROUND

Oleg Ti Full Body Lighting Scheme tutorial

So, once we are aware of the kind of problems we have in the first image, we then need to solve all our difficulties step by step.

The first thing we must do is to put a clear, audible key light on the model. My concept of working with light has these fundamental principles: to be able to put a key light on the model with a single light source. To have the right angle of light according to our task (to have the whole model covered with just one light). To make sure the light doesn't require adjustments using any additional light sources. To have the kind of light that works well with the background and surrounding objects, or on the contrary does not interfere with other lighting sources that we could add to this scheme. You can see how many characteristics fit into my concept of the correct key light.

To fulfil it, we should move the light source up and down, tilting, rotating around its axis, achieving all of the above requirements for key light.

But first, let’s look how our key light works with the background and just turn it around on it's axis towards the background.

You can see that the picture of the light on the model has not changed, simply that the light intensity has become slightly less. We see that the beam of light is directed at the background, and therefore the model is taken slightly out of the light and is now standing in the field of gradients surrounding the spot of the soft box lighting.

The background is a little bit more lit up at the top left, while the right-hand corner becomes much darker.

 

Others parts of this tutorial:

The second part of this tutorial is here: Full Body Lighting Scheme. Part 2

The third part of this tutorial is here: Full Body Lighting Scheme. Part 3 

The fourth part of this tutorial is here: Full Body Lighting Scheme. Part 4

 

Yours,

Oleg Ti,
www.oleg-ti.com
 

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