After I woke up in the morning I decided to go and visit Calumet, near Euston station in central London, I love this store, as I needed a new boom arm, I had one from previous purchase I did through eBay but it wasn’t very strong and reliable to hold one speedlight and the beauty dish. I won’t be going into any details of my experience in the shop for well-known reasons 😉 By the way I also picked up few clip clamps and a roll of the so necessary, for every living creature, Gaffer Tape!
After the shopping I needed to take my wife to Nero coffee as she was getting very grumpy while we were in the shop, the same happens with me when she is doing her shopping and I have to wait.
Anyway long story short, as soon as we reached home I started unpacking and fixing the new boom arm on one of my light stands. Finally I had a proper boom arm for my lighting, although it was a good deal only £53 and is sold with a counterweight plate (maybe because it was made by Calumet). Now after putting everything together as a true photographer I went and engaged my wife to pose for me so I can play with my new toy. At first she wasn’t very happy, as she was doing some work, but I knew that this was going to change quickly.
First and only one light at the moment was a Canon 580 EX mounted on Interfit Strobies XS Braket holder, the light modifier was Interfit Diffuser Beauty Dish (40cm) with the grid on as I wanted to keep the light spread under control, also I had a diffuser on my beauty dish (white cloth as the diffusers on the soft boxes). I tried to create something like a diagram and I hope you’ll be able to read it.
So the next step was to bring my model, I need to point out that this is always the case with my wife when I’m asking her to stay in front of the camera so I can do some tests but as soon as she sees the first results she starts to feel very comfortable and even comes up with some extra ideas about the session. Ok so now I got my model seating in the couch, still doing her job on the laptop, and I’m ready to throw some light on her from my beauty dish (on the diagram below you can follow what is happening up to this moment).
And here is the actual result from this early stage of our photo setup (camera attributes: F/4, 1/125, ISO 100).. In this situation I’ve got my shutter speed up to 1/125 which basically cuts any ambient light coming from the window ( as usual for London the day was overcast and moody so not much light coming from the window)
But as photographers we always need to be prepared to face any challenges and constantly think what is wrong or how we can improve any given situation. So up to this moment I’m totally unhappy with how everything unfolds and my next step is to go pickup and add a fill light. So I went to the other room and brought to the set a Coco ring flash adapter, I could have brought an umbrella but I didn’t have much space around me. So the next step is to add our feel light.
And here is the result with the ringflash adapter, just keep in mind that I was changing the position of my ring flash I did few shots holding it in front of the lens but most of the time I had it as it is displayed on the diagram.
And again some example of the results I was getting, on the image bellow you can see how the shadow on the left side of her face is starting to get much smoother and also the very typical shadow back on the wall that usually you will get from a ring flash (maintaining the same camera settings). Still nothing special up to this moment.
Now I decided to start exploring what my ambient light may add to my set and the next thing I did was to drop my shutter speed down to 1/15 and my ISO up to 800 (just keep in mind that when you are increasing the ISO you also need to reduce the output of your flashes, the shutter speed controls the ambient and the ISO affects both) check the diagram and the picture for the new update, and sorry for the mess in the room 😉
Ok I totally had enough, it is still flat and somehow ordinary there isn’t contrast, there isn’t drama! It is time for radical changes. From this point on first I started playing with the white balance (so far my WB was set to auto) trying different modes till I was happy with it (my final WB was set to fluorescent). Then I change the position of the ring flash placing it behind my object orientated towards the wall. The next step was, as I setup my WB to something so weird, to colour balance my flashes so I can get the right results I wanted.
Now my next set up was looking like this, after I added Full CTO colour gel to my main light and Blue one to my ring flash which was acting as a background light and because of the WB I chose my ambient was giving me a slight touch of blue rim on the left side of my models face.
After quick change, she was already interested enough in what I was doing, we continued with the final version of the lighting setup.
Yep it was the final touch to the lighting but I wanted to add something more to the mood of the photographs. So I started zooming out my lens while pressing the shutter, this is call zoom effect, and the effect of this was resulting in very nice aura of light around the model. Working this way is like cooking a dish. You keep trying it and if something is missing just add the right ingredients until it starts tasting nice 😉
My Partner the “Domestic Mona Lisa”
What have I done here? Well for certain nothing so spectacular but the point is that I didn’t stop until I achieved some decent result. Moving the lights around or adding more lights fill free to do and use anything that will improve the overall look of your photographs, don’t just stop up to the point where your object is just lit by a your strobe. Keep pushing and exploring because in such domestic environment we do have enough time to do all of this as compared to one of these paid assignment were the time schedule is very short.
So the bottom line is that playing with your strobes from time to time could be very good exercise helping us to develop better understanding and intuition of how to use any lights in any situations.