2-3 Light Setups?
Q. I read that you sometimes use up to 9 lights, but is there a setup
you can recommend for someone with 2 or 3 lights that will provide crisp highlights
and dramatic shadows (that still hold detail – creating good “modeling” on the
face)? I know some basic configurations, but I’m not sure that they are living
up to my expectations. Does it sound likely that my small working space (with
white walls) is allowing too much light to bounce around and fill in the shadows,
creating flatter light?
In a practical sense, I’m wondering if I should cover my walls with black material
to absorb stray light.
OK, lets start at the end, you do not need to cover your walls, several
things come into play, first you could simply use some black cards, as flags
to block light from bouncing toward the model. Second, if you are getting
a lot of light bouncing back and filling in the model when attempting to get
a shadowed lighting I am going to say that you may have your lights too far
from the subject and moving them closer may eliminate that effect and also create
a faster falloff and more dramatic effect.
Now, I have said I use 9 lights often, I also use far more lights and have also
used 1 light, so its not how many its more the placement of them. Its
true that you sometimes need more than one light to accomplish something specific
and at times its much easier to do with more lights than less. That all
said lets get to the 2-3 light ideas.
Dark background? than you likely need to back light and have three to
work with on a subject. You can use a very standard beauty light which
would be one high above and one below filling in a clamshell lighting but be
careful as this is what I call Fat Lighting, or flat light, why
do I call it Fat lighting? it creates a beautiful glow, and the underlight
that fills in the face and eyes and shadows does a great job of making the skin
look good and making older models look even younger, but it also takes aways
shadows and causes the face to lose some definition, so now the model needs
to have a more contoured face with higher cheekbones and a more angular look
to her and the make up can help by creating some contour. These are things
that can be combated with lighting and shadows but this lighting style lends
itself to removing those shadows and creating a fattening of the features
I am not saying that a round face is bad or good, but its something to be conscious
of when using that style of lighting.
You can also use a reflector as a fill underneath, instead of a light source,
its not as easily controlled but can be just as effective, you can use flat
white, glossy white, silver, mirror, even a gray for differing levels of reflectivity
and fill, a light source will be more controllable as you can simply set up
the light and turn it on and up or down to adjust for the fill level.
Now thats not very shadowed lighting. How about a shadowy light, try a
beauty dish up with grid close, maybe within 3-4 feet from the face on
one side slightly at a near 45degree angle, no fill, use the modeling light
to place and angle the face to get the shadows where you want them. If
you need a fill you have one, as well you may want a hairlight and or background
Perhaps you can add to your question and point to a few images you like so I
can better direct this answer.