Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Clam-Shell Lighting

Although I generally use more than one or two lights when shooting models -- for the most part I use three lights with one in the front (being my key or main light) and two behind, i.e., one on each side as highlight lights or "kickers" -- I often configure my key light (main light) in what's called a "clam-shell" configuration. I rarely clam-shell two, separate, lights like some people do. Instead, I use a single light with a large modifier, plus a reflector to bounce in some gentle fill from below. Together, the combination of a lighting source and a reflector makes the two parts or "shells" of the lighting clam-shell.

Sometimes, when placing my two kicker lights behind and on either side of the model, I'll set them in a way to produce a clam-shell-ish effect as well. (Some people would call it "book-ending," but what's in a name, right?) Instead of of my (book-ending) clam being similar to a clam with its shells opened up top and bottom, my kicker clam-shell is more like a clam turned on it's edge, providing clam-shell-style light from either side. I do this by moving those lights forward, towards me, so that rather than coming from approximate 45 degree angles behind and to the sides of the model, they're nearly on the axis of the model, i.e., they're about the same distance from me as the model.  Deciding to do so is all about the lighting "look" I'm going for in any given lighting set-up.

About a year or so ago, the good folks at LumoPro sent me one of their 5-in-1 Light Panel kits to play with.  LumoPro's light panel made it even easier to set-up clam-shell style lighting for my key light and I use it quite often.  All I do is set my main light, then quickly assemble the LumoPro's light panel, set it under and in front of my main, angled upwards, and Voila! Simple clam-shell lighting.

A big reason I like using clam-shell lighting from the front is that it provides more even lighting up and down my models' bodies. Probably 80% of what I shoot is framed in 3/4 body shots. But I do shoot full body shots as well as 1/2 body and head shots. Clam-shelling my main light with the LumoPro or any sort of reflector means I can shoot from full-body to head shots with little or no adjustments to my lights.

The eye candy at the top is Penthouse Pet, Celeste Star. (Click it to enlarge.) As you might guess, for my main I used clam-shell lighting employing a single light source and a reflector to capture the images.There's also a pair of kickers working from behind and on either side.


mkhealey said...

Jimmy, as always thanks for the blog and info. In this photo, do you have your kickers pointed towards the model or towards the BG?

jimmyd said...

@Mike: I'm kind of splitting the difference altho the kicker camera left is more directly towards her... or she's closer to it, especially in that full body shot. Sometimes, the models drift from their marks and it's a few shots before I notice.