Friday, March 14, 2014

Go-To Lighting Setups

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Do you have  a go-to lighting setup? One you employ more than others? I sure do. I have other lighting setups I sometimes employ, you know, other than my main, go-to, setup. But my go-to set-up is the one. The lighting set-up that trumps the other lighting set-ups I sometimes use in terms of frequency of use. Leastwise, when I'm shooting glam/tease. And it trumps all the others combined.

What set-up I use often depends on the environment I'm shooting in. (And other factors probably not worth mentioning.) More often than not, though, I'm going to go with my "go-to" for most of what I shoot.  It's quick to set up and I don't have to think much about it. I just set it up and shoot. That way, my focus and attention is mostly where it should be: on the model, from the beginning to the end of the shoot.

That probably sounds rather boring, shooting in the same ways, lighting-wise, most of the time. And it kind of is boring from that perspective. But the thing is, my clients expect consistency in my work. In fact, they rely on it. In other words, they rely on me to produce that consistency every time they hire me. That's why I generally rely on the same  (boring) consistently-used lighting setup... because I generally prefer being hired and paid... consistently.

Much of my work, the glam/tease/nude work I produce for clients, has me shooting models against a seamless.  For that stuff, my go-to setup is definitely "go-to."  Time is often a factor, lack of it that is, so I go to my go-to setup not only because it represents my general, consistent, overall lighting style, but also because I can get set up with my go-to set-up quite quickly, with little thought, and then be shooting, also rather quickly, when I employ it... my main go-to-lighting setup that is.

There's a behind-the-scenes image of my go-to lighting setup posted below, albeit it's not set up in front of a seamless background. It's in a grungy, dirty, nasty, impound garage we were shooting in.

As you can see, my go-to lighting setup involves three lights. It's sort of like the traditional 3-Point (or triangular) lighting setup that's been around since, well, since lighting set-ups have been around. The old-school, 3-Point, triangular lighting set-up is comprised of a main or key light, a fill light, and a back light. My go-to, modified, 3-point, triangular lighting setup features a main or key light, just like the traditional 3-point lighting set-up relies on, but the two other lights aren't a fill and a back light. Instead, they're both set as back lights. (Plus, I often set a reflector to fill-in for the missing fill light.)

By the way, I usually dial-up my two back lights to about 1/3 of a stop brighter than my main. Sometimes, I might crank them up to a half-stop brighter. It depends on the brightness of the background and/or whether I want the highlights a bit more tame or very obvious. Occasionally, I let them blow out. But that's a style thing. My main light for this image is a Photoflex 5' Octo. The two back lights are shoot-through umbrellas. They're either 2' or 30" in diameter. Images were snapped with a Canon 85mm f/1.8 prime on a classic Canon 5D. (ISO 100, f/7.1, 125th.)  Also, I'm a PocketWizard guy. That's how I trigger my lights.

As you can see, the image at the top is one from the set I snapped in that dirty garage (seen below) with my go-to, 3-Point, triangular lighting set-up. Personally, I think it works just peachy.

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Alex said...

Thank you for sharing! What is (relative) power of these lights? How do you synchronize those - PW?

jimmyd said...

@Alex: Thanks for pointing out my omission. I should have included that info and I'm going to amend the post to include it!

Bill Giles said...

Fast setup and teardown is a definite plus for location work. I'm not fond of conventional softboxes for that reason. I am fond of shoot through umbrellas and folding softboxes.

Winston Cooper said...

Jimmy, thanks for this post. This is exactly the way I set up my little home studio and I am almost 100% sure I learned it from you last year or the year before or maybe from one of your ebooks. The only difference beside equipment (P C Buff here, gotta budget ya know) is that I use two baffled strip soft-boxes for the back-lights. My question for my on clarity is have you of others you know used the term "edge-lighting" for this technique and have you used the term "kickers" for the back-lights? Are they the same?

Thanks for your time...

jimmyd said...

@Winston: My gear, leastwise my monolights, aren't high-end/expensive either. I use Novatrons. I have 4 of them. Two 300ws strobes and a 500ws strobe. They cost about the same as Buff's ABs. I also have a couple of other lights-- a 160ws Photogenic and a Bowens, I forget what power rating but it's not velry high. Might even be less than the Photogenic. I don't use it much.

I've used the term "kickers" to describe most any lights I'm using to kick the lighting up a notch or two for some time now. I don't recall where I first heard or read the term but, to me, it describes any lights used for highlights and accents.

Edge or rim lighting is a common enough term used by many photographers. When I had my studio, I most always used strip boxes as my kickers for producing edge lighting on the models. But the shoot-through umbrellas are much easier to set up and break down when I'm shooting at locations so that's mostly why I use them instead of strips. Personally, I'd rather go with strips for that stuff but laziness tends to win out when I have transport, set up, and break down gear. That's why I switched to using a Photek Softlighter instead of my Photoflex Octo. It's so much easier set up and break down and produces nearly identical quality of light as the Octo does.

Winston Cooper said...

As always Jimmy you are a wealth of information and exceptionally generous to share. Thank you very much Cali dude. Your answer is what I expected. It is a very, very good technique for the mature models I love to shoot as it does make them stand out without overly exposing much..err, umm, time/gravity induced body imperfections.

I am still using a large PCB rectangular key light soft-box imparting that rather tired Rembrandt catch-light thingy. As soon as budget doesn't puke (retired 70 yr old hobbyist here) one of those octoboxes will be taking up residence here. I once saw it written that our sun is round..what is a square catch-light doing in ever ones eyes.

Thanks again...

J Rune Nudz said...

Jimmy, when you use this triangular set up, how high do you usually set up the key? I would imagine that you'd want it around head level with the model, angled down, to add some three dimensionality to the subject.


J Rune Nudz said...


When you use your triangular set up, how high do you usually set up the key? I would imagine that you need it at least head height with the model and angled down to add some three dimensional shaping to the subject.


jimmyd said...

@J Rune Nudz: I was going to say, "About head height with the model and angled down to add some three dimensional shaping to the subject." But you said it first an you're 100% correct. :-)