Lighting Masterclass, 28th July. Part 2

In part 1, I explained my basic approach.

pink_8In this blog, I’m going to explain how I go about photographing moving subjects. In fact, except for the portraits that we’ll get to later, all the shot taken on the day involved a model who was moving, usually pretty fast.

Why? Because it’s much easier and better to photograph someone who really is throwing herself all over the place than someone who is just holding a static pose. It’s far easier for the model to really move than to strain her body in an uncomfortable pose, and the clothes don’t move around in static poses either.

I think that the reason that a lot of photographers don’t go for real movement is that they don’t know how to; they think it’s difficult, but it really isn’t.

The first thing to do is to explain to the model exactly what you want. That’s important because models tend to adopt static poses, wait for the flash and then change to another static pose, you need to tell her just to dance, throw her clothes around or whatever is required and simply ignore what you’re doing.

With traditional studio flash, turned down to somewhere like half power or less, it should be possible to take at least 2 shots per second, and that’s not too bad. You may or may not run into problems with subject blur, because studio flash tends to have pretty long flash durations, and turning the power down makes the durations even longer, but if the movement isn’t too extreme, you will probably be OK. With these shots, she was flicking a silk scarf around, that scarf was really shifting, so needed a better solution.


My solution here was to use Lencarta SuperFast flash heads, partly because, as they use IGBT technology, the flash durations are so short that they will easily freeze any action, and partly because they recycle instantly, allowing me to use my camera in machine gun mode, shooting 8 frames per second. Here are just a few of the shots I took in this sequence, I actually took 135.








In a few of these shots you can see a strip softbox, complete with honeycomb grid, on the far left of the shot. It’s pointing towards the model, but is also angled towards the camera, and it needed that honeycomb grid to avoid causing lens flare. And, on her right, there’s another, identical one. These two lights produced the distinctive backlit/rimlit effects that have made her clothes glow. There was a fair bit of distance between the softboxes and the model, I didn’t want them too close to her, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, I wanted the light to be hard, and the further away a light it, the smaller it becomes relative to the subject, and therefore it becomes a harder light source.

2013_07_28LencartaStudio119And secondly, the Inverse Square Law rears its ugly head here – as she moves around the floor, which is inevitable, she is bound to get closer to one light and further away from the other. The closer the lights are to her, the greater the unevenness of exposure will be.

So far so good, but I needed to light her front too, so I added a JumboPara, straight in front of her and high up.  Why the massive, 1.65m JumboPara? Well, partly because it happened to be there and partly because it’s so big that it can be some distance away and still produce a soft light, and partly because it’s so big that even if the model moves around a bit, she will still be lit in the same way. A softbox would have produced a similar result (for this shot anyway) but the JumboPara has a silver reflective surface that adds a bit of “psazz” while still producing a soft light

The JumboPara isn’t cheap and isn’t suitable for small studios with low ceilings. If push comes to shove, a large silver umbrella, or a softbox with its diffusers removed, would produce broadly similar results.

DSC_2526Before I started the actual movement sequence I took a quick headshot, the idea of this was simply to check that the lighting on her face worked as expected.

You’ll notice two obvious things from these thumbnails.

1. I’ve left plenty of space in the frame for her movement, that’s essential. In a way, it doesn’t make sense to pay a lot of money for a lot of pixels and then crop a lot of them out of the shot, but where movement is involved it’s essential, otherwise the very best shot is pretty well guaranteed to have an important bit cut out of it.

2. I haven’t arranged any kind of background. This was partly due to lack of time, and partly due to the fact that although I thought that this shot would look best on a black background, I wasn’t completely sure at the time so didn’t commit myself.

movement_black_whiteI have a bit of a thing about white backgrounds, or chavgrounds as I like to call them. They are easy enough to do fairly well in a large studio, but very difficult in a smaller space and, even in a large studio, unwanted reflected light from a white background will destroy the directional, hard lighting that I’ve deliberately created. Because of this, I avoid using white backgrounds unless I really need to, if the shot has to end up on a white background I prefer to cut the image out of the background in PP. Here’s the same shot with a choice of backgrounds.

Just to illustrate the point, someone said that he would like to try some white background shots. That was fine by me, but I decided that it was time for me to take a short break, so I left the group to get on with it.

When I came back from my cup of coffee I quietly arranged forwater someone to throw a large mug of water into the model’s face, because I wanted to capture the water with the SuperFast heads. Because Illy, the model, didn’t know it was coming I got a genuine look of shock on her face, she was perfectly OK about having water thrown at her but the result was disappointing, simply because the lighting was flat.

Cutting out the background in PP – or better still, paying someone else to do it for me – may seem extravagant, but it costs very little because, typically, very few shots will be chosen from those available and the small cost justifies the better image quality.

Technical stuff
As with most other shots taken that day, I used my f/1.8 F50 prime lens, because of it’s high image quality, instant autofocus and relative freedom from flare.

And I used it at around f/11, so that I could be sure of having  enough depth of field.

By the way, my model for this shoot was Dani. She’s a lovely girl in every way, totally dedicated as well as beautiful.


Here are some other shots from this sequence

Next Blog: Headshots