Last week’s tutorial was on Chiaroscuro lighting, and we’re now going to add a simple coloured gel to change the background colour from light grey/dark grey to blue/dark grey. And, as you can see in the video, all that we need to do is to fit a lighting gel over the softbox that’s lighting the background.
Our background is grey and like any other background, if we don’t light it then it will always photograph as dark grey/black. I don’t have a massive range of lighting gels because I don’t need to, all that I need is the primary colours (red, blue, green) and of course I can use any two of these together to produce other colours if required – if all 3 were to be used together then of course all light of all colours would be filtered out:)
All light is additive, so if I push too much light through the lighting gel then I’ll end up with a pastel shade which, for this shoot, isn’t what is wanted, so I used just enough power to produce a rich, dark blue. We can’t arrive at the “correct” amount of light power for this by metering, what is “correct” is subjective, so we need to experiment.
And so we now have this. And, still using this graduated blue/black background, let’s move on to crosslighting.
Crosslighting is a simple technique that involves lighting the subject – often a person – from both sides. In technical terms, it’s less than ideal because there are at least two obvious light sources coming from different directions, which can never look natural because, in the real world, there is only one sun. And it also makes the face look a lot rounder than it actually is – but it’s a very useful technique that’s used a lot, especially in fashion photography.
Crosslighting is not the same thing as rimlighting. With crosslighting, the light is at each side of the subject and skims across the front, defining and exaggerating texture. Rimlighting involves different light placement, with the lighting behind the subject as well as at the sides and pointing partly towards the camera, and because of this little if any light skims across the front surface. What rimlighting does it to light the edges of the subject.
I used two strip softboxes, one each side of our model, and each of the them was fitted with a honeycomb to prevent light from spreading where it wasn’t wanted, but other types of light shapers could have been used instead.
My model was dressed as a soldier and I’d asked him to economise on razor blades, so he had a hard, craggy look that I wanted to emphasise, and because of this I placed the softboxes quite a long way away so that the light they produced was harder, with very clearly-defined shadows.
The video makes it look easy – and it is – but of course I had to adjust the power of these two, opposing softboxes so that they produced the effect I was looking for. So now we have this:
This is getting close to the look I want, I feel that the crosslighting is doing its job, it’s showing a young man who wears his uniform with pride and who looks more than capable of doing his job – I’m just glad that he’s on our side!
But we’re not finished yet, and the next tutorial will show how we can add more drama, simply by using gels differently and by lighing the background differently.