Journal

Photography, photoshop, and the philosophy of taking pictures by photographer Bill Wadman, co-host of On Taking Pictures.

Corner Lighting Process - Lighting and Post

A number of people have asked about the lighting setup I've been using on the portraits in my Corner series.

First off, the set is semi-permanent and screwed to the wall in one corner of my place so that when people come over to visit I have somewhere to shoot them. Four feet wide on each wall and 8 feet tall. It's really just a couple sheets of SurePly with a frame behind one of the walls.

Even with just the light bouncing around the room, you get something pretty nice that looks like this. 

Lovely, but unfortunately it's too little light (this was shot f/5.6 @ ISO 8000) without enough control for what I'm looking for. When I first started the series I was just using a beauty dish with a grid on it. This worked great on some people, not so great on others.

As I got going, part of this project became about getting more subtle with my light. Working in that zone where a few lights come together and you can't quite tell where one ends and another begins.

So I've slowly added another flash, like the one below, to fill in shadows and make sure that there's not too much inky black where I can't recover any information. Dan Winters often uses a ring light for this purpose, but he's also working on a 4x5 so he needs more light. For me a bounced head turned down half way is plenty.

First it was just bouncing off a little chunk of wall above and behind the camera position, but I found that that was causing a hot spot reflection on the back surface of the corner, so I've taken to turning up the flash but having it fire diagonally across the room so that what comes back is just a low flat fill similar to the scene with ambient light, but enough light that I can shoot at iso 100 at f/5.6 or so. That looks like this...

Corner set with just fill strobe firing. 

Building up from the bottom, the next step is to add in the key light which is the afore mentioned beauty dish with 30 degree grid. And yes my grid is a little banged up. For better or for worse I'm not one of those photographers who babies their gear to keep it spotless. Maybe I should be.

Beauty dish with grid

Beauty dish with grid

It's only when you put it all together that you end up with light that looks like this...

Corner portrait two light setup.

I shoot slightly wide with a 35mm lens on a full-frame camera and then crop to the 4x5 ratio in post because I like the look. Post is relatively minimal. I may clean up people's skin a little bit, open up eyes a tad, and add some contrast to the background, but I try to get it pretty close in camera. Here's a before/after from the other day.

Corner portrait - before/after

I think that's all I can think to say on the matter, but if you have any questions, let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to answer.