Lighting Ori’s One Year Old Birthday

Ori's Birthday Lighting SetupMy son, Ori turned one today. Man, time flies. Just yesterday he was kicking back in his crib. Meditating on how the color in his room slowly fades.

Two and a half days later. BOOM, He is one. Walking (as in from three days ago), dadaing, and has a strong opinion and stand towards anything in this world – starting from the location of the kitchen chairs (always on the move) through the best place for a ball of cereal (the floor), ending with his own spot in the world (in my hands).

So yesterday we had a small family gathering to celebrate. Of course daddy was on the camera to document the event.

The Birthday Plan

My wife orchestrated the cooking, sitting arrangements, decorations, bathing the kids and setting the table. That left me with the overwhelming jib of planning the lighting.

I obviously could not use the same setup I used so my daughter can fire me, so I turned to David Hobby’s suggestions for a Karate shoot. David suggests three lighting schemes for s situation similar to mine: Both my situation and the Karate shoot are similar:
- we both have to light a big room
- we both gonna use two small strobes

But there are also some differences:
- The subject location in the room is known in the Karate shoot, while the location of my son is, well, put it this way: Ori moves faster than my flash sync speed.
- The background in my living room is cluttered at best – a complete mayhem at worst.

Now, let me go through the three different lighting options before I explain my choice:

Option 1 – Safe and Comfy (?)

This option places the two strobes in the back of the room. Each strobe is placed in a different corner. The good thing about this light is that it “floods” the room. If you know that your subject is going to be in the center of the room facing the flashes, you are on the dot.

The strobes will point up on a 45 degrees angle, and flood the room with light. As long as I stayed between the strobes, I will be safe and get great light.

But, in the likely event that I will circle about and face the strobes, I immediately go into the realm of option three – getting some backlight  and dealing with very low ambient.

Option 2 – Interesting And Symmetrical

In this option the two strobes are placed in two opposite corners on the room. (See diagram below). Now this setup will almost always produce a main light coming from right or left and some sort of back light coming from the opposite direction. This is almost like cross lighting, which is far more interesting then 45 degrees / 45 degrees lighting.

Another benefit of this setup is that it is very symmetrical. I would get very similar light no matter where I was located in the room.

The last pro for this option is that it can light the room with little care for ambient (which was very low at the time of the birthday).

Option 3  – Risky Yet Kinda Like Option One

This option places the two strobes on the two corners of the wall facing the photographer. In the original article, that would have given very dramatic back light. In my scenario, where both my son and I keep moving it will be awfully similar to option 1. 

My Choice – Option Two

I ended up going with option two - mainly because I was moving about pretty much and could not predict my or my son’s location.

Ori's Birthday Lighting Setup

I placed each of the strobes on opposite corners and using light stands got them pretty close to the ceiling. I then angled them at 45 degrees and set on 1/2 power at 70/85 mm. The original article recommended a spread of 35-50 mm. but going with that the light was spread to thin, and I had to go very wide aperture to get the full effect of the strobes or go very slow (about 1/30) to get some ambient in.

Just before I go into the sample shot, I would like to turn it over to you. How would you light such a room?

Here are some sample shots from the birthday.
This is how the world looks like for a one year old: legs, legs and more legs

Ori's Birthday Lighting Setup

Ori's Birthday Lighting Setup
Little Liri is happy with the presents she got

Ori's Birthday Lighting Setup

And here is one shot showing the “interesting” kinda rim light effect that I got taking a picture of great grandpa.

Ori's Birthday Lighting Setup