One question I always encounter when teaching my workshops is how to control the spill of light, and the bounce of light. While this is always a good question, it mostly applies in on site/in doors shoots. Here are some simple lighting techniques that everyone should know. Those techniques may be trivial to some and new to others. Either way, they are very helpful in controlling light. The below examples also show that sometimes the easiest fix to our problems may be just simple and in plain sight and simple.
Flagging for the background
I was shooting a portfolio for gowns 2 years ago. We were shooting inside a house and it had a really great wooden background. I knew I was going to have a problem lighting the background because the wooden door was glossy and I knew that it was going to reflect my main light. Before I got the model to stand, I tested out my lights with the creative director.
I needed to find a way, a “quick way”, to correct this. So I got the first thing that I saw – a reflector. One of the reflectors had a black cover, so I got a lightstand and a clamp and used the cover of the reflector to block (or flag in photo-lingo) the light, so it wouldn’t spill to the background.
Flagging to show details on the subject + reflections
I was doing my 365 day project when I shot this one. I was playing around with my brother-in-law’s watch to practice my product shots. It was my first time ever shooting a watch and I didn’t really know what to except. I was using two studio strobes for this shot. While testing my main light I encountered my first problem. My main light that was 45 degrees to the watch and was causing an annoying glare in the glass.
I needed to find a way to block the light of the glass (or to flag my light) so the brand and dials become visible. I had a the bag of one of my softboxes nearby, so I shoved my hand inside the bag, and used my hand to flag the light. I placed my softboxed hand in-between the softbox and the watch (in an act called GOBOin – as in go between) which created a shadow just big enough to see the brand of the watch.
I was missing details on the right side of the watch and I wanted more light. The problem is the subject is too low to place another lightsource, so what I did was I got a mirror and placed it at the right side of the watch to reflect light from another source and create a highlight on the right side.
Feathering to the background
One thing in photography I love to work with is Gels. When I started out, I only had a white background for my studio, and gelling the background lights was my only way to get colorful backdrops. The main problem was that I could never get the background to just match the color of the gel that I placed on my flash.
Normally, I will start off with my main light 45 degrees to the model. The problem here was that my home studio is just not that big, and my main light kept hitting my background and washing it with light, so the effect I kept on getting was similar to this.
To correct this inside my studio which had limited space, I can do two things. The first is to flag the main light so it wouldn’t hit my background (in a similar way to what I did in the tutorial above), the second one is to feather the light so it wouldn’t hit the background. Feathering the light means that it is not the center of the softbox that is aimed at the model, but rather the edge of it. For this shot I went with feathering.
There you have it, two techniques to compliment your every shoot.