Happy Tuesday everyone! Hope your week is going rather swimmingly For a lot of us, this is a short week due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, honoring a great civil rights leader. Hope everyone took a minute to appreciate what he did, as well as countless others who have helped make our country what it is today
As for the title of this post, I’ve been wanting to do this type of entry for quite some time now, and perhaps in the past, I’ve tried to, but not as comprehensively as I would have liked. I’m going to try and remedy that with my first personal project shoot of the new year, a lighting test shoot, inspired by a fellow photographer I follow and admire, Clay Cook. As a professional photographer, I am constantly scouring the web for inspiration and education in my never ending search for that “perfect” photograph I will someday make, which will most definitely have to have great light! Just recently, I found some of Clay’s posts via the website Fstoppers, detailing his own fashion shoots using a POV camera. From those videos and his insights, I was able to try out one of his lighting set-ups (finally!) here in my small home studio. Ironically, he shoots all his projects in his small space as well, so it was easy to relate and kind of replicate his lighting and process. Kinda.
Now, I’ve always been a firm believer that cameras or lights don’t make great pictures, PHOTOGRAPHERS do. Just as pens don’t write amazing stories or novels, nor do paint brushes create beautiful paintings. (Yet, if I had a nickle for every “Wow, what kind of camera is that? It takes great pictures!”… Aiyai yai! You know the rest.) What’s great about Clay and other great photographers is that you don’t need the super fancy equipment to make great photos. Plus, in my case, I’m sadly far removed from ordering my Ferrari La Ferrari, so I’ll just have to create beautiful images using this thing that’s 12 inches behind the camera, my brain.
So, when I’m inspired to photograph my own personal work, I call my camera muse Jully in to help me experiment and learn lighting techniques, all of which transfer rather nicely to my wedding and portrait work, so I’m killing three birds with one stone in a sense. Thanks to Jully as usual for being my human test mannequin once again.
My set-up was inspired by Clay’s set up in his great on-going “First Person Shooter” videos. In it, you will see that he uses two black V-flats and with a dark background surrounding his model, and then lights her using two light sources on camera left. One larger diffused umbrella/octo/photek softlighter to illuminate the model’s face, and then a strip bank under that to add detail and illumination to the clothing she has on. The V-Flats will suck up a lot of that light which will give the final image some nice shadows and contrast. Clay has a “hot light” softbox facing the camera, and I’m not sure what that was for, so I didn’t use it. Here’s my set-up, complete with model and stand-in Jully, all in one, with a special guest appearance by our new dog, Baxter.
I don’t have a dark enough seamless background, so I used a gray one that I had lying around. As you can also see, I only have one black v-flat, so I used my Calumet branded black panel to serve as my camera left flat. My Einstein Parabolic with front diffuser is at the Rembrandt position (45 degrees to the left and 45 degrees up), and my 24×24″ gridded softbox powered by my new Lumopro flash serves as my lower body fill. It sits directly beneath my parabolic.
As you can see, my space is rather small, and not as long length wise, as what Clay has, but in the end, no one will know. Well, you now know, but otherwise, who cares?! From the set, I’m roughly about 8-10 feet away tethered to my Macbook using Lightroom. I’m using a cheap, no-name camera, that starts with an “N” and has the numbers 810 on it. Probably the area code where it’s made. I don’t know. Not sure what my settings on my lights were, but I basically metered using my eyes. I started at about 1/125 at f/5.6 and went from there, seasoning to taste. My go-to lens is the 70-200mm which I used for this shoot.
Now, despite “copying” a lighting set-up, I knew well in advance that there is no way I was ever going to replicate Clay’s work, style, or photographs, but that’s what’s great about getting inspired – you try new stuff and then add it to your own style and creative development. So there’s no shame in copying, cause no two things will ever be alike! Besides, I’m giving mad props to my source Clay, so no plagiarism involved.
Here’s one more look at my set-up from a slightly different angle:
With this rather spartan and rag tag set-up, I went to work and began photographing and got some pretty cool images. Again, this was just a lighting test and a rather impromptu one, so it’s not stylized whatsoever, but we were able to get some solid results nonetheless. Plus it helps to work with creative people like Jully who can add to the creative aspect of the shoot. Here’s what we came up with. There were more, but I wanted to share these three photos with everyone:
These final three images were edited in Lightroom and OnOne. And yes, Baxter wears t-shirts.
And that’s it! My first set-up tutorial/bts post for the year. Again, I have to thank Clay Cook Photography for posting his amazing videos on YouTube and inspiring all of us, thanks Clay!
There are a few other set-ups that I’m going to try in the near future, so check back to see how I’m doing, and how I’m getting inspired. If not for that, check back in for either my photo muse Jully, or our cool dog Baxter. He selects and wears his own t-shirts daily.
Have a great week everyone and as always, thanks for checking in