When you have that rare opportunity to photograph an elusive subject, what do you do? You make the most out of it. My small team and I had the opportunity to have Star Villanueva for a few hours of photoshoot on a Friday morning. The main concept was to shoot her with a racing bike which a colleague of mine happily brought along as a prop. We had 1 setup with the bike and the rest of the sets were done indoors. We'll disect the bike shots on another day, for now let me tell you about the indoor shots.
Soft and creamy light quality by simply bouncing 2 Speedlites off a white wall.
The room we had is rather peculiar as each side of the wall is painted differently. One side is painted white, another one in cream, and opposite the white wall is a mustard yellow painted wall. I decided, well use that as our background. The idea of using the white wall as some sort of a light modifier instantly sprung to mind. Having seen David Tejada rock those beautiful executive portraits with bounced lights, I placed 2 Speedlites facing the white wall so flash light could bounce off them and back to the opposite wall. The white wall acted like one giant "soft box" and the result is a very soft almost shadowless photos of her. Still, I added one more Speedlite at a relatively lower power (1/8, if I'm not mistaken) with shoot thru umbrella to subtly lift her out from the background. See the resulting photo and diagram below.
I lost my BTS shot of this setup so this sketch / diagram will have to do. I think it is self-explanatory enough.
For the next set, we wanted a more dramatic and controlled lighting so I brought out my Rogue Grid snoot system and fitted it into one of the flashes which was then aimed to her face. Because the light is very directional and highly concentrated, I lowered the power down to 1/64. Then, borrowing from the notebook of Joe McNally, a second light at about 1/16 power was aimed straight down to a white reflector lying on the floor. This acted as fill to the shadows caused by the main light. The result is like light being reflected off a water surface. We used a slow shutter speed for this shots, the reason is to allow a little ambient light to help reduce too much contrast by lifting up some exposure in the shadow area. Low key . . . not dark or under-exposed.
BTS photo shows the lighting setup for the above photo.
I began to realize that Star's poses were being limited because of the narrow beam of the snooted light, so we tried another setup. This time, I added a yellow gel to the grid-snooted Speedlite and aimed it at the mustard yellow wall. The reason for the yellow gel is to preserve its color while brightening up a circular portion. White light would have faded the rich color of the wall. Then we had her stand behind the stick (light stand) to cover that lighting. Then I added a Speedlite with a shoot thru umbrella aimed close at her at camera left with a low power setting of 1/16. This is to reduce (if not totally eliminate) its influence on our background wall while effectively lighting our model. Half of the umbrella was covered with black to prevent light from spilling where they don't have to. I wanted a more concentrated light to her face.
Lighting setup for the above photo.
2 lights with umbrella (or soft box) on both sides of the camera with equal power setting . . . or maybe 1 light, at 45deg to one side and 45 deg from above. Those are safe bets and will give you pleasant results . . . but aren't you bored with those settings yet??? Try something new, mix it up a little!
"There are many ways to skin the cat", they say. Here we did 3. There are many more but I'll let you experiment on those on your own.