Here’s my two cents on the “you don’t have to have expensive lights to create beautiful portraits” topic—an attempt to harness multiple catchlights in a subject’s eyes.
I’ve been shooting at Dale Heise‘s studio with some awesome Profoto lighting equipment for a while. Right now, Dale is in the process of moving into another space, so I’m shooting wherever I can with whatever I have and can find. In this blog post I’m going to try and come up with an interesting lighting setup using my own lighting equipment and other affordable light sources.
Here’s what I own:
- I still shoot with Canon 5D Classic (update: I got my pretty little Canon 5D Mark III now.)
- Speedlights: Canon Speedlite 580EX II Flash and Canon Speedlite 430EX II
- Einstein E640 with a silver beauty dish
- Elinchrom Skyport Speed Trigger Set
- Westcott 5-in-1 Reflector Kit
- A few Heavy Duty Light Stands and tons of color gels which are actually just rolls of colored cellophane ($3–5 each at craft stores like Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, and $1–2 on Amazon)
Beforehand, I bought a box of warm white Philips LED lights at Target ($12), found a large piece of cardboard in the garage, and bought a sheet of thick white paper at Michael’s.
Building the Light
When our model, Tori, and my assistant and new photographer at OIP, Shelby, arrived I handed the lights, cardboard, scissors, tape, and a handful of binder clips to Tori to make our lighting instrument, while Shelby and I were busy setting up my MacBook Pro to shoot tethered into Lightroom.
Tori drew a circle around my biggest lens cap in the middle of the cardboard and paper clipped it together. She then cut out a hole, taped the cardboard and paper together, and clipped the lights to our new white board.
The Lighting Setup
When we were ready to shoot, I set my Einstein to my left and turned the slave off, so that I could use only the modeling lamp and focus properly.
After plugging in the board to turn on the lights, Shelby held the plugged in board for me right in front of Tori’s face as I shot through the hole in the board. I had a few lenses available to use, including a Canon 24–70mm f/2.8, a 50mm f/1.4, and a 100mm Macro f/2.8. Since these particular LED lights were pretty weak, so I ended up shooting with the 50mm, bumped ISO up to 800, and opened the aperture to f/1.6 (it’s difficult to nail focus on the eyes, especially when you’re so close to the model’s face, with f/1.4).
Tip: If you decide to try this out, find stronger/brighter LED lights and an extra extension cord to make sure you’re not stuck by the power outlet because the LED lights’ cord is very short.
Adding the Final Touches
To finish the images I added a few touches in Photoshop, and we’ve got these stunning portraits with interesting catchlights in the eyes and magical soft light.
If you decide to try this out for yourself, I would love to see your results. Feel free to post them in the comments section below.
About the Author:
Julia Kuzmenko is a Los Angeles based beauty photographer & retoucher.
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