Softbox Lighting Techniques to Sculpt and Shape Your Model

Lighting setups tend to fall into two categories—simple and complicated—especially when it comes to multiple light setups. However, lighting plays a significant role in the overall outcome of your image, despite the complexity of your setup. In this helpful tutorial, professional photographer Wayne Johns shows how you can use softbox lighting controls to sculpt and shape your model:

As with any photography project, lighting control and model position are the key elements to making the shot work (and also the two biggest challenges). It’s important to remember either one can make or break your shot. Even something as simple as the placement of your model’s leg can determine the overall outcome of the lighting within the image, so while a fraction of an inch may not sound like much, it can also be the difference between whether or not you have the necessary light to fill all the shadow areas.

Left Key Light

Johns uses a simple lighting setup consisting of a simple white reflector and two Bowen’s Gemini 500 Heads. Each light is fitted with a Lumiere 40×100 stripbox to create a very soft and narrow light. This type of setup will provide you with enough light to produce a nice room glow with just a touch of wraparound lighting.

The first image places the light on the left with both diffusion panels to provide a lovely soft lighting across the model. It is positioned roughly 45 degrees behind the model for a nice rim lighting. You can also add a little something extra to your images by rotating the stripbox just a little bit. This will provide a nice arc of light across the floor in front of your model, as well as a little creativity to the shot.

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Both Key Lights

The second light should be a mirror image of the first light. The angle, position, and other details should each be identical to the first light (just appearing on the opposite side). Your goal is to use basic lighting controls and modifiers to make adjustments. Use your shadows and highlights to sculpt and lighten a model’s figure.

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Both Key Lights and Large White Reflector

The final modifier used is simple white reflector. Its purpose is to catch the little bit of the residual light from your flash and bounce it back in front of the model. The important thing to remember when working with a reflector is the distance between your reflector and your model. The closer the reflector and your model, the more fill light the reflector will provide; while placing it further away will provide a more subtle lighting feel.

Try out these tools to give your subject more shape!

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