Anybody who is serious about indoor photography will eventually want their own studio. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate setup; a studio can mean anything from some domestic lamps and a spare bed sheet for the background to the more high tech options rented or owned by serious professionals.
Inverse Square Law of Light
Before any discussion of lighting with flash or studio lights, it is useful to be familiar with the inverse square law. This law states that any object which is double the distance from a point light source (i.e. a flashgun or lamp) will get a quarter of the illumination. What this means to photographers is that when moving a subject from two meters away to four meters away, four times the amount of light will be needed for the same exposure. Either open the lens aperture two f-stops to achieve this, or use a flashgun that gives you four times as much power.
This is because as the beam of light spreads out, the proportion of light hitting the object is decreased. The greater the beam’s focus, the more light will fall on a subject.
When using an automatic flash on a camera, you may experience the effect of the inverse square law when you notice that difference in exposure between objects near the camera and those not far behind.
Continuous Lights vs. Strobes
Although continuous light can be used, investing in some studio flash heads is advisable because studio flash heads are much, much more powerful.
Even the lower range ones give out more light than the average portable flash, and again much more than any continuous light system. With studio flash heads in use, the light can therefore be controlled creatively with the help of soft boxes and reflectors to minimize shadows and diffuse the light while helping maintain a good exposure at a small aperture. Flash will result in much sharper photographs than those taken with continuous light. The other benefit is that studio flash heads are faster than portable flash systems, enabling the photographer to shoot at a faster rate, which is important for portrait photography.
A diffuser spreads out light and softens it to create less sharp edged shadows. The most commonly used, on account of its portability and versatility is the umbrella, which can be used to shoot through or to reflect light.
Two Light Setup
Assuming you now have two lights to play with, when lighting a portrait, aim to use one as your main light and the other as a filler.
It’s worth moving the main light around your subject to see the way the light plays on them and to understand how the shadows fall and why. The second light can then be used to soften the shadows that the main light created.
About the Author:
Miranda Wilson writes about digital cameras and studio lighting for Calumet Photographic.
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