When you have the right model and want some punch don’t over think it and overwork the set. In my opinion the best light is usually the most unmodified. That is one of the reasons I love using the beauty dish so much, whether it is for beauty or editorial work the rawness of the light is what makes it unique. But sometimes even a beauty dish is too much.
We have all gotten that feeling when we get a model in front of your camera and you think, “This is going to be easy”. When this happens I like to go with that gut feeling and use as much of an unmodified light as possible and let the models features do the talking. For me this usually means a strobe head with a standard reflector. I will frequently add barn doors to control spillage a bit, but it is rare that they actually play a part in the key light on the model.
So what is it on a model that I feel will allow for the use of raw light? It usually comes down to face shape and skin complexion. Most light modifiers were made to correct flaws as much as they were designed to create drama and set the mood of an image. We use soft light to correct for a bad complexion, we strategically place shadows for round faces, which frequently means using grids to deepen shadows. With that said, part of our job as a photographer is to make people look their best, and as much as it is passé to talk about that usually means underplaying or eliminating things that people see as “issues” with their appearance. We see it all the time and it is what it is so that is why when you can get away with it just let your light go naked.
Here my assistant Daniel (aka Rex Mustang) and I take meter readings around our models face (yes I am still am a faithful meter user and you should be one too. Your client thinks those 5 or 6 badly exposed images at the beginning of your shoot make you look like a dork). ~Photo by Jason Blackwell
I like to take multiple meter readings around my models face to make sure the strongest (hottest) point of my light falls right in the middle of my models face, that way the light falls of evenly from the center out. This usually takes 6 or 7 readings and we reposition the light as we go to make sure that the light center is in the correct spot.
You can see that two head fitted with umbrellas were used on either side of the model creating the high key background. Sometimes when shooting on white I like to maintain a sense of space by allowing some tones to hold instead of blowing it out to stark white. The background metered one stop over my main reading however I position the umbrellas low so that there was a slight fall off at the top of the frame.
You can see in the sharpness of the shadow under the models nose and chin that the light is harsh and direct. This also looks good outdoors to mimic the effects of the sun without having to have your model stare in the direction of the sun for extended periods.
Camera: Nikon D3x
Shutter speed: 1/125
Lens: 85mm f/1.4
Color Balance: Custom User Defined
Capture method: Tethered (C1 Pro)
© Wes Kroninger