The absolute greatest thing about becoming known as a celebrity or personality
photographer is the incredible range of people and occupations that will find their way into your studio.
For this shot of a hip-hop singer, I used two softboxes. The key was a large, 4x6 box, set to her left and high enough to get a contoured shadow. This is a very broad source, and will nicely wrap around a subject, so additional bookend fill is not necessary.
The hair light was a strip light softbox, 1x6, and set higher than the other so the accent would be more on the top of her head and taper off as it fell down. Both were powered equally, with light from the large box allowed to spill onto a medium gray background.
Speaking of strip light softboxes, using two of them as cross-lights is very effective for photographing dancers in motion. When two dancers face each other, each light will illuminate one face while the other accents the back of the other. The trick is to place the lights far enough apart so the dancers have room to move. Also, placing them relatively far apart allows for several feet between the two lights where the exposure will be even. This is a phenomenon known as "depth of light" and can be exploited to your advantage once you understand it, and you can do that easily by testing this in your studio.
Take two lights, powered equally, and set them 10 feet apart. With your meter facing toward the camera, pop the flash at about one foot intervals and watch how the light drops off as you move to center, then regains strength as you move to the other light.
Now move the two lights 20 feet apart and repeat the exercise. Youʼll notice an area in the middle where the light stays constant over the course of a few feet.
Move the lights 30 feet apart and try it again. Youʼll notice that the area of consistent exposure has expanded. When you set your lights up on stage youʼll have the same amount of room for your performing clients to move around in. At 40 feet apart, even more.
One thing to remember is that the further away a light is from a subject, the more
contrasty it will be because the size of the source is smaller, relative to the subject.
One other thing to consider: When metering, make note of where the exposure strength increases up to +1/3 over the cameraʼs aperture. As long as an unimportant body part (like someoneʼs back) wanders into that area, the extra kick from the light may produce a very interesting look. It wonʼt work every time, and you will certainly miss some images, but you will have some options that may work on the fly. If you have the opportunity to re-stage a shot, do so, changing the performerʼs positions if necessary, until you get what you want.
The greatest aspect of working with pros is that theyʼre used to repeating an action until itʼs correct. They are also capable of moving from one side of the stage to another, ending up on a mark that may have changed by as little as a few inches.
Cross lighting can be effective for evocative still portraits as well.
The next image was a bit more difficult, but only because it required extra bookends to baffle the light falling onto the background. The lighting itself was simple, two medium softboxes, one on each side of the subject. Both were set at equal distances from the dancer and powered to the same f/stop. They were set far enough behind her so that neither light would wrap around too much. I was mostly concerned that bright light might hit the side of her nose when she turned her head in either direction.
As you can see, there is a small amount of light feathering across the bottom of her nose. I did not find this objectionable, as it helps contour her face, but if it were brighter the risk would be that her nose would appear too large.
Notice also how the light contours her forehead, eyelid, lip and chin. This is a beautiful aspect of cross lighting, although it takes a bit of work to get the lights placed just so.
There was also a white bookend on each side of the camera. These would bounce light into the unlit shadows of her face whether she turned left or right and would also keep light from the softboxes from flaring into my lens.
© Chris Grey
For more great tips on portrait lighting, check out Chris's ProPhotoPublishing.com ebook release "Guide to Posing and Lighting Successful Business Portraits"