BOUNCING LIGTH IN STUDIO LIGHTING SETUP

How to create high key picture with only one lighting unit

June 18, 2016   4032 views

You think that to get a well lit high-key beauty picture you have to create lighting setup with dozen lighting units? You make a great mistake. You should use only one! And that's it? Yes.

When we take pictures in the studio we forget that we have very large areas which could work as bouncing surfaces: walls, ceiling and even floor. If you didn’t make one of the greatest mistake in building the studio and didn’t paint your walls in black you can use you white walls and ceiling as a lighting modifier with very very soft light. Just turn the lighting unit from the model and direct it to the ceiling. And you will get a lighting setup with "a kind of very large softbox" standing on the level of the ceiling of the studio.

This very simple (at the first sight) solution gives us more modification opportunities than you could imagine.

When we direct the lighting unit with standard reflector to the ceiling we get the spot of light there. And the properties of this lighting spot will affect the properties of the light we are getting over the model. The wider the lighting spot the softer the light, and more narrow the spot the harder the light. You know it is very easy to make the lighting spot more narrow - just put a honeycomb grid over the reflector and you will get smaller spot. To get wider lighting spot you have to move the lighting unit as far from ceiling as it possible. Just out it on the floor and you will get very wide lighting spot on the ceiling. Or you can even remove reflector at all allowing the light to come to all directions from strobe lamp. But don't forget to put black flag between the lighting unit and the model to prevent her form direct light form the lighting unit.

But apart of changing hardness of the light you can change direction of this bouncing light, just change angle of the lighting unit and you will move you “very soft softbox” in your lighting setup to the new place. An action which boult take a couple of minutes with a real huge softbox. But you need for that just couple of seconds.

But let’s look at real pictures to understand all opportunities I just described.

I put standard reflector over the lighting unit on the C-stand and directed it to the ceiling. This setup with bouncing light creates this lighting pattern.

soft bouncing light, high key lighting setup, studio photography ligting setup with bouncing light in studio for high portrait

You see very soft light over the model. She stands at a distance old 10 feet form white background and you see that the portion of light over the background is smaller (distance from our “huge soft box” is larger) and it looks like grey background.

Now let’s move the lighting spot to position when it stands exactly over the model’s head. You remember we need just move the lighting spot in the necessary position. Take a look at the picture.

soft bouncing light, high key lighting setup, studio photography ligting setup with bouncing light in studio for high portrait

You see, with this lighting setup we got very soft light but this very soft light comes with acute angle to the model’s face. And creates shadow on her eyes areas and under her nose. This pictures illustrates the true that even the very soft light with inappropriate position of light can create an ugly picture.

But let’s make vice versa. Let’s out the lighting spot to the lower position. I change lighting setup turning the reflector to the wall behind my back. Even lower. So now the ceiling doesn’t work at all. The light bounces now just only from the wall and the floor.

soft bouncing light, high key lighting setup ligting setup with bouncing light in studio for high portrait

You see we got light coming from lower than model’s head level. And you see we got “inverted” lighting pattern on her face. Look at her nose nasolabial fold. This is the best indicator of lower lighting position. And again you see that it is not very hard to get an ugly lighting pattern over model’s face even with very soft light. With wrong position go the light it is really not hard.

But what if we turn the lighting unit to the back wall?

soft bouncing light, high key lighting setup, studio photography ligting setup with bouncing light in studio for high portrait

Not bad! It looks like I use a big soft box and back position from the model. You see that one part of her face is more dark creating nice lighting pattern. But I would like to get more contrast. How can I get it? With a black flag on the shadow side of her head. When you use this lighting setup with bouncing light you get nit only light form lighting spot but you also get reflexes form other wall, from ceiling. All those surfaces work as fill light reducing the contrast of the picture. Let’s put the flag and look at the picture.

soft bouncing light, high key lighting setup, studio photography ligting setup with bouncing light in studio for high portrait

You see I got more contrast picture. If I used a huge flag very close to model I could even make her shadow side black but I don't need very contact picture I should keep in beauty photography some portion of light on the shadow side.

But now it is time to make a final picture. I think the position of light should be in middle place between the first and the last position. Around 45 degrees to her head. I move the lighting setup to get the lighting spot both on the ceiling and on the back wall - most useful position in this solution. But I keep the position of this spot not close the model, not to have acute angle of the light.

But before I make final picture I put another flag close to background making gradient over that. It will make the upper part of visible area of the background darker and this gradient will add more volume to the picture.

soft bouncing light, high key lighting setup

And now look at the picture.

soft bouncing light, high key lighting setup

I like it. You? You see I got nice beauty picture in high key with just one source in the lighting setup. And you see also It was not a primitive lighting setup. I made a lot of modification and improvements. Not less than with the real softbox.

Try it it is very useful. And not only in beauty pictures. It is very suitable to use bouncing light setups for full body pictures where big distance of the lighting spot from the model could help us to get very nice distribution of light all over the model.

Good Luck.