Lighting Tip - The Power of Accent Lights

glmedia-911.jpgA few loyal readers have sent me emails asking how I lit this image. Originally posted in an article about interpretation of histograms, this kind of lighting set up is typical in lighting workshops that I host. Although I feel that this kind of thing is best seen and experienced hands-on, here is my best quick and to the point description of how this particular image was lit.

The main light is to camera right. It is a 3' x 4' softbox that positioned very close to the model at about 3' away just out of the camera frame. It is also as high as I could put it in a room with 9-10' ceilings, that is the bottom of the box was about waist height. I did this so that I could get as much falloff as possible towards the bottom of the frame. Subtle but there, helps to keep the attention focused on the face. The second light, used as an accent, was to camera left and is as far behind the model as I could put it, given that she was about 2-3' from the background. The light was in a 1' x 3' softbox about 3' away from the model placed as high as I could and angled down a bit, mainly to get as much on the hair as possible without blowing the skin. This second light was about 2/3 stop less measured at the model than the main (like f8 1/3 vs. f11 for the main or there abouts). If I wasn't working quickly I probably would have gone with a grid spot as well focused on just the hair and cranked it up until I got the separation that I wanted. The reason that the rim light shows up so much even though it is less exposure than the main is two fold. One - the angle that the light is striking the skin. Two - the bigger reason is that it is on the shadow side of the model so that the main is actually going almost to black right before getting to the rim light on the shadow side. In other words there is a lot of contrast.

The last light is usually a surprise to the uninitiated, surprise - a background light. The background is really black but has a light with a 10º grid on it to focus it and keep the spill to a minimum along with a red gel. Power - just cranked it up until I got the tone I wanted, turn it up lighter red, turn it down richer darker red. I was going for tones somewhat similar to the prop sofa at the time. When working in small spaces where it's difficult to control spill onto the background I use this kind of thing all the time so that I can control the background relative to the subject. It works great with colors or without.

There you have it. If anyone cares about the actual equipment, brands, etc. let me know I would be glad to let you know but it really doesn't matter that much. If you are interested in any of the lighting workshops drop me an email at rwboyer[at] I try to do them regularly and we all have a blast doing them as well as make a couple of nice images.


Ps. Thanks to a reader that just alerted me that I should probably link the article on histograms.

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