This is the first installment of a long series of articles shot and composed with the help of professional photographer Karl Leopold at ImagesForever.net in Melbourne Beach, Florida. Karl is one of the top photographers in the area and president of the Atlantic Professional Photographers Association and graciously opened his studio up and lent his expertise to us for this series.
While we’re going to start with an overview of basic three point studio lighting, this series may jump around a bit as basic lighting touches on several peripheral topics that are key to understanding how good portraits are composed along with studio lighting.
First, the equipment we had to work with:
Our key light is an Alien Bees 800 in a Fomex rectangular soft box
Our fill is an Alien Bees 800 in a 48 inch Octodome
The hair light is an Ultra 1800 fitted with a grid screen on a boom
Throughout the shoot we used only a single modeling light on the Fomex soft box.
We maintained a consistent distance to the subject the old-fashioned way, with a string to the center of the key soft box.
All the lights are on PocketWizard Plus remotes and the transmitter on my Canon 7D was a PocketWizard MiniTTL. The lens was a stock Canon 28-135mm zoom set to my closest eyeball approximation to 85mm.
All camera settings were manual unless otherwise stated, we used 1/125 of second for a shutter speed through the entire series. The f stop varied as I’ll explain in the article.
I did minimal post processing adjustments on the pictures so you can see the difference in the lighting. Standard color correction and cropping is all that was done.
While the layout of a basic three point setup is fairly straightforward, it’s actually a little tricky to get everything working together properly.
First we moved the key 10 degrees off the camera axis and shot a key only test. That’s actually not bad, if a little flat.
Next we added in the fill and you can see that gave us much more natural looking lighting and skin tones, but our subject’s hair looks a little flat. That’s where the hair light comes in.
As you can see the hair light really helps separate the subject from the background. It highlights her hair, but also her back shoulder, which changes the entire character of the photo and makes the background more distant.