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Studio Gear: Demo

Lesson 20 from: Professional Portraits: Moving Beyond Headshots

Gary Hughes

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Lesson Info

20. Studio Gear: Demo

Lesson Info

Studio Gear: Demo

The first thing I want talk about is, there's a technique that I use. There's a reason that I have, I use these as kind of three of the size soft boxes that I use in my studio. Very large one, and then two three by fours that are the same size. I can get pretty much anything done with two reflectors and these three lights, and even less. Most of the time I'm only using one or two of the main lights and the reflectors. But there's a principle when you're shooting groups, 'cause we talked about professional portraits and the biggest problem that I see is that people lighting groups, you get the people that are closest to the light are really bright and the people that are furthest away are really dark. So there's a cool technique for lighting that I learned from one of the great portrait photographers, Mr. Tim Kelly. If you're not familiar with Tim Kelly, I would recommend that you look him up. Great American portrait artist and a good friend of mine who I really admire. I will show you ...

what I have learned from him. And this is... Traditionally speaking, you guys remember, anybody remember shooting back in the days before softboxes the old parabolic lights that they would use? So what would happen is you have to have a big parabolic light kinda behind ya as a fill, and you have a big parabolic light over here as your main light. If you look at stuff like George Hurrell's portraits, or Yousuf Karsh, it's all like hot parabolic lights. So the traditional way of lighting a portrait, you have directional light most of the time. If you look back at some of the great painters, your Rembrandts and such and so on, you always have a direction to your light. And in order to have a direction to your light, you're gonna have to identify two different main things. One is gonna be your main light, or your key light, and the other is gonna be your fill light. Now the fill light sets the brightness of the base of the image which is gonna be called the shadow side of the face. And the main light, or key light, is going to give you the lit side of the face, the hot side of the face. That's gonna determine the direction of the light. So you'll see in portraits what they called lighting ratio. The lighting ratio is gonna be the difference between the light side of the face and the shadow side of face, alright? So traditionally speaking, you're gonna have a fill light and you're gonna have a main light, and that's how portrait photography kind of works in that instance. So what Tim Kelly has shown me over the years is that you can actually get the exact same effect. In fact maybe an even more pleasing and natural looking effect by having your main light and your fill light, next to each other on the same side of the subject. Isn't that pretty interesting? Lemme show you what I mean. So, this is gonna be our group lighting concept. I want show you why I'm using these two lights together. And some of you math geniuses are going "Well Gary, if you put those two three by fours together, "doesn't that equal a four by six?" Right? Anybody have that thought yet? No? You guys are bad at math. Oh cool, I get it. So, if you were to put that thing sideways as I often do, you would see that it's pretty much equivalent to the size of these two soft boxes. But why would you use two three by fours instead of one four by six? Any guesses? Pick up a microphone, say it! So you can have two lights at a different intensity so you can have a highlight and a fill key light, versus just one light. Give that girl a prize, absolutely. You have two different sources at the center each of these lights. So if you have your subject, and this is a fairly limited space, this is sort of an approximation okay, this isn't exactly how I would light it up. What you have is the light closest to the subject, is going to be your main light. And the light that's further away when these are feathered across rather than pointed out, is going to be your fill light. Now imagine, if you will, that this light fires by itself. This soft box will direct it to shoot sort of like the this. You with me? Now imagine this light to fire by itself without this one, would fire like this. So what do you have? You have sort of if they fired both at the same time. You have sort of a crossover, a little Venn diagram of softboxes. Where both of these lights, the area where both of these light meet, if this is at 5.6 and this is at 5.6, when they cross together, the light where they overlap becomes f/8. The light where this one falls on the shadow side of the face, is 5.6. So you create a 8, 5.6, believe that's a 2:1 lighting ratio? Is that right? So you have made a fill light because this is so far away from the subject, the light that is falling over here, that measures 5.6. You're gonna be able to create a key light and a fill light without having anything here, both your lights are over here so this would be a lot more like creating a sort of natural light scenario because when you have a window, all the light is coming in from every square inch of that window at pretty much the same intensity. Whereas if you have a softbox by itself, that light is only coming from the center of the soft box, and then falling off of at the edges, which is one of the things that why it fails to look like natural light, okay? So with two lights together you're gonna get a lot closer to that because you have two light sources. So the light that's over here that falls on the far side of the subject will be lighter, the light where they overlap is going to be that lighting pattern on your subject's face. So because these lights are feathered and shot from the side instead of pointed directly at your subject, you, if that wall is the background, you will be able to line up one, two, three, four, five. What's next? Six people, and the light will be the same on all of them. Instead of like being hotter here. Because we're shooting out light this way instead of this way. Because the falloff is less severe because we're using multiple light sources. Is everybody hip to that? You wanna test it out? Yeah, you wanna see it in action? (laughing) I'm gonna blow it! Alright here we go. Lemme get some stuff out of the way. Although some of you might have to actually stand in for this. So what I'm gonna do is turn this on. I'm gonna start with one light. (clicking) There we go. Everybody see that? It's working? Come on we don't have to turn the... I'm gonna go ahead and guesstimate what this is actually gonna end up as. Start at let's say 5.6. Okay. I'm just gonna do a test shot because I have not tested this at all. So you think, "Gary, oh, he's just done all the testing "and all he's gonna do is push a button." No, I have no idea how this is gonna look right now. Okay so who's gonna stand in? Doesn't matter, you're just gonna stand there, no posing, no nothin'. Jump up if you wanna do it. Alright Joe, thank you. Okay right there. Perfect, okay. So, in relation to the subject, this light is gonna feather across like so. So what I've got is I've got the light that's gonna be comin' off the edges. If you point this light, especially at this close, the closer the light is to the subject, the faster that light is gonna fall off on the other side of him. So we'll get like f/8 right here, okay? And then you'll get like f/4 over here or f/2.8. So this is gonna not be a great lighting ratio for your average professional portrait. So what you want to do, is have that light shooting across a little bit. Now this is specifically what we're gonna set up, and I will use this for individuals and for groups. So we're gonna use that light from the edges. I will very rarely shoot a light at directly at the subject. So right now I'm just gonna fire the one light. Like so. It's a little cramped, bare with me. Cool, okay. Take a step this way Joe. Right, eh, right there is perfect. Okay. So let's see, I'm just gonna throw a shot in the dark here. Let's turn on that PocketWizard. Okay. Test. That works, okay. So without any reflection, what I want to do is show what this main light is gonna do. (shutter clicking) Okay. It's a little dark. Up that a little bit. Okay, can we see how dark that is? Alright. Turn your head into the light a little bit this way Joe. Perfect, okay. Good. So what we've got, is we've got a very hard lighting ratio. You see how close that light is? It's hard to see past the giant soft boxes. What we'll do is I'm gonna lift these lights up a little bit, they're too low. There we go. Perfect. So we will have this one light firing. Yeah that's a little better, okay. And you can see that I have no fill light. By the shadows on the far side of the face you have no fill. So, you have a choice, you can do something like this. (shutter clicking) Okay. We helped that ratio a little bit. You start to see that shadow start to fall back, see that's filled in a little bit more, we got a nice ratio? Or, we can add another light. I just need to back up a little bit. Lemme move some stuff real quick ya'll. How'd the gear segment go? Really good, but uh, kept knocking stuff over. Like so. Boom. Let's fire this one up. Just gotta make sure it'll fire. (clicking) Good. So now what we're gonna, oh, that's not gonna work at all is it? There we go. Booyakasha. Hmm? Yeah let's move the reflector. Oh, you can jump up and do it for me, thanks Sammie. Boom, okay. So let's make sure that this one doesn't have its own PocketWizard so we just gotta make sure that the other light's making the other one fire. Hang on here. There we go, cool. And they're both set at the same power level. I just want to point that out, I have them both set at 1/8th power, that way that the math is a lot easier. Turn your head into the light a little bit. So now I'm going to, this'll probably be overexposed. There we go. That one didn't fire that time. Perfect. There. And there. Don't quite have enough room but we'll make this work ya'll. (clicking) There we go. Boom. (shutter clicks) There we go. Now without the reflector. Now that is overexposed so let's jack that should, math should say that will be pretty close to f/8. There we go. So we filled in the shadow a little bit with this other light. Think we got the exposure right this time. There we go. So we don't have quite the dark shadow that we had, so we do have a better lighting ratio. If we turn this one off, (shutter clicking) you're gonna see that fall into shadow. Let's see that. See what I mean? So this light is gonna act as your fill on the same side and when you light it this way, you're gonna be able to light a group all the way across and have everybody have an even amount of light on them as long as you're feathering those lights the right way. Okay cool, Joe thank you, you can have a seat.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Ten Tips for Professional Portraits
SEO Workbook
Posing Guide
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews


Gary is super knowledgable, yet down-to-earth and relatable. I love how he explains the exact gear he uses but also describes ways to accomplish the same look using DIY and less expensive alternatives. The segment where he demos a live shoot in multiple, difficult lighting situations is worth the cost of the class alone! Bonus: He's super funny. He could probably double as a comedian on the side, but I digress. This class was informative, funny, and very practical for any photographer that wants to increase their profit and expand their business into the professional world. He gives all his prices and workflows so you can get up and running in 2 days! :) Awesome class overall, and it's a great sequel to his professional headshot class (which I also bought and loved.)

Richard Blenkinsopp

I love Gary's straight teaching style, and appreciate him demonstrating with regular people, not models. This is the real life of a regular photographer! I wish Creative Live could show more from the photographers viewpoint, so that when he's posing and moving lights etc, we see exactly what he's changing, and can analyze why... not sure how they'd achieve this in a live environment though. Loved his going around to less than ideal locations and finding the place that works. My favourite course on Creative Live so far.


Gary makes taking editorial portraits look simple and fun. I want to start shooting heads! I love Creative live and Gary is really doing a great job. I got to buy the class next. Thank you.

Student Work