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"Wall of Light" Set Up

Lesson 24 from: Professional Portraits: Moving Beyond Headshots

Gary Hughes

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Lesson Info

24. "Wall of Light" Set Up

Lesson Info

"Wall of Light" Set Up

I create what I'm calling, Patent Pending, The Wall of Light. You can use whatever light softboxes you have and I will basically make a gigantic wall of light using all of my softboxes put together. Now this is multiple reasons why to do it this way. To use multiple lights. What happens when you photograph somebody with natural light? What do the catchlights look like? Anybody got an answer? They look like there's lots of things in their eyes, right? Reflection of the window, reflection of the sidewalk, reflection of the trees. So when you're shooting with multiple lights, like this, you're going to have multiple catchlights and large catchlights so it's gonna have the appearance, a little bit more, of window light. A little help plugging some stuff in here. And we go this way, I think I'm good. There, and there. Put that eight, put this eight, put this eight, good, okay. Now, so what I've got is a giant bank of softboxes. There are other alternatives besides these. Really doesn't matt...

er what you use. The point is I'm creating the largest possible light source that I can. We're gonna kinda lose the background a little bit since I moved it over that way. Can we move the tether with me, the computer? Good. Do we have Jen ready to go? There you are, perfect. All right, this is actually gonna be pretty cool. I'm gonna use that as a background. Let's bring in our stool. And now everybody don't panic. It's gonna be all right. The thing is you want to not only have a large light source but you want to have it nice and close to your subject. The farther away you get, you're gonna lose just the really sweet softness of it. So have a seat there Jen, for me please. Good. All right, I'm gonna back these up just a touch. Savannah, could you grab the out of my camera case? All right, let me do a quick test shot here. I'm gonna need to adjust my settings. All right. It's busy. Thanks. So the reason I'm gonna switch to an 85 is because, it keeps saying busy when I try to change the settings. Are we locked in or something? There we go, okay. So I'm gonna shoot a little more shallow depth of field and the reason I'm gonna switch to an when I shoot like this is because the is gonna be able to do a little more shallow depth of field than a 2.8 although I don't necessarily shoot at it but remember we talked about, boy that's dirty, in a previous segment about how the things that affect your depth of field, and one of those things is your distance from the subject and so you're exaggerated depth of field is gonna be a lot crazier the closer you are to your subject. So even shooting at 5.6 or f8 this close is going to give you a really shallow depth of field. Bear with me while I do a couple of test shots here. We've got it all wrapped around. The thing that's gonna make this work is to make sure that we're kind of centered. That's pretty good. Okay. We did it. Let's do a quick test shot and see how it looks. Okay, firing that back up. Busy. All right, got it. All right, while we're talking, let's take a look at the shot. Okay, did everything fire? No, there we go. Wake up guys, there it is. Beautiful, okay. A little more softness, little more fill. Little closer. And a little more height. Pardon me one second. Okay, there we go. See if this does the trick. All right, perfect. Now we got kind of a cool, there we are, rockin' it, and adjust this a little bit more. Is that coming across okay still? All right, and a little more. Ah, this one's not firing, that's the problem. Okay. It's firing now. Let's try that again. Okay, we got kind of a connection problem here or something I think with one of these guys. Make sure it's on the right channel or something. Anybody know how to use pocket wizards? So another thing that I'll do is I'll often add a reflector underneath. Okay, perfect, okay. We'll have somebody come and hold this in a second. I think it was in the wrong mode. These are fancier than the ones I actually have. The ones I have are just radio triggers. This one you actually have settings. I actually just have an assistant that tries to time it really well when I hit my shutter. Okay, so here we go. There we go, that's what I'm talking about. Okay, we're working now. So what you'll start to see is a lot more of a soft, kind of natural window light coming through with these types of images. Instead of that studio look, it's gonna be almost as if you're sitting front of a large window. Everybody coming across how cool that is, that large light source. All right, maybe Savannah I could get you to come up here and be my assist. So bounce some of that right up in there. Normally have a light stand but I just wanted to get you on camera more. Okay. So what I'll have you do Jen is turn this way just a little bit, good, and scoot back on to the stool so that your feet are on that rung. That's great, good. Now I'm gonna use an apple box, and I like to bring, when I'm doing something a little more casual I like to get the hands and the knees kind of involved in it. So we could put your feet even on the box. Good. Now she is perched up there. There you go. Perfect. Now we're gonna lean forward, cross those arms a little bit, perfect, and if possible, bring your feet around this way just a touch, don't fall off the stool. okay, there you go. Perfect, chin down just a touch, turn your head this way a little bit, good. And you're gonna get a little more of kind of a nice, relaxed shot. This would be somebody who's working in a different world than corporate, chin down just a little bit, somebody that is nice, somebody that is an interior designer, somebody that designs jewelry, there are a lot of different options for this type of thing. I use bar stools to get the feet involved. Turn your head this way a little bit. Perfect. Boom. And you can use the exact same lights in the exact same room if you just reconfigure them and create a completely different look. We have no natural light in here and this is giving us a really soft, pretty light to work with. It's creating really nice images for us. Okay, Savy, thanks, you're good. All right Jen, carefully, Thank you. there you are. All right. Let's bring Doug in here, Douggy, Doug. All right, so let's do this. Now with a guy you can do casual really easy, you don't even have to change outfits. Go ahead and loosen the tie and unbutton the neck button. Nice and relaxed. Perfect, okay, have a seat right there. Perfect, good. Have one foot kind of down and one foot, actually let's give you an apple box here. I like to have that foot a little closer. Yeah, all right, so what I want you to do, instead of sitting up straight I want you to kinda relax a little bit. Yeah, put that hand a little more like that. You see, we created a totally kind of a different, more casual feel. It's still professional but he's a lot more relaxed. Let's say this guy designs software. Let's say that he is a killer for hire but he's a friendly killer for hire. You want to use a kind of a different feeling. Turn your head this way a little bit. And the same type of lighting is gonna work for him, too. There you go, perfect. And it's gonna give you that natural light, kinda window feel, turn this way a little bit. All right, give me sexy Doug. Oooh, perfect, nice deep breath. Ah, ha. Look at Doug cracking up. Perfect, yeah, nice. Now I want you to rest this hand, fingers in towards the middle, put your palm on your thigh there and relax a little bit, bring that wing in just a touch. Yeah, there we go. Really cool stuff, there. Nice, perfect. And then we can also roll in this exact same instance, turn your head a little bit this way, tilt a little that way, and we can get just a really cool head shot in there, too. All right, perfect, Two, it's okay, grace under fire, perfect. Exactly right, chin down just a little bit. Awesome, two, take a breath, Ahhh, haaa, wiggle your eyebrows, there you go. Good job, man, that's killer. So you can create a really cool head shot, a really cool business portrait and you don't really have to move much around and we didn't even really change his outfit. He goes from very serious, professional to a little more relaxed. The magic of the bar stool. We got great expression. Look how soft and pleasing and easy that light is. It does not look like a studio portrait, does it? It looks like I'm using window light or a shot editorial on location and that's just using these one, two, three really simple softboxes that you would just, a lot of photographers already have these laying around. All right, thanks Doug, you're all set man. I appreciate it. Kit, Would you ever use clam shell light set up for men's headshots? By clam shell I basically that's using a beauty dish or softbox like this with a reflector or another light underneath creating kind of a clam shell look and that is typically used if you go back to the days of Olan Mills and Glamour Shots and feather boas and stuff like that. But there's a reason that they used it 'cause it's really, really flattering and it looks really, really good. Although traditionally it's called beauty lighting and is viewed as a little more something that you'd use on a woman, I've used it all the time for men and it works really, really well. The biggest problem, the main danger you're gonna run into with clam shell lighting is over-lighting from underneath. You see it all the time. They kinda still don't exactly know how to do it but they kinda are figuring it out. So what you'll see is the light from the bottom is gonna be brighter than the light on the top and that fill light shouldn't be brighter. It should be equal or slightly less and slightly less is always a little bit better and you can see it 'cause you get just a little bit of that ghoulish uplighting happening and you'll always see, especially for people with cheekbones, and you'll start to see a little bit of the shadow of the face hitting the bottoms of the eyes and it just looks kinda weird, that will be it's under lit too much. So I would use it for men but I would also make sure that I would not over light it from underneath. I think that can be a big problem. All right, so any other questions from you guys in the audience? Savannah? Standing up. So how much different is this lighting setup than the f-type which you talked about the first time, one light vs three? You're making a reference to my f-type setup which I stole but gave complete credit to James Ferraro who I'm sure is probably watching. The f-type setup is something that is basically it's a clam shell lighting setup with a big fill behind it. But instead of the clam shell being the key light, the clam shell and the reflector are actually the fill and if you want to see that whole setup you can check out my other Creative Live class on Headshot Photography, Professional Headshots. This is gonna be different because one, largely it's flat light but the f-type setup has a really nice fall off on the edges or it should if you do it right, so it lights the mask of the face and kinda starts to fall off really nicely and it also creates big round catchlights in the dead center of the eye and it still, although it's flat, looks very much like a studio lighting setup whereas this light with multiple catchlights wrapping around the subject, we don't want any fall off. We want it to look as if you're standing in a doing garage light, in the open garage door or in front of a giant window with soft light coming in so it feels very different and so I would probably do more of the f-type if I wanted a little more of an edgy, almost glamorous type of look where this, I would use when I was going for something that's a little more natural and a little more approachable. Cliff? What would you recommend for people who have home studios and they're not gonna get it that high? Absolutely, this is a beautiful thing that you can do. What would I do if I was in a home studio and it was smaller? My studio actually only has eight foot ceilings not unlike most people's houses and I do this very similar thing. Probably you wouldn't have that light up so high, right, 'cause the ceiling and stuff, but what you can do is you can actually use another way to do this, you can turn your strobes without softboxes on them or speed lights or whatever you have, you can bounce them off that white wall and that would create soft light. If you wanted to make it even softer, you can get parachute material, craft material, put that on a clothesline in front of it and create a huge softbox, bigger than any one you could ever buy and it'll cost you $30, $40 in material. The principal is gonna be the biggest stinking light source you could possibly imagine as close as humanly possible to the subject and you'll be able to get that the bigger the light source, the slightly further away your subject can be. You see how close I was even shooting to Jen and Doug in both these circumstances. So I don't typically use this, if I needed to shoot larger, medium length or full length, I would probably even run larger diffusing material across the whole wall in front of it and I would use that as my light. The principal is you can make this out of anything. I used these softboxes to do it because this is what I own and so if you had a Paul C. Buff PLM and two mismatched Westcott softboxes you could use those, too. I used these because this is what I have. The configuration and the sizes are irrelevant compared to the overall size and effect that you get by doing it, if that makes sense. Carol? If you only had umbrellas for the setting before this, can you still skim the light like you were doing with the softbox or do you have to then aim it at your subject? You can absolutely skim the light just like you do with a softbox with the umbrella. If you use a bounce umbrella you're gonna be more precise. A shoot-through umbrella wastes a lot of light. It eats up a lot, a lot of light will come out the back, a lot of light goes out the edges. So I would recommend using a large bounce umbrella, not unlike, Paul C. Buff sells, it's called a parabolic light modifier, PLM, I don't think they make the big one anymore, the 86 inch, but they make a 67 inch one and I think it's 75 bucks. It's not much money and it folds up like an umbrella and it comes with a diffusing fabric that goes over it. So basically you get a six foot octabox for 80 bucks. That would be a very inexpensive, easy way and you could buy three of those for the cost of probably one of these and go boop, boop, boop and have three six-foot octaboxes. That would give you very similar result, it really would.

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.

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