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Lighting 301

Lesson 21 of 26

Background Light Compositing

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

Lighting 301

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

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Lesson Info

21. Background Light Compositing
This technique marries an understanding of lighting with a grasp for creating composites. Pye places the camera on a tripod to create a unique, double exposure-like portrait. Post-production instruction is included in this lesson.


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Lesson Info

Background Light Compositing

in this video, we're going to be taking our knowledge of composites and marrying them with now are understanding of lighting. So this is where you're going to envision what you can do with a camera up on a tripod, lighting different independent components in a scene and then combine them together to create really compelling pieces of art. I'm super excited to see what you guys do with this on your own. Because this is one of those concepts where once you understand it, it really opens up what you can do with your camera. So let's dive in and check it out. So in this scene, I want to show you guys a technique for lighting the background to create more dramatic environmental portraits like this one. But we're going to combine a couple techniques I'm actually going to do not only that background lighting technique, we're gonna aim the lights towards the background. I'm also going to actually do a light composite. Now, the idea here behind this shot is that I want to have them kind of movi...

ng from the outside and then meeting in the middle. We're gonna put basically a big highlight on them in the middle and kind of smaller lights while they're on the outside creating nice little silhouettes of their faces. So again, the first thing we're gonna do is composition. There was some weird things happening, this alleyway before we got here, so just don't mind the background. Okay? So I'm gonna dial in a quick amulet exposure. Guys, I want you guys to come forward a little bit off the background a little bit more right there. Okay? And then step a tiny bit. This way. Right there. Perfect. Look right into the camera. Let's get a quick little shot. Now, if this were a natural light workshop, that'd be it. Which it actually looks pretty cool. I like it. So it's not like it's not a good thing, but I want to make it something different. So we have that baseline composition I wanted to kind of meet in the middle. We're gonna try and light up the lines and the stuff kind of behind them make something really interesting here. Let's just see compositionally how trying to see if there's any pattern to the way that's drawn. Yeah, there is. That one is right. Dead center. Perfect. Okay, So I'm gonna go ahead and die on my ambient right now, and we're gonna pull this down pretty dramatically. I want that background to be not blacked out. But I wanted to be dark before I add the light and right about there is gonna be our ambient exposure. And that looks fantastic. Now, separate. And here's what gonna do, B. C. You're gonna step this way a little more, A little bit more. A little bit more right there. Perfect. Taylor, you're gonna step this way a little bit a little bit more right there. Come back a little bit. They're perfect. So I'm gonna put two flashes directly behind each of them. So, Karen, why don't we? I say we shoot this without any modifiers whatsoever. So do you have a second stand up? Why don't you pop the B 10 off, take the B 10 off, and then use this one? Yeah. Okay, so this is gonna be fun. We're gonna place that light directly behind Taylor, NBC. I'm gonna go ahead and get a shot while we have that set up right now. Let's just make sure it's gonna fire. Yep. And let's go ahead and take a look at it. Okay, so I notice a couple of things. It's not quite giving me the look that I want. So what I want to do first is actually zoom it. So I'm gonna zoom this, and it actually has already zoomed. So, you know, I think we actually have to have grids to him. So go ahead and add grids and place it directly behind each of our subjects. I'm gonna put it right behind BC, and we're gonna point it up now. Karen stayed close because I need to have you make micro adjustments there. So let's start with species. The B C. Look towards Taylor. Let's go ahead and get our focus. I'm gonna lock it. Okay? I like it. So I like the shot. So what I did was I just compared. Do we like the narrower beam on that wall Or to be like the wider beam on the wall? I like the wider beam on the wall. The only thing here is I want to bring the power down, so I'm going to bring the power on this down to negative two. So we're basically going to drop it down to about. Let's see if that's 75 watt seconds. We're going down to 35 then down to, like, 20 if that and that's great, because we want the outsides to be less bright than the inside. And that's exactly what we get on the shot. It looks awesome. Now let's set up her light. So remember, our camp means that we got to modify and then see if you want to add another light. And now we want to add other lights. We started the one we're gonna add a now. Normally, we would go and order, but whatever. Okay. You got that one? What? Yes. Okay. So, B c, you're gonna look directly, so I get a profile shot, So I want to see your nose more. So keep going. Chin over. More chin, more and more and more and more and more, and chin up a little bit right there. Looking directly at Taylor. Chain over more. Turn down a little bit. There you go. There you go. I like that. Not the creepy. I'm gonna murder you. Smile. But I like it overall. Okay, Taylor, look towards him. Okay, let's hold that right. there, guys. Here we go. Let's see it. That's it. Now go ahead and walk toward each other right in the center. Okay. Now pull each other in the center. So, like, face into each other. Now, there you go. Maybe bring your hands behind the small of her back. Pull her into you. There you go. Right there. Now we're gonna bring both the lights in and make sure that the same height, Okay? And guys, give me a tiny bit of a scoot. This way. Right there. Perfect. I can see some of the flash is right behind them. So can you get them to tell you this? Just so move the other one behind Taylor's shoulder more so they should be. There you go. Right there. Okay. That's so cute. I love that laugh. Okay, Now, I'm just gonna power up both of these by one. Stop touch foreheads. Yes, yes. Just close the eyes. Taylor, Look. Smile in. There you go and go for a little kiss, guys. Leaner back. Just a tiny, tiny bit. Right there. Right there. Perfect. Hold stand up straight and look at me. Guys. Bring your body's one inch this way before. You're totally good. Go ahead. Lean her back. Now. There. Now go for that kiss. That's freaking adorable, but okay. And then one more shot. Guys link up together like that. Same looking at each other one. So look toward each other and then edge this way. So scoot this way a little bit. Scoot. Scoot. Right there. Right there. Perfect. Perfect. Right here. Perfect. Eyes closed and then pull back and smile at each other. They're right there. Love it. Before we dive in a post, I want to show you the exact same technique using an actual wedding. So let's check that out. When I saw this scene in the hotel lobby, I honestly thought of this specific technique. We had these three campuses and paintings that just looks so perfect where we could essentially have two yellows on the outsides and one red where they meet, kind of in the middle. And so I thought, why not like them independently and and shoot each one on each left and right side and have them meeting in the center. It worked so well with the way that these campuses were naturally designed either and tomorrow here. You'll actually notice that I'm shooting everything independently. Everything else is the exact same that cameras up on Tripod. The only difference is I only have one flash setup. And rather than set up another flash, I'm just shooting three independent pictures as opposed to two. Yeah, coming up. The money top being Yeah. Yeah, I think there. Okay, so here are the three final images that we captured there and let me go ahead and show you now the final piece. So this is the actual final image that we created. And it's going to be the exact same post production technique that I'm about to teach you for the other set of images. In fact, I'm going to give you these three images as well for your exercise files. So you guys can have both them for reference and practice if you'd like. Let's go ahead and jump into the actual images from the engagement portion. Let's see here and we're gonna be utilizing. Yeah, these two. Where are they? These two. Okay, so let's go ahead and post, process them, and then layer them quickly. I think you guys are gonna really understand exactly what we're aiming for here and what we're trying to do. So let's just go quickly. I'm gonna shrink down the left side panel, and we've already actually processed some stuff in this scene. So you know what? To speed this up a little bit, I'm going to go ahead and just go to, uh let's do soft light for this just as our baseline preset and I'm going to go ahead and just raise the exposure a little bit and I'm gonna leave this exposure just a little bit more dark than the other one. So I'm gonna pull down the blacks, okay? I'm gonna raise the clarity a little bit, perhaps raise the shadows a little bit And I might even flatten out the tone curve just a little bit by pulling the pulling the shadow point up just a little and then deepening the overall exposure a bit by pulling down right after in the highlights or sorry in the shadows. Now, what this is doing is is basically just kind of lowering the level of contrast in the blacks. And that's kind of what I'm aiming at is keeping the image kind of like on the dark side but I want there to be detailed there, so I'm even going to lower contrast a little bit more and sort of right around here is nice while raising the highlight point just a little bit so that we were not kind of getting very dingy whites. Okay, so this is nice. Now, let's go ahead and go to that next image and let's hit previous this Go around. We're gonna leave this a little bit more on the bright side. So, to be honest, we're gonna bring the exposure up a bit, raise the shadows a little bit and maybe adding a little bit of extra contrast to give this one a little bit extra punch and call it good right there. Generally, we want these to be identical, okay? In exposure and everything. But this go around. What I'm kind of trying to do is to create a sense of like that Shot in the middle is brighter, and it's sort of the outside, you know, darker like it's almost like they're darker by themselves and brighter when they're together type thing. So we're doing this this way, but you could you could leave everything equal brightness in the other shot that we did. We kind of processed everything identically, left everything equal brightness and called it good. So what I will do with this one is go ahead and click Edit. Let's go ahead and align the layers Press auto and okay, we had a little tweak their that it made. And for this, let's go in and add a mask right to this layer and just paint in Now where BC and Taylor are meeting in the center. Okay. So, ideally, I would love for a little bit of extra space between the couple on the inside and on the outside. I opted for this because specifically for this scene you'll notice that the converging lines So right here the converging lines of the V kind of lined up exactly where I wanted them to stand. So I left them a little bit closer together. And so because of that, we'll have just a little bit more work to do and making sure that this blend kind of looks about right. Okay, we can choose how far up we'd like to blend this. Let's go right about two. There. Now, all I gotta do is click X on my keyboard and go ahead and start painting white to make sure that we're not basically losing and ghosting our subjects. And what I might do is using even larger brush is just paint a little bit so that we kind of feather the background just a little bit. I'm pushing down a little bit harder with my brush just to kind of whoops. What did that do? There we go. Just to essentially feather the kind of overall look. Now, from here, we would simply do the same thing. All control shift your option command shifty to basically merge the layers. And we're gonna do the same trick that we did before to get rid of garbage. Right? So all we're gonna do to remove the stands is go ahead and create a separation. So separate the stand from where the pant leg is, and once it separated, go ahead and select it. Shift backspace content aware fill. Okay. It will make quick work of it. I find that in areas like this, I like to turn off the color adaptation so it focuses more on the texture and we get a little bit of a better uh, blend same thing here with the paper. It's going to remove a piece from this side again. I'm using a fairly fine edge by just kind of keeping my brush strokes light. Well, I painted in another piece of garbage over that. Okay, again selecting L to lasso this little area control or shift backspace and selecting that content aware fill to remove that. So I'm gonna do the same thing on both sides. Um, and anywhere I basically see the light stands. Obviously, you can hide the light stands a little bit better. If you do, it'll save you a bit of time there, but that's how we do that blend. Now let's do the other one, cause I want you guys to see exactly how the other one will work, too. So let's go to our exercise files and this one from our wedding. So what I would do is once these are all processed identically in a light room. So let's just look at where they were. So this is where they were. Honestly, it's very close to where they landed. You guys know how to make these adjustments by now We go ahead and do the open as layers as well. And this is you'll see, what I mean is it's a little bit easier when you have a little more space between your subjects that you're working within the shot to do the blending. Okay, let's go ahead and select all three of these layers. Edit. We're gonna go auto line. The more layers you're working with, by the way, the more critical it is to do that auto line, even when you're working on Tripod. Um, and now all we're gonna do is just create a mask. The layer below it is where our group is on the opposite side. So look at how quick this is. I'm going to paint him in. I'm going to make sure I kind of add back in the same lighting that was present. Okay, now, if we'd like, we can paint it off of those top part areas. But honestly, it's fine where it's at because I still need to add in the couple themselves, right? So I'm gonna put the couple themselves right in the middle, and now I'm gonna go ahead and hold down alt or option and click the mask so everything disappears we're gonna go ahead and now paint white into that area, okay? And I'm just gonna clean this up by painting black back over the side. So now we make sure that each side is kind of independently lit, and it's not feathering off. And the last thing I might do is I might just kind of paint off the ceiling on this And you know what? We're getting a little bit of, uh we're getting a little bit of what you might call it over here with the with the blend. So even in this underlying layer, you can see how there's a little bit of different tones and kind of uneven lighting on the ceiling. So let's try something. I'm gonna go ahead and go on to control shift E or option command. Shifty. There's a couple things that I would like to remove from this, and you guys already know how. Right? So if I wanted to remove this little, uh, plug, I'm gonna go sample from over here. I'm gonna go ahead and just separate that plug from his pants by painting straight down with a fine edge brush. And once it's adequately separated, I would go ahead and select it. Now this wall has a very fine texture. And if Photoshop doesn't do a good job of matching it, then you can continue to kind of clone that out. And it worked fine. Our clone worked. Okay, there. The other thing I'm going to do here is this. Watch this. I can make quick work of this little ceiling entirely by just selecting it. Shift backspace, content aware and just replace the entire thing. Now Photoshop should know exactly what I want because there's nice and even texture right below it. And there we go. We get the whole thing replaced. If you want to make additional subtle tweaks to it, you totally can. But I'm good. I just remove the other objects, and within five minutes and post, you have an image that's very compelling on both of these sides. Let's take a quick look at both final images, and then let's go on to the next video

Class Description


  • Master multiple off-camera flash setups for dramatic portraits.
  • Control light with flash modifiers such as softboxes, grids, and gels.
  • Master creative techniques like creating silhouettes anywhere, pin lighting. your subjects, backlighting rain, creating starbursts with diffraction, and much more.
  • Use various tools in Adobe Lightroom Classic to enhance the images created using the lighting techniques taught in this course.


This workshop is all about using multi-point lighting setups to consistently make any location look great and help you capture dramatic, creative portraits that will wow your clients every time.

Building on the skills learned in Flash Photography Crash Course, Lighting 101 and Lighting 201, we’re going to explore a variety of multi-point lighting techniques and look at different ways to further refine the way we light a scene. We’ll start with light stacking to create depth in our portraits before introducing rim lighting, backlighting, and other creative effects and applications. Then, we’ll incorporate motion into our environmental portraits via shutter drag and show you how to create composite images that would otherwise be impossible to capture. 

We’re going to demonstrate these techniques using a variety of highly portable lighting gear and modifiers. You’ll also find “power translations” with each lesson so that you can know the exact power settings used and recreate the same light using any flash or modifier that you already own. Follow along and see how we crafted all of the images featured in this course, from shoot to post, and learn how to fully realize your vision and bring it to life with your camera. 

The next class in this series is Lighting 401, where Pye teaches photographers how to create every natural light effect with flash, including golden hour, soft window light, and direct sun.


  • Photographers with a basic understanding of flash photography who want to elevate their lighting skills
  • Those looking to boost their creativity when shooting on-location
  • Any photographer who wants to stand out from the competition


Adobe Lightroom Classic 2019


Jackie Stewart

Lighting 301 is excellent! I learned so many new techniques throughout the class. Pye Jirsa is brilliant at explaining new lighting techniques in such an easy to understand way and his mastery of Lightroom is amazing!!! Loved the class and can't wait til implement the things I learned!!!!


I love the Lighting (101-201-301) courses; I have finally understood the concept of lighting and how it works. I have been referring to my notes and go back to all the courses with ease. One of the best courses I have done for myself and my biz; I am so impressed with my work and the lighting I can create.


Pye is a great presenter and is able to make understanding light easy. Now to practice and master the concepts taught. Thank you.