Skip to main content

Lighting 301

Lesson 7 of 26

Dramatic Light with Wide Vs. Closed Apertures

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

Lighting 301

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

7. Dramatic Light with Wide Vs. Closed Apertures
This video demonstrates the difference between having a wide or shallow depth of field in portrait, as well as how to post-process a shot captured with an ND filter vs. one capture without it.


  Class Trailer
Now Playing

Lesson Info

Dramatic Light with Wide Vs. Closed Apertures

this video is all about seeing the differences between having depth of field in a shot versus little depth of field and a blurred out background understanding the nuances between post processing a shot with an nd filter. And without now we're building upon the same techniques that we did earlier. I'm going to show you a slightly different variation of that to light stacking setup. In addition, we're going to add a third light for a rim to kind of give our subject his beard, the side of his face, just a little bit of an edge, like so let's jump in. All right, So we want to do in this shot is I want to demonstrate kind of what the composition is gonna look like with depth of field, but without using high speed sync. I want to use an ND filter just kind of shows the difference between a deep depth of field versus a shallot of the field in your photographs and using an nd filter. It's one more thing that you guys have to carry around, but like we learned enlightening, 1121 it's going to gi...

ve you the best power output out of your flashes, so it's kind of one more piece of gear, but you're also not gonna have to go into high speed sync and you'll get more juice out of those lights. So what we're gonna do is we have set set up here. He's kind of leaning on the bike. Now we're going to switch things up a little bit. We placed everything kind of behind him so we can actually see some depth. And we can see the shot at the field in play. And we're gonna go ahead and actually take this shot first to F 10 and said, I actually like this a lot as a portrait where you're kind of like leaning up against the handlebar. So let's do that and let's take this. Let's get our composition and get this first shot set. So bring your glasses off and let's go ahead and kind of lean into the hands a little bit. And I kind of look into the camera right there, all right, and then you're gonna kind of keep the bike where it's at because we're gonna shoot all on the tripod so things aren't moving around. Go ahead and lean Let's get that shot. Relax the shoulders a little bit. Kind of lean the head back there. A little more kind of casual. That's it. Okay, so that's our baseline shot. Now what we're gonna do is have Seth hold that. Well, we kind of get our lights in the position. So I want to first set up a cool shot before we demonstrate this effect. So let's go ahead and grab our lights. This is C. This is a We're gonna start with our one because Seth has his hat on right now. We need to bring the light a little bit lower, and we're gonna follow that flight pattern of the sun. Yeah. Yeah. And let's go ahead and get my remote onto the camera. All right? So don't look at that flash, brother. I'm gonna blind you. Mhm. Yeah. Yeah. So at full power were clearly. Way, way, way, way too hot. So what we're gonna do is go ahead and dial this back, so we're gonna go one quarter power. That is 400 200 100 seconds. Yeah, about two flashes. Alright, Right there. But okay. Just a little bit hot. So let's go ahead and go down. I'm actually gonna do something crazy and see if we can't get away with it. Yeah, so we're going to go down to 1 16. I'm actually gonna do that same thing that we did before. I'm going to use a flash directly over to kind of chisel out the face. So we're gonna put this. This is on, Slave. We're going to put this on B and this guy. I'll go right here and show me that angle on how you be right into there. That's that's looking at the camera. Let me see where your faces. Mhm. Okay, so we have a right now on 1/16 power. It's gonna give us just a little bit of light, and we're gonna put B now to around a quarter power be as quarter power is going to be 10 seconds on a standard flash. Let's check it out. All right. So I'm gonna bring a down a little bit more. I'm gonna let be kind of chisel out the face. It's a tiny bit hot on one side. So can I get this sphere real quick? So we've got those lights set up Now we're gonna go ahead and take this shot before we set up our rim. This tutorial really is more of a demonstration in depth of field and shooting with an nd filter than anything else. But I do want to point out the lighting pattern here because we're still using that to light, painfully portrait. But the light pattern or the placement of the lights is a little bit different than what you saw earlier. Earlier, we were stacking the lights kind of directly over on the same kind of line. This go around. We're still achieving a very similar looking effect. But I want you to realize that you can move the flashes off angle little bit, particularly when you're primary kind of overall light with light that's filling the environment. When it's a little bit larger, it's gonna wrap a little bit more. So as you look at this, if you saw the top down angle on this exact little shot right here, what you would see is that basically, you have Seth right here. You have the camera angle. That's kind of like right here, let's do the bike as well. This is Seth. Where's his head? Is that his head, the bike, his body. I don't I don't know how it's supposed to look Okay, and then you're going to have your camera. Now the flashes there's actually the larger soft box is basically placed behind and angling into his face. And then the smaller flash is actually directly in front. So are smaller flashes, like right here and again, aiming directly towards his face. So it's a slightly different variation on that earlier to light stack pattern. They're still close to one another, but as you can see, I want you guys to understand the top down angle, because normally what we've seen so far is that you have one light here, and then you have the other one, like kind of directly in front on the same pattern. But I wanted you to see that it's possible and doable this way as well, especially when you want to manipulate the shape of the light a little bit. So in this shot, what's going to happen is this light is going to have kind of a little more in effect from behind and wrap a little bit, whereas this light is going to chisel out the face a little more and have a little more detail in the face. And so, overall, it's still going to be a very similar look. Just a slightly different set up. Let's go back in. Stop. I'm gonna be bringing chin this way a little bit right there. Yeah, Nice. And then bring the chin back to the side. A little more. A little more right there. Get a little bit better of a shadow. That's it. That's it. Right there. Perfect. Okay, let's go ahead and quickly set up the this guy. I want to use this as our secondary light source right over here. Okay. And, Sonia, can you just have a hand on this? It's pretty high. It could actually catch the wind. Okay, so we're adding in that rim light. Now, I wanted to point this out because what you're essentially seeing is a cross light pattern just with the camera at an angle. So everything else stays the same, right? This is just our demonstration, all soft box. So we have our two lights set up. That third light is coming in from the right side right here and basically firing into his backside in his shoulder to create are edging. So what is this? This is a cross lighting pattern. The only difference is we're not like shooting in between. We're kind of angling on the one side where this side is acting as our main. This side of the other opposite end of our cross light pattern is acting. Is that rim Light? Okay, so just wanted to point that out. Let's go back to the video side note. Look at the amazing job that Sony is doing with that light stand. She's not just a producer. She's a very talented and capable lighting assistant. I'm just kidding. She's terrible. She's a really Was she not the worst lighting assistant you ever seen? Lex? It was bad. It was bad. Stick to producing Sonia. Stick to producing. That was mean. Let's go back to the okay. The first shot is at full power, and it's way too much cause I don't want all that light. I want just a little kiss of light again. This is one of the big issues that I see being made A lot is that we add way too much of this rim and it really knocks out the drama in the shot. That is so much better. Good. Okay, so here everything is set up just the way that we want it. I love it all. What we're gonna do now is I'm gonna pull out an nd filter. This is a four stop filter. And just for demonstration purposes, I'm gonna hold it over this lens. Also, because this is the 28 to 70 lens which has a ridiculous filter diameter that nobody makes a filter for. Yeah, there might be some Mhm. Okay, so we're gonna do is cut down the light. And if I don't make any adjustments from there, I'm just going to show you guys what it would look like. Okay, so it almost blacks everything out from that side. So essentially, what I need to do now is just open up my aperture. This lens will drop down to F two. So this is a four stop nd so I'm gonna take it. Four stops, hold it without trying to get anything on there, and let's see if that gets us close. Yes. So now we can see the difference in those two images in terms of what? The background. What everything else looks like one is going to have that kind of pop off the background. Look, the other one is going to show a lot of depth. Now here's the thing. Remember from photo 11 line one line into one. If we're gonna show depth, we need to chisel out the subject with the light. We really need them to pop from the scene. Otherwise we can use composition, use other things. But if there's tons of depth in a shot, it could end up cluttering up a scene. If that subject doesn't pop out, it's time to dive into post production. And quickly we're going to take a look at that final side by side so you can see both images processed identically. But one has quite a bit of depth where we see a lot of the background, the other has very little depth where everything is blurred out behind our subject. So I'm not gonna say one is right and one is wrong. The only thing again to remember is just when you're using depth in your shot, you really need, as we mentioned, to chisel out the subject with your composition and with your lighting. Otherwise it gets messy. But either of these from a creative standpoint, in my opinion, are totally fine. And they both look great. So let's go ahead and just process the images real quick. I want to do one of these images. Um, and maybe we'll do the black and white variant of it, too. So let's just go ahead and select our raw file. Let's make sure this is the same raw file. Yes. Okay, So here's our raw file. You'll notice that it is actually quite bright. So if we press J, I might have seen a little bit of highlight alert kind of going on his just on his cheekbone, a tiny, tiny bit. But I knew that that was probably the JPEG file and not the actual raw file. So if I drop the exposure on this, yeah, we're pretty much solid. It might have been a little bit on the hot side, but not too much to, uh, to be able to recover a little bit. Okay, So what I want to do with this is any time you're using an nd filter, I would recommend if you if you want to use an nd the one that I found. That's kind of the best bang for the buck are the tiffin water whites. And they actually just came out with a new version of that which has even less color cast than their other ones. So it's a really nice nd filter. A four stop is going to be perfect for you. But we still need to go ahead and white balance off of something that's relatively neutral because we need to eliminate a lot of the green hues that you're gonna get from using nd filters and the worst, the filter. The more of these nasty Hughes and things are going to kind of degrade the quality of the image. It's the benefit of HSS. The downside of HSS is lower power. So all we did was press W to bring up the white balance selector and clicked on his shirt to get us roughly close to a right white balance. Now, from here, I'm gonna go ahead and drop the exposure until the faces about where I want it. Now I'm gonna add a little bit of shadow. I'm gonna pull up the blacks just a bit and I pressed Jay so we can see our highlight and clipping. I'm going to go ahead and start adding a bit of clarity in the shot to get some of that detail back, and I'm gonna lower the white point a little bit. So the white point is what we see kind of blowing out a little bit on the face. And what we're gonna do is also lower the highlights just a bit as well. Now, I don't wanna take the highlights too low, because highlights is where the, uh you know, where the bright areas of skin tone reside are in the highlights. And when you drop highlights too low, you just end up with this kind of muddied, great out image where we don't actually have true highlights. So I want to bring it down by, like, maybe negative 10 ish and bring the white point down a little bit further to control the brightest of those whites. But not killing essentially all the whites. Okay, right about there is good. And now, from here, all I'm gonna do is add a little bit more warmth to the image right about here, and then we're gonna go ahead and start burning basically. So let's go ahead and bring in our radio burn. We're going to go and do that same thing that we've done earlier, drop in that burn from the sides and again this plays directly into the light that we already have in the scene. I'm gonna call it good with one, and I'm gonna add a graduated filter to kind of be my second one from the right side and the left sides. Okay. By the way, notice that edging that we see So you can see that same edging from that rim light kind of giving us little kiss of light on the beard on the side of the face we see on the body we see on the background and kind of like the way that is hitting on the bike has a really nice dimension to the shop. Okay, I might add a tiny bit more contrast. I'm just watching the highlight and clipping. Sometimes I like to leave J on just to leave J on, you know. You know what I mean? Okay. So from here, if you wanted a little bit less vibrant, you totally could just pull down the vibrance. A little bit and warm the image. Um, the other thing I'm gonna do is just add in our typical split toning. So let's go ahead and drop it down. Let's do the same thing that we did before where we pulled tones from the image itself. So what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna go ahead and grab some skin tones. I'm gonna bring it over just a little bit and then reduce the saturation. I'm gonna go ahead and add some of these blues that we see up in the sky and pull it down. I'm gonna go ahead and balance this off to the highlight side. I feel like I can do one more little kiss of burning kind of right on him. There we go. I'm gonna just darken up The that highlight on his face is a still a little bit on the bright side. So let me pull it down a little bit, perhaps pulling down a little bit of exposure at the same time. There we go. We have with a really nice shot. I love the final look at this and we can take those settings and literally apply it directly to the other shot to the shot that has depth, right? So if I grab and take this and just go check all copy, grab this image that has depth. I can go ahead and plus reset control shift the or command shift will pace that over. And all I'm doing from there is a couple adjustments to again exposure and, uh, a little bit of white balance. Right? Because one had an nd filter, one did not. So let's go ahead and bring up our exposure to get it right about right. And I don't need that much. Let's press w and just click on the shirt again to get a little bit closer. That gives us quite a bit closer to where we want to go with it. I would leave it like right there. Okay? Everything else for these two shots really remained identical. So there are are two final images. You guys can see the differences between depth and without depth in the other shot. You guys make your own choice artistically, on which you prefer not to mention as far as using an nd filter versus using h s s. So those are the two options I wanted to give you all hope you all enjoyed. 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.