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The Portrait Lighting Challenge: Natural vs Studio

Lesson 15 of 29

Shoot: Studio Light - Backlight

Sue Bryce, Felix Kunze

The Portrait Lighting Challenge: Natural vs Studio

Sue Bryce, Felix Kunze

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Lesson Info

15. Shoot: Studio Light - Backlight

Lesson Info

Shoot: Studio Light - Backlight

I'm gonna take these katie you can relax I'm gonna take these about amita three feet over actually why don't I just take these away so we can see what's going on we're going to close the curtains move this over a bit and I'm going to keep this quite low and I'm going to show we're gonna do this slightly differently than susan because I have flexibility I don't have I'm not limited to that window up there I can treat this further down put that there for katie right so which one of these has set up this one okay great let's get that shoot through umbrella john that we had because light passes through it just it's like a diffuser actually show it when we have when we get on set and that's different than the silver one that you realise it so this one is kind of like a silk if you had a silver inside it would bounce back like back and you shoot through all right thank you so just mounts into here like we had it before on the first set up and then I'm going to would you just twist this away ...

so that I can show the students what we're doing and now I'm blocking all the cameras yeah well I'll just just twist this I'd put it back I'll put it right here now I'm using this war the light's going to shoot through bounce off this war and come back this actually has a little bit of reflectiveness inside of here so we're going to get kind of two layers of light one's coming back from this and then maybe fifty percent of it is going to hit the back wall and come back as well so we get that soft light super simple equipment set up you don't need a lot of stuff and again I'm gonna angle it kind of like it's the sun stick it about here no rhyme or reason for the distance to the wall if you have a smaller room you can put it closer to the wall it's okay jon let's put this back in good turn on may pocket wizard and where's the camera with the pocket was it a swell no that's fine waken we can play around with this and if I can get katie I'll just do a light test and see where we've ended up well she seems all right we can take questions yeah um well we can try it so would you uh be honest you khun yeah because we've got quite low now so I'm going to start at that shutter speed off one hundred twenty fifth of a second like we explained yesterday and I'm gonna take my s o waste mabel right let actually let's take some questions from the audience while we get katie back and you have a question about this setup read it would take a photo of me just a second so it's a shadow never cast from me there the light sitting there and bouncing light or when you said you were shooting under your backdrop you're never getting a shadow coming in and affecting your life send right usually kind of rap just run quite nicely yeah because we're putting so much light kind of bounces everywhere okay that's kind of the sun is doing well and it's defused again a swell if you didn't have this I think you probably should just kind of a more basic question vicky l a so so really what you're trying to do is slightly blow out your background to make it bright enough for the face right that correct yeah sorry well two main now with the strobe or just shooting in the back light shooting the backlight in general ok so the deal is this when felix took that shot on a normal exposure which is what the camera meted because it's gets confused by all the white line um it under exposed the girl that had a perfect exposure of the background because it's the biggest space in the shot so I pushed two stops higher on my meter because what I want to do is go against what it's telling mei and exposed for the girl which pushes the background to stopped up so unfortunately if your backgrounders say three or four stops brighter than the girl it's going to just blow it out like boon it and you're not gonna have any details and you'll get banding and cameras these days can handle it they couldn't at first we just get this mess of bands of magenta when we pushed the background light but now they can handle it but the trick wass to walk here away from the light in closer to the reflectors because it made her face lighter and then it rid bitter the meter read better but I only took it up two clicks and to say two klicks over and it was a perfect exposure on whom we didn't burn the highlights too much although I will say you can see this separation in this image when I shoot in my studio I paid to have my big window frosted and it's so soft that the light behind here isn't competing so much so really what felix has to do is like the front in the back here are you not going to put a light in the frontal you just kind of put reflectors that okay so I want to show how it is if we don't have the reflector so if you would kindly pose and I will take a shot of you just make sure my flask on my flash is firing good and rember guys I haven't paid attention to what power the lights on because I'm just gonna test in here it might not be too flattering su I'm sorry anyone that's alright I can see that that's actually a good starting point get that up on the screen it's brighter on here but I like the light on the back and all I would diagnosed with this is we need to bring light and from the front ok yeah so that's I'm gonna do that so you've actually got a softer backlight than I had because I can see it already yeah that's what I like to hear you john let's drop this down so that's on the floor I think we can get this fortunes so again I'm not doing exactly the same thing sue was doing come on your knees again I don't have that restriction off the window being up high we can we're much more flexible here yeah without setup right if you unscrew this stuck down there uh this is this is why you silks right soon there we go so this is the dark the dirty doc backstory of photography good so I'm happy with that backlight john let's put in those three flats in the same fashion so the light is facing away from the scrim bouncing into the umbrella that way would like you did that yesterday and then you turned it around and about and shot or the first one you shot the umbrella and then bounced back to the um would you be out of dubai yeah we could what I did yesterday is I move this like that can you see felix on camera I move this kind of over to the side so actually no light is bouncing in any direction back to where the subject is this is completely feathered it's just the sides kind of skimming across kind of is if you um you're not getting any direct light you're getting the edges of it but for this the backlight is going to be a little bit harder to kind of flow out in the same way you didn't worry too much about the sun coming straight into here so I can't change the sun anna but you didn't worry about being harsha it's actually nice if you have a big strong light coming in from the back so that's why for the first time the light is kind of angled in a way that it bounces almost straight back all right and I'm actually going to show one other little trick as well once we've got this set up so b flat e I feel like my greatest problem or block west lighting was that I was going to have to change how I shoot and I feel like all I'm doing is making the sun around how I already shaved that's probably something I learned the most about these last two days don't you think and how achievable that is because I already know how to do everything else so all I have to do is pull away from the window and make my own son right and that really makes a huge difference to how I should um and we're winning where so the other thing is now actually we don't even need to use that nd filter because you this what I should have sued the reference there is left to point a it just kind of works that way because we're using that really bright light from behind so interesting again I'm in the same situation I was in yesterday where she's in darkness right so we have to just needs a part katie and just kick out this way this elbow goes around the body yeah that's girl and see if I'm concerned up that model and here you just turn up turn up half in tiny no it's already max it cycles through three times sometimes that worry that shadow behind us the boys that's john so I've turned up the model and a little bit I think I s o needs to come up with a critical yeah let me turn to the back of the camera purists will tell you that's not okay I don't care it doesn't need to clients don't ask you if you meet it with with the back of the camera you know little baby smile good girl beautiful what do you think that's beautiful good lets them I want to get a reference shot just for all the ball just for fun let's thank the temperature that when we shoot lights the temperature is clearly ridder yeah and when I opened it in front of shop I found that to be the most difference now image is interesting because we photographed the same people in the same poses and the posers were almost identical shadows were so close but the temperature was significantly different and you can alter it to a certain degree but when its skin tone picks up a warm it's still very difficult to take it into a cold yeah I actually take out some of the red as when I import into ok come I automatically take out some of the red you do I don't know why it does that I think so it's probably got something to do with physics of the skin how it reflects sunlight on yeah that is a difference luckily we shouldn't draw so we can adjust all of these s so you take readout off most of your images x I should called I like cold work I like cold science so yeah ok see take way just had a question over here related to this picture on the other side but I know when we did the natural light you guys use the half white reflector there is it necessary with this or is the studio light kicking up enough I think one of the things that's we have the backlight is lower down okay so didn't need teo because of the way the angles you know it was coming from here and doing this onto katie now it's coming from here the light let's bouncing back is more on cooling so that's pretty wife sue didn't notice it right away without trying right that reference is actually quite different but I wasn't trying to make the reference work exactly for this well she's actually standing in the in my way so I can get it to stand out being you know the scrim up yeah I told you that should work let's see how that looks okay it's working just step towards me kate because I need you towards a reflector and I think this was back a little bit because you were down saying that so can you see in my shot these lights alone in the studio don't register at all so we have enough off that flashlight that it it overpowers thes complete yet doesn't even show up so I think that I'm happy with that's close enough for me okay you're right there is that readiness isn't it I'm coming in okay and let's try also with that reflected from below like how do you remove your raids in your role files do you do in the light room he has a picture okay and you just remove your reds in when I'm water in the colors yes I just to take the saturation down on the red slightly and add a bit of yellow but that's just a personal preference yeah but yeah that's great I'm great tip and I also in I don't know how it works and lightly but an aperture you khun change the tent from green and yes you can two islands roar went down yeah so that's usually I kind of play around in there a little bit you know what I would do here is you have some gray in the picture you can just drop on you can use that dropper to get to highlight the gray and then it figures that white balance for you okay an app which is really good at water white balance now as well just hit it and it usually gets it right all right so what I want you to do now is the shimmy again and when I get the bishop me it's this side when you turn your left shoulder towards may and then just chin no not that I just keep doing the shimmy but it's this one that I click on yeah and to just elbows back a little bit hold the back of the skin a little bit more instead of the front that's it and then just give me that little flick and let's just do it not too far katie and then just smile and look down that's a girl beautiful don't stop doing that because it's amazing all right now push your chin for just a tickle and a little bit more of a smart could go okay pressure chin forward a little bit more into a big smile don't turn so far just flick more with the dress I had to go that was beautiful and let's do that with like a laffy laffy laffy could girl that's gorgeous the same she has thes beautiful cheekbones and you're getting that same highlight just under the cheekbone yeah on both lights beautiful I can do one more because I just got you on the side I know that there's probably one more coming but let me just nail it because I wanted a good shot little bit more of a smile that to girl are both back beautiful big open smile and more flick on that dress give me a real smile okay great so I wanted to show you one of the little trick actually because that works right yeah beautiful perfect so is happy I'm happy I want to show you one of the tricks a lot of you talked yesterday about kind of getting a flare into that image and I want to show you how you can do that just passed the face um you go no they can't but we'll pull this down okay john well what we talking slide this one across that everyone can see what we're talking about this one so I can do two things here actually john let's do both versions of this but you mind plugging this in me okay see alex here's a good question on the natural light image one of the things I do like about natural light is how much of the light comes into the body and face yeah I think you could just go up on us a little bit I turn the light up a little bit all right that's that wrap around effect you mean yeah natural light does tend to have a little bit of a difference there because it's you know this is a very simple version of it yeah I'm going to show how I set it up with two lights and that might also make it wrap around a little bit okay so I'm going to keep the umbrella where it wass and we're gonna compete for space here on I'm gonna put a light too right behind katie's head okay so pull the screen back so the students can see go that way katie that way then again I'm not too worried about these shadows everything kind of bounces around fine and this if I'm using two lights I mean I don't want to make this complicated usher with one light as well I'm just going to turn the second one to its lowest power so that I don't get confusing it's not overpowering this guy on what I'm trying to achieve let's get this scream back in and this is probably the best for a close up maybe just a headshot and so if you get katie to stand you can see that second again yet you just skirting on the edge of that what's behind that face and you should get a beautiful do you want to stand against this gram more away from okay yeah well she can come away a little bit as well wherever you were and then you can just move your camera to kind of get that in and you'll see the effect it has we'll put this the b flat back in for you so if you can I don't know if the if a camera can get through this crack here but it's kind of neat to say that like feathering around here now okay so hold the dressed elbows back nice and strong backs the one on one no just bring you turn this way and stuff that's a go and we've added right now so it'll probably look a lot brighter and just move her so we can that your lens is really getting that so I can see the whole light did you want me to cover it o r it's not firing that's what way actually to make it fire I didn't turn the pocket with it on rookie mistake right let's try that I don't don't do this at home don't look at the light will you fire you're gonna get blinded turn up a little territory the truth you see how it's like getting that really bright like flair e light almost it's almost too much but it's yeah yeah she looks like a elf let me turn this second light up a little bit so that's a compliment by the way yes it is because because felix is a rabbit lord of the rings fan I'm surprised there hasn't been more lord of the rings references that soon way speak out lish yes okay so I've turned that up to double the power that extra light we've added in and let's just see what happens when you do that you might have to change your tin this s o b less sensitive it's at one twenty five right now so I can't change it too much for one hundred see what happens well that's really bright isn't it she's turned from weighing the j peg jay pig on the back of the camera it is bright and it's lost a lot of decks my camera sitting mutual remembers not sit to contrast and I'll show you what happens if I turn that a soft umbrella light off on we should get a really strong flare okay because we've got twelve minutes and we want to do the black tunnel of light behind us yes we do ok well after this just takes a second so we'll do a couple of shots and move on so now I've turned off the light the original light with the umbrella and you might have to change your setting yeah good good on my I say yeah go off when you're so incredibly yeah and you see you're getting on the right you're getting a lot more like and it's kind of more directional ziff the sun was coming in and here is where a thinner diffusion cloth you would get mohr off that effect like a tune my eyes have opened I didn't need teo um one sixty or actually one hundred probably be when I'll do one twenty five tell me something this is almost better than the first one yeah but that's because we've got the strong the diffusion cloth here it's fairly thick so you're not going to get that burn so that is one twenty five two point eight so is one twenty five and can you just show them the light there yeah just deconstruct it so that they can see what you actually just did then because that actually is closer I think to the natural light and then the original and that's because you had the sun in your natural life shot giving quite a focus like if you had shot your original with uh cloudy sky don't move anything don't you know I know but this one isn't what I know but you have it set up bouncing and they're so originally this one with the umbrella and it was on creating a really soft kind of light box from behind then I added this and both were firing but they were kind of still creating a really soft light so I turn this one off on the last shot there is just this one that's why you're getting a little bit of a one hot and light from this side giving it more of a radiant if you this so I'm going to be katie sorry I'm not as pretty the light in relation to her was kind of here you can move her so that the light isjust coming into the edge of your camera frame and you would get that highlight just that the top of your frame you could move it so it was over here coming up above her head so you can try mess around with that move her if it's right behind her is going to come on both sides and if you use a thinner silk oh on this you'll get more of that flare effect as well so that's a really fun thing to play around with just the bare bulb behind one of these backlit it's gonna look great okay the set up for the next one is it possible to leave the backdrop there so that we don't block the student in for you to put the light there yes ok that's absolutely so katie when you can you um come and stand here on dh when I want iss to black deflects one on either side right so we're going to use exactly the same set up as we did with the backlit apart from this is going to be pointing because I don't have a war back here this is going to be pointing we're only going to rely on the light that reflects back from this too this too onto that scream so I might have to turn this pack this light up a little bit so bring that scream right here and I think if we have it coming at this angle it's gonna look quite public that's really flat I'm goingto bring the scrim on the light up so we gotta light that's coming kind of from above john we're gonna go quite high yeah let's go there and then I'm gonna angle this forward that should just work there we go just to give it the impression that it's like a skylight this kind of what you had in mind soon I don't know I can't wait to see oh sorry can I have the bastable and an apple box jump thanks and again a matching that angle kind of on dh what I'm looking for here is that the spread of this umbrella and I can see it in the model life is kind of covering this whole area I see it's coming off the bottom of a little bit so I could move it back move it up whatever I'm just going to be lazy on dh do that and now it's giving a nice spread and I can just see that with the model light I'm gonna have a look yeah john would you just put that up about half a foot still yeah that's good that's going to give us a light that kind of comes from up here in this direction is going to feel like a window light from behind I'm gonna doing the shimmy gang because it's fast enough I want you standing so I'll let you know okay if you wish so the light source was behind me it looked really really beautiful with taylor gone um and it blew me away and I wondered if I could recreate this and you get the black like kind of a black room on both sides behind her yeah what was it so much a black room it was just this beautiful dips that I don't normally get from natural light okay and if I was the window behind you right behind me actually like within a foot so you can do this in a small room so I was pushed out I was this far away from my client and I was a hit my bum against the window basically yeah it was really close in a box you in okay push your chin towards me katie from both ends so as you know I'm not telling katie to put a chin forward and down because she's long and lane but I am telling her to put it in forward because it makes a significant difference in on lean body go teo also one hundred and I'm goingto because you already you don't change capitalists I'm going to turn this the power of this light down a little bit things the last time I thought about the power of this life can I put find joy in life but can I put on the new toward the entity filter yeah you can actually let's do that so then no one has to worry about the power of the light that's easy way why do we have this set because and because flares if you had a light source hitting the lens from this side you would get a flair lights please keep it on when you shooting in the studio I like flowers sometimes yeah I do depends on what you're after really you'll see it when you see it for the first time you want if there's lots of weird like coming to let's just put one of these and it minimizes it you need a woman's touch so what are we gonna do we're gonna just cut out some of that life I have changed I haven't changed this at all so I'm going to set my utility and so they feel that how many people here going to buy a neutral density filter um wish I saw those appreciation for katie bam yeah okay I feel like there's still a little bit too much light hitting the background does pulling her away from the background come towards me yeah you don't know can we go back under skin creamy skin yeah and the further this goes away from the background the less of that light is going to hit the background and isaac chin this way a little bit telling stop it should go slightly dark I mean it's very gradual can this yet katie would you hold that that's great I have a look at that so I want you to hold the dress at about and I want your opinion elbows the reason we do that is because if I don't get a dependent elbows and she turned she turns with a flat against her body which looks horrible so when I'm getting here hold idris she's actually doing something so she's got a reason to hold it elbows back and then I get here to do the little shimmy and I get a push hit chin forward and look down because we love the lashes and the red lips slow down but there was drunkenness isn't on your camera you change nothing I just wanted a shot of her doing it should be ok if we didn't change is that more movement and more smile pushkin for katie good girl that is gorgeous I can't do it any more movie that that's ah like that okay can I just make one point if if this looks harsh when you do it double up your silks make it thicker that's going to make it softer you want to get as much you know if you want a harsh light it's a thin silk if you want it to be really soft to soften it up cristina what if there was a wall behind what you do because right now I would like leaking then you wouldn't even need the umbrella you can just bounce off the wall and come back an easy gone there was another question a little bit more of a smile push ten for you lips to get that christian forthe good girl hae was beautiful that's nice it doesn't look as nice on the other screen it looks pretty beautiful and here though actually tender dentally filter up another two stops that some four so you're cutting out four stops of light from the flash and I could get it further away from the background because I have big enough background to do that yeah yeah that's really beautiful and I love that we just show what if we walked this ten feet back how it effects the background just for sake of fun so felix I actually with I was talking to susan and I was kind of shocked at how much light is bouncing back because that's what I usually think of as a shoot through umbrella so I wouldn't think it is bouncing that much back and especially then when you've also got the scream defusing it and you're working on so one hundred especially when it's not it was two feet from the wall or three feet well now I have a ton of open space can you talk a little bit about how much light actually bounces back from that and I think that specific umbrella it has a little bit of a sheen on the inside so it bounces some light back I'm sure the manufacture could tell you percentages and everything for me I set it up if it wasn't working this way I would then turn it around sometimes you just have fabric and bounce that directly in whatever works this one happens to have a little bit of sheen so it's bouncing right back but you know if it doesn't work change something just try that's that's all I've been doing so and does the image cooper photography was wondering whether the height of the ceiling makes a difference at all if you're shooting in a home with eight foot ceilings does this still work yeah um if you use your christmas for to see how much like you getting from the ceiling definitely if you had a ceiling right here it would bounce a little bit sometimes that's really negligible sometimes it might be good too block the life of putting some like a black fabric pinning it to the ceiling just try to cut that out and you can just control it whichever way you know all put some black v flat on top of this set up to just bounce stuff from bouncing I'll take another question lola selina's would like to know if you're using an nd filter right now and if not what you are yeah because we had we were already at one hundred twenty fifth of a second we were already at s o one hundred and so you wanted to stay at f two point eight so one of the ways you could stop the light from being so bright would be to go up in your aperture but we wanted it to be we could didn't necessary have that option we wanted to stay at f two point eight um so if you bring katie off the backdrop and shoot in the same so I just did it then so you can see it on the back of my camera I met one stop of neutral density on the filter I met two hundred aiso because they wanted it soft in lights so I went up on my also at one twenty five two point eight I have actually charlie just against backdrop now it looks quite contrasting on there but you can see how soft it is on there and when we did it that on this afternoon you bear to see how beautiful and soft it is to come towards me even more and I'll try and take the same shots of albums and just bring you to this honey and it should in the backdrop should now be darker and she's brighter so let me in charge so if you turn it down yes I did turn when I moved back to the wall I tendai so upset she's not closer to that light so she's going toe it's going to be bright on her so what have you got toso one hundred yes no sorry I s so one twenty five okay so if you compare those last two images nico while the last the one before the last sorry yeah so that was against the wall no sorry the one before that was the overexpose one yes correct perfect so that was against the wall and that was away from her like you like against that backto look at that it's that shadow makes it kind of feel natural and nice but as you move her away and you have to compensate in your camera because you're getting more light backdrop then becomes darker right so let's pull the scram back katie I'm going to get used to you conclude that way it's pulis from back so that students can see that screen because they can't see it there but I do have one final question I do wanna hit which is talking about the backlit set up via rela wants to know could you also do that with a giant soft box or a lockbox and putting the model exactly in front of the hot spot does that work yes it does and I would diffuse I have a giant last light umbrella that I use because my traveling kid I can't get all this stuff in it on dh I put a silk over the front of the umbrella so russ it would end up being like I think this would be too small to do that with it would kind of look weird but if you had a giant umbrella um watch out that you would lights they get hot so just make sure you don't cover the vents do it like that and if the model's head is covering that hot spot you get that wrap around really nice but it's so easy to make this flare the best setup is this

Class Description

As a photographer, nothing defines your talent more than your ability to capture, create, and place the right lighting. Award-winning portrait photographer Sue Bryce joins studio lighting wunderkind Felix Kunze for a lighting for portrait photography masterclass covering the universally most-used portrait scenarios. You will learn how to work with both natural and studio light — so that you are prepared to walk into any environment and take a gorgeous photograph.

Sue, internationally-renowned for her ability to paint portrait subjects with the glow of natural light, will teach you how she sets up different lighting scenarios. Felix, who's worked with the top photographers on earth, will then take the reins replicating Sue's shot — all using artificial lighting techniques he has honed from experience. The two seasoned photographers will take turns shooting, each learning and asking questions of the other in real time.

By the end of this course, you will know how to shoot a variety of portrait styles, including the classic beauty shot, the silhouette, high-contrast glamour, the soft flat light portrait (master that back light!), and old-school Hollywood glamour — all with both natural light and artificial light.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Lighting Challenge Workshop Guide Part 1

Lighting Challenge Workshop Guide Part 2

Sue Bryce & Felix Kunze - Gear Guide

The Lighting Challenge Syllabus

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Aliah Husain

I loved this course! I purchased it as a beginner photographer, unsure of whether to shoot natural or studio light and how to get the best results. After watching the course, I am fully confident in my ability to use both natural and studio lighting in my photography. And most importantly, I feel I have the knowledge base to be able to experiment with lighting in any situation. I am both grateful and inspired by these two amazing teachers sharing their technical knowledge and a personal piece of themselves. It is clear that they genuinely care about making their students better photographers. Thank you, Sue and Felix!!!


This is the best lighting class I've done, including several in-person ones. Covers so much, and the contrast between and dialogue about the two styles (natural vs studio) was so helpful. I didn't think there was anything at all negative about how Sue spoke with Felix, which a few reviewers said. Clearly she has great respect for him, which she sincerely says at one point, and explains why. Wonderful to see specifically how they both shape light. So many topics are covered. Loved Felix's clear and specific explanations about studio lighting. This class is worth every penny.

Wasabi Ben Kenobi

This was a fantastic introduction to studio lighting, and one of the best courses I've watched on Creative Live. I've only ever done natural light photos, but I want to learn more about studio lights because I'm creating a basement studio. I'm already a big fan of Sue's approach to portraiture. Now I'm a fan of Felix's soft lighting approach, too. In this course, he demonstrates how to replicate natural light portraits with a simple lighting setup. With a big scrim, a strobe or constant lamp, and v-flats, you can do so much! I'll be watching this course again.