Controlling Contrast Through High Key Lighting
I'm gonna show you what it's like to shoot an e-com or high key background, full-body shot and how you can get it in-camera, perfect white backgrounds, controlling contrast, great detail on our subject, and even a reflection on the floor, all in-camera, and it's all about controlling contrast and using hard and soft light to fill. So, let's go ahead and do a quick reset, and while the guys are setting that up, I can take a question or two if any have come through. And let's have you switch into that white shirt. (assistants talking) And the interesting part of what we're about to do is we have a white background, so I figured why not go ahead and put him in a white shirt and give ourselves the nightmare scenario as a e-com photographer? So we're gonna do a white shirt on a high-key background with a lot of fill light. And we'll see if we can get it done here on camera live. But, questions?
Yeah, how are you exposing when you're doing your first light?
The first light?
Yeah, so at...
first it was too bright and then you dialed it down, but you knew like by eye, that you needed to go I think one stop or two stops down.
How would somebody who's doing this for the first time know how far down to go.
Oh, good question. So, um, I love how, so basically how do you get that first exposure without a light meter? I love how, one, we have digital, so you can instantly see it. But I love how lights now have a lot of control. Now we can do like one-tenth stop increments. They're very fine-tuned. So I start swinging wildly with one-stop changes to get me in the ballpark. And then I start to dial in like one or two tenths of a stop brighter or darker. And what I'm looking for is kind of almost like a white reflection in the skin without it blinking and being overexposed. So it try to push the limit on that. So when I'm shooting just to my camera I'll put my highlight warnings on. And that means when I overexpose, any portion of the photo overexposed, the back of my computer screen will blink and it will be like, hey, that's pure white. That's blown out. So then I'll be like, okay, dial it back just a little bit, maybe one-third of a stop, and that way it takes it from overexposed, hopefully just under the underexposed mark. And the reason I shoot for that just shy of overexposed is 'cause I like the white highlight in the skin. 'Cause if I get a white highlight here, I get more contrast between the shadow and the darker and more saturated skin tones on the face. So let's see if we can pull up one of those shots and I'll show ya. Like this one right here. I love this because look at the cool highlight on the nose and the cheek we have. Alright, now if I had underexposed that a little bit, I'm gonna cheat here, and I'm gonna do this in post, but you can do this in-camera. Had I underexposed him a little bit, it would have taken that highlight sheen out and then it would have like, I would have had a more saturated skin across his face, but less contrast. So I try to get just almost overexposed highlight on the skin, and that's where I like to live. But I always make sure that it's not overexposed 'cause then it's very difficult to get back. So that's the sweet spot. So visually, that's what I'm looking for. And on the Histogram, it'll look like this. The majority of my skin detail will ride about here. I just want to make sure that this mountain doesn't ever fall off the right side, 'cause that means all of this is the highlight detail has then been overexposed and I can't pull it back in the file. So that's a great question. You can use a light meter and try to get it but skin tones are different. He's got a nice rich darker skin tone so he can take a little more light, where if I went ahead and jumped in there and I haven't been in the sun very recently, so I would probably overexpose here. So you have to again, by eye, kind of dial it down a little bit. And it's the same thing with garments. I'm gonna have to change my exposure for his white shirt versus his green shirt, 'cause the green shirt is darker and can take more brightness before losing saturation and overexposing. So, that's by eye, totally. Yep, I'm not a light meter guy 'cause people change and subjects change, so yeah. Any one else? Cool, okay. Well what we're doing in this next set up, the guys are setting it up so I can kind of run you through it while they're doing it. They are putting together what are called light trees 'cause it looks like a little forest back there. It's basically a bunch of lights that they're gonna put on the background. We've got four Siros back there. And if you're thinking, oh my God, how do I afford four Siros? You can do this with four any other strobes or you can do it with two strobes, or you can aim one strobe at the background and turn it on really bright and that'll overexpose your background. The reason we use four, typically in-studio we like to use four or more, is because we're gonna have to make our background very bright. Our background, in order for it to get to go pure white, we're gonna have to be about two to three stops brighter than the light on our subject. So if I'm at F8 on my subject, I need to be at F11, F almost F22 on my background. So that means one light is gonna have to be on full power or more, so by using multiple lights, I can allow them to each work a little less. So maybe they'll all be on quarter-power versus one on full-power, and that means I can shoot faster 'cause they'll recycle faster. So don't get overwhelmed by seeing four lights here, it can easily be done with a single light, you'll just have to shoot a little bit slower because that one light will probably have to be on full-power. And you saw what we did with the portrait. We were just using one light. So they're setting up four lights back there. And look at the modifier selection we have used. We're using the small silver shallow bounce umbrellas, and that's because I want those umbrellas to be able to quickly spread out and cover everything, the entire background. If I use the deep umbrella, or if it used a reflector, a standard reflector, it would only light portions, and in my final photo would get like three or four hotspots on the background, and then maybe almost white splotches, so I want nice, even coverage, and I want it to be very bright. So four of 'em requires less work from each strobe, and the shallow bounce umbrellas mean I get nice spread of light. So that's why I set up my background like that. And with each of these, I'm probably gonna have my subject right here. So I'll just have you turn each of those so that there's no light directly hitting him. So you can probably bring it in and then aim it straight toward the back. So what I'm doing now, working with John and Ken, is this is where my subject's gonna be and I don't want any of the background light to directly hit him because then that would be a rim light, right? I don't want rim lights yet. I just want my background lights to just light the background. So what you do is you get in the position of your subject, okay, and you look, and you're like, okay, can I see directly into the bulb of this flash? And if it's like the semi trucks, you know, if you can't see me, I can't see you thing. So if I can stand where my model's gonna stand, and I can see into the strobe, that means that strobe's gonna directly strike my subject, so we gotta change the angle a little bit. Alright. And then now what we're doing for our main light, you're gonna notice I like to use a hard light when I use my main light and that gives me definition. We were using a gridded beauty dish earlier, and that's great if I can bring it in close because it's relatively small, bring it in kind of close gives me soft-ish light with good shadow detail. And we're gonna use a Focus 110 umbrella, which is the deeper of the two umbrellas. And that's gonna allow me to get a little more spread. Remember, I said, hey, the deep umbrella's great 'cause it can cover someone head to toe, but it's also gonna be focused enough that it's not gonna hit over there the camera guys, or hit the wall or anything like that. Can you go ahead and boom this over for me, too? Well just boom it down.
Yeah, um-hmm. Or, yeah, or we could move it over on that side that way the cameras can't see it or it won't block your camera. So I'll have you bring it over and flip it down that way. And did we decide to go with five-foot opt on this? Yep, perfect. Alright. So like I was careful to bring it, like let's not knock any lights out, perfect! So what he's gonna do now is he's using a boom, a mini boom arm. And we've got it on roller stands because we got 'em. Okay, I don't always use these heavy-duty ones but you should. It's nice because they have a big wide footprint. In my class yesterday, I talked about the importance of having wide light stands so you have a more stable platform. But what he's gonna do is let's have you move it over here and boom it over and kind of tilt that light at me this way. And you're gonna see exactly why boom arms are important because if I want to get a full-body shot of my subject, alright, and I can't get a full-body shot of my subject if I have a light stand sitting right in front of my subject. So he's gonna bring that over. And let's bring the legs like here, so I get a nice clean shot by. And then we're just gonna go ahead and tilt this, like that, alright? Now my subject is tall. I had to cast a super tall model here, so this is gonna be interesting. So if I can have you step in we'll start working the light around you. And this is gonna be your stage, right about here. I might move you forward, backwards a little bit. But you know the drill, you can just kind of like (finger snaps) we can get full body shots, see all the clothes and everything like that. Alright. That looks about good. But see what I'm saying with the legs, so the legs this way, so one's not like jutting out into the shot. So we're gonna do the same concept. We're just super-sizing it. So the things you learn for portrait photography then will serve you throughout your whole career as a commercial photographer, e-com or products, it's all about learning the quality of light, the direction of light. So what we're doing here, perfect. That looks good, yeah. Should be solid. So are all the back lights off now?
They're on? Okay, so let's turn them all off and let's see if they're all in wifi mode, too, then we can just put them on standby. So now I'm just tweaking this. Alright, so oh, they got me locked down. I like it. So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna try to not knock these lights off the ceiling, but I'm gonna try to bring this as over-camera as I can, alright, and rotate this around. And what I'm doing here, again, if you notice, the bottom of the light source is just about eye-level, so I have downward angle to the light and a downward angle to the shadow. And I have a bigger light source now, bigger means a little bit softer and more coverage, and by using the deep umbrella, it's only gonna focus at him and I'm not gonna waste any light lighting the rest of the studio. Why waste the light? Then I have to turn it up and my batteries die faster. Alright, and I'm also gonna go ahead and do this one light at a time, always one light at a time. So, all the background lights are off, I'm gonna go ahead and get lower here. Thank you sir. And when you're shooting e-com and things, I'm usually on the ground or pretty low, or you do a nice little stage where you can have them set up so they're a little bit higher than you. But the reason I'm getting down lower is because if I'm shooting in full-body and I'm standing up here and angling down I'm gonna get some distortion and it's gonna compress him and his legs are gonna look shorter. And you don't want to be like, okay these are a size large pants with a 32 men's waist and have him looking like he's sitting there, with like, lost his shins kind of thing. Okay, so you want to get down low so that you're flattering your subject and you're getting proper distortion and you see the proper dimensions. So I'm gonna get down pretty low here. And, let's see here. I do have a tilt-screen, that fits nice. Alright. Put the lock in, perfect. Alright, so this is gonna be our first test shot. What if we go a little higher with the background, if we can? Is that possible But we'll get to that. So let's clear our crop. Okay? Looking at our screen. I'm liking that. It's still a little bit dark, but look, having our angle where are, yeah, if you guys can get, uh, if it's not easy, it's fine. I'll raise it up a little bit. But what we're getting is nice direction of light here. So the light's slightly moving left to right. I'm gonna make this a little bit brighter, I think about a stop brighter. And here's where this eyeballing comes in. I say, what am I looking for? Well I'm looking for some nice highlights and detail on the skin, but I don't want to overexpose the shirt because I'd be a hack of a photographer if I was photographing white clothes and you couldn't see 'em all. Alright. Beautiful, I like that. And I'm just gonna put my highlight warnings on the computer. So we're using Capture One here, Capture One 11 is the latest one. And that's really nice because when I'm on my camera, I've got my highlight warnings on so it'll blink when I overexpose and when I'm in Capture One, I can go over here and I also have highlight warnings in this software as well. So, anything that would be red right now would be overexposed, and the fact that it's not blinking red means I'm still good to go and I can maybe make this a little bit brighter, even. So I'll go up three-fourths of a stop, and we'll go ahead and take this shot again. I'll go a little higher. It's good. Oh, perfect. You guys are amazing! Okay, awesome. Again, Ken, John, thank you very much. These guys are incredible. It takes a village to work with this many lights and to work efficiently on set. So this looks good. We have our key light dialed in now as far as I'm concerned but that's a pretty crunchy photo. And by crunchy, I mean there's a lot of depth, it's just very contrasty. So that's not clean and happy and airy like I want my commercial e-com photos to look like. So let's go ahead and bring our fill in. Let's go opposite the other one. Nice, see the biceps on that? Alright. So let's go ahead and turn off our main light here, and we're gonna turn on our fill light. And again with the fill light, I like to bring it in as close and soft as possible. Let me have you just march it into the frame. And what I mean by marching is as I'm looking through my camera to see what my frame is and I have them bring the light all the way in until I can see the light, which is as close as I can get, now it's in the way. I'll just have them back it up just a little bit. Little bit more, little bit more, little bit more. Right there, perfect. So that's as close as I can get the light, as soft as I can get the light without messing everything else up and getting in the way. So here's our warning. See how it's blue there? That means all of that is purely, it's completely underexposed. So not worried about that so much 'cause this is just our fill. So I'm gonna turn that up a little bit. There you go. And I'm gonna bring this around front because remember fill lights? You don't want them to draw attention, you don't want them to create their own shadows so by bringing the fill light around front what I'm doing is I'm seeing less shadow now. So the closer to camera axis I bring that the less shadow I'm gonna see in the photograph. Excellent. So let's go ahead and turn our main light back on and I think this is gonna be a wonderful marriage of our key light and our fill light and should give us a nice, inviting, well-lit photograph, but still getting detail in the clothes in our subject. Nice. And our highlight warning? Boom, has not gone off. Wonderful. So that's it right there. I exposed our key light until we are almost clipping the highlight, brought the fill in. Now look, we can still see every single wrinkle in the shirt, the definition in his arms and that's key because sometimes you're buying clothes for the cool weave and synthetic fabrics and things, so you want detail in clothes. Clothing and textile photography's the last time you just want to use big soft light 'cause it mushes everything and you can't tell the texture of the clothes you're gonna buy. So the next step is our background. Let's go ahead and get our background on. We can fire all of them up. And let's put 'em, are they all around like five maybe?
Two and a half.
Two and a half? Let's go to five on each of them. Five is just like half-power on all the strobes. So that way they don't have to work too much, but I still have a lot of room to go So I can still turn them up really, really bright. And what we're gonna do is this is where we're gonna use our exposure warning. We're gonna use that to try to get that highlight, the overblown background. I could do this with a light meter. And if I did this with a light meter, I would want it to be about two and a half to three stops brighter than our subject. So again, I want it to be about F16 or F22. But we're just gonna go ahead and do it just in camera, to eyeball it. Alright, I'm gonna mouse-over, we've gotta go up a bunch, let's go to seven on all of them, and let's raise the tops of the trees. Just go up maybe a foot or two on the top lights. Another benefit to using four lights in the background, is I have the ability to spread out the light more. So because I'm shooting a full-body shot here, I want to make sure that I'm getting pure white on the top and on the bottom. I mean, it's very easy to Photo Shop, but when you're shooting 70 looks a day, three images per look, that's a lot of images to be retouching a white background on every single photo. This is something we want to get in camera. Alright, ready? Done looking at the light guys? Don't want to blind anyone. Now we're going bright. Ah, there we go, awesome. So we're getting there. We're closer. What are we at, seven? Let's go to nine on all of 'em. To get F22 is a lot of light, which is why we want to use a lot of strobes. Perfect, we there? Don't look, don't look into the light, Ken. Alright, let me take one more of these. And just looking straight ahead Temple. (equipment beeps) Perfect, alright. 231, 231, 231. Okay, so we're pretty close there. I'm shooting on a RAW image, so look what happens when I do this, is bring my brightness up. I could bring, oh I had my highlights recovered. There we go, whew! It's all back. Alright, make sure you reset when you're messing around because it applies it to all of them. Love it. Okay, so this is one of the things I wanted to talk about. We have a completely overexposed background here. Alright, see how it's red? Which means it's completely overexposed. See how it's 255, we have it there? So let me go ahead and turn on all of our other lights. And I want to take this photograph and talk about contrast, 'cause we've done one of the classic mistakes that a lot of people do when they're starting out and they're doing high key photography. So let me go ahead and shoot this. And high key again is just white, bright backgrounds and bright subjects. So we look at this photograph and I know that I lit him properly in the front. Like we had good contrast, right? Can I grab the lens hood for the 7200? I know I lit him properly in the front, 'cause we died our lights one at a time like we're supposed to. I knew my key light was properly exposed, I knew my fill light was properly exposed, but when I look at this, I started to lose a lot of detail in the shirt. So let me compare this with our previous shot here. The shirts don't look the same, do they? We had much more contrast in this than we did here. So what happened? Our front light didn't change at all. Why did I lose contrast in the front?
Is the HDR on?
Is the HDR on? Oh, maybe the HDR was on this one, yeah, let me check that. That's a really good one. Let's make sure we don't have the highlight recovery on that, thanks for keeping me honest. That's why it's good to work with a digitech. Yep, so bring that back. But still, now that's a good catch, but look, we still don't have as much contrast in the left image and the right image. Why do you think that is? (participant speaks) What's that?
Light pollution, exactly, yeah. We have made our background too bright. So this happens a lot. People like, man I want a white background. Crank the lights. Like we just cranked our lights almost all the way up to full. But in doing so, what we've done is we've now turned our background into a huge light source. So now it's like we have a giant soft box shooting back and polluting. It's bouncing off the wall, the ceiling, everywhere. So we've accidentally added fill light all around him unintentionally. So the goal here is to get to a 100% white background but now go farther beyond three stops brighter. So let's bring those back down. Let's go to about eight on all of those.
We're at nine. We're at nine? So yep, let's go back down to eight. So what I'm gonna do is as we start to lower the intensity on the background we'll still try to maintain that pure white balance, but we're not gonna be so bright that it's kicking back and filling the shadows on the front. So again, that's why we do this with multiple lights, so we have the control to light the back and the front. But this section of the class is talking about contrast. So what if you're not photographing e-com. What if you're photographing like a musician, or a dancer or someone where you want the nice glow and low contrast. Well, now you know how to create that. You just overexpose your background an extra stop beyond pure white. Or if you want a nice white background but with more contrast, then you try to get around that two to three stops overexposed number. So there we go, we've fixed that. Now we're got a lot more contrast back there and all we did was go down one. So here's our last one and then here's our first one. So we're getting more in line with what we wanted right there. See how we have detail and depth in the shadow? Similar to what we had there, that was overexposed. So this is where our happy medium lives. This is how we control contrast in a high key world. Alright, we overexpose our background too much, it's nice and low-contrasting glowy, and we do it in the front and we have a lot of, if we have it properly exposed, then we have a lot more detail. So let's go ahead and bring in our V-Flats, because this is the final way that we add contrast is through negative fill. So this is the last thing I want to mention. Do we have a reflector? There it is. Cool. So here's our handy 5-in-1 reflector again. Okay, 5-in-1 because they have multiple sides. There's like a white side, a silver side, a gold side, now why do you think they have this black side here? Think they just ran out of ideas? They're like, crap, we advertised the 5-in- and now we're short one, so just make it black. This is actually for something called negative fill. So you've seen how the white reflector will bounce in and will raise shadows up, okay? The black side sucks light out of shadows and adds more contrast. So here we go, we have a nice bright background. Okay, we've got nice hard light sculpting his face, soft light filling in the shadows so we have good balance, high key background, but what if I want more contrast now? What can I do? If I turn down the lights in the back, then my background's not white anymore. So what we do is we add negative fill to add more shadow to him, while keeping the pure white background, while keeping the nice lighting pattern up front. So the guys have him set up, let me go ahead and take this next shot. Alright, now let's have you march them in a little bit closer. And it's just like the white side of the reflector. The closer you get, the more fill you add to the shadows, the black side, the closer you get the more light you subtract from the shadows. It's really cool. When I first heard about that, I was like, yeah right, negative fill. Like that makes no sense. Um, it works. And let's have you go all the way now guys. John, you might actually have to go more towards the background because you're caught on the leg there. But let's have you bring it all the way up just on the inside of the background, or, I'm sorry, on tile board on the floor. Yep, perfect. There you go. And Ken, come out a little bit with yours, just so you're just overlapping. Perfect. And then John, come out just a little bit more with yours. Come back, back away, towards you, away from the model. Perfect, right there, yeah, that works. Alright, and we'll take this photo again. And now, look at the detail that we've got going on in his arms there. So let's go ahead and pull up a side-by-side of that one, there you go, Perfect. So you can see as we march it in, we start to add more depth and dimension to his arms. So that's the final way to do it. You control contrast with fill light. You can control contrast by bouncing light with reflectors. You can change the contrast by overexposing your background, and then you can add contrast back in by going ahead and using your negative fill. So that's who we control contrast. So I'm gonna do a quick change here if we can answer any questions. We're gonna go to a pure black background and start sculpting some abs and using some of those grids we talked about here in a little bit. So, yeah.
So, since black sucks in light,
Why are the barn doors black? Wouldn't you want to maintain the amount of light that you have coming out?
That's a good question. So if we had the barn doors, let me grab one of them really quick, so I can reference it. I got it, don't worry about it. It's a big transition. (laughs) I'm asking a lot for them, for them to change the set out in like a couple of minutes, so, same reason your lens hood is black. So the lens hood is blocking light, but you don't want the light that slips into the inside of your lens hood to then bounce back up and reflect. So if I've got my light here, it's doing a good job and physically it's placement is blocking the light from streaming out and hitting the wall. The problem is that if this was white or silver, it would not only block it, it would then bounce it onto the opposite wall. So if I was like, if I'm in a narrow studio, I don't want the light to hit the walls, this would block it but then it would bounce back and illuminate that way. So the reason it's black is because you want your modifiers to be light-absorbing. That way you don't accidentally start blocking one way and accidentally bounce light the opposite way. So yeah, a really good question. Now that's different from the inside of like a reflector. So let me get the silver, the reflector this was on. Alright. The reflector is designed to do something differently. This is designed to focus the light but still cast light. So that's why the inside of these are silver, so we don't lose any intensity. So this is saying, hey, narrow your beam, but we still want all the light to go. So this is more of a focusing element, and this is a flagging element, just blocking. So just blocking and focusing. So they've got two different interiors. (participant speaks) Degrade the light? So like lose intensity? No it doesn't, actually. Well, less light is hitting the subject. It's kind of like the inverse square law where as light emits into a three-dimensional space, you're losing about 75% of it. So in that regards it would degrade light, but yeah, this is gonna be more efficient than this. You will lose some light going from silver interior to the black interior for sure. It's just like the tighter your grid gets, the dimmer your light gets. So when you put one of those really tight grids on you gotta turn your light up like three stops. It's a really good point, 'cause you're gonna lose a lot of that light quality. The black eats light, just like the diffusion does. The diffusion will absorb some of the intensity and then you have to turn it up when you put a soft box on. So yeah, great questions.