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Sculpting with Hard and Soft Light

Lesson 2 of 6

Controlling Light

Erik Valind

Sculpting with Hard and Soft Light

Erik Valind

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Lesson Info

2. Controlling Light

Lesson Info

Controlling Light

I've alluded to this a little bit, there are a number of tools we're gonna cover, and these are the main tools, softboxes. Softboxes do exactly what it sounds like, they soften the light. And that's because of two things. There's diffusion material on the front that kind of diffuses the light out, so if you're like me and you maybe have a sweatier forehead, you don't get that shiny hotspot up there, and at the same time they also increase the surface area, they increase the size of your light modifier, and that's what makes it softer. So, softboxes soften light through their size. The bigger the box, the softer the light's gonna be. Reflectors, these are excellent for controlling contrast, which we'll cover in a little bit. The reflector allows you to bounce back light into the shadow area, and then raise that up. So if we have nice defining shadows, they don't have to be 100% black, like, we can get some detail in the shadow area. Umbrellas, this is the most cost efficient, easy to us...

e, and most versatile light modifier out there. So how many of you guys have an umbrella for your strobes right now? Just about everyone. Rain umbrella? Does it have a silver interior? It could work as a bounce umbrella. Alright. Umbrellas are great, 'cause you can get convertible umbrellas. So anyone out there who is just putting together a lighting kit, I recommend you get one of those convertible umbrellas, and what that is, it's a pop up umbrella, and you can take the back black baffling off of it, so you can shoot light through the umbrella, or if you put that reflective black cover on the back, it's now a bounce umbrella. So you have a big soft spread of shoot-through light, or you have a more directional kind of reflective bounce light. So, that's my number one recommendation for people starting out with strobes. Get yourself one of those reversible or convertible umbrellas. One of the umbrellas that can be shoot-through, and also a reflective bounce. And parabolics. This right here I could go on and on about, and teach a whole class about parabolics. Thank you very much. And one of these is going to be great because the parabolic umbrellas are kind of like satellite dishes. They focus the light in a very directional high intensity beam of light, or like the Brieses and the Broncolor parabolics can be spread out so it looks like this cloud, the very luminous, voluminous, kind of soft wrapping light. They have their own three dimensional quality all on their own. And we'll be using some of those at the end of the class, and they are just super versatile, super high-end wonderful tools that I definitely want to introduce you all to. 'Cause I use them a lot in my workflow. They're a little more higher, so this might be the first time you get to see them. So hopefully if you do have questions, chime in on the chat and we can answer those. So, lets go ahead and jump in. This is like my show and tell portion. I love this portion of the class. What do we want to start with? Lets start with hard light, 'cause hard light requires the least amount of size and modifier to work with. So lets go ahead and slide this guy in. Bartender style, I like it. Alright, so this right here is the main light we're gonna to be working with today. This is the Broncolor Siros. It is a monolight, which means this is the whole shebang right here. It's like a big speed light. Now, they have pack and head systems, where the power pack and everything, all the guts are down there, and they run a cable up, and they have a small flash head. When I'm working in studio or on location, I prefer something compact like this. All the power comes out of a battery, which is great, which means there's no cables, I don't have to plug anything in, and I can shoot indoors with y'all right here, on a super safe set, and then I can go outdoors and I'd have the same light, 'cause I'm really comfortable with the equipment. And, starting out, no modifier at all. This is our bare bulb, and I really want you to think about what we're doing with studio lights here, or how they're designed. Most studio lights that you're gonna see have an exposed flash tube, and the reason it's exposed is because it's gonna be able to spread light in all different directions. Now, your small flash, like you have a speed light on your camera, is designed to send light directly forward, or if you're a little more advanced, you can bounce it off a ceiling or a wall. That's why the recessed flash tube exists, so it only fires in one direction. These are designed to fill modifiers. So these are set to fill softboxes and paras and umbrellas, so that's why you see this kind of design. And to get hard light, remember the rule? Small and far away, right? We don't wanna increase the size of this for hard light very much, but you're gonna see some different tools out there, one of them being a standard reflector. What these do is they basically narrow that spread of light, so if I'm like, "Hey, I don't wanna "make this big and soft, but I don't "want it to go everywhere," then you're gonna start thinking of control in a reflector like this. So by putting that on there, I've now limited the spread of this light to about 40 degrees, which is kinda nice. Now I've got a little more control. The next way that we dial in control here is to narrow it down a little bit more with barn doors. These are great. You've seen flags like this to put on the front of your camera lens too, right? Like lens hoods? You see this a lot on film cameras and cinema cameras, to stop the light from actually shining out of the camera lens. Well, it works in reverse too. Go ahead and put that on there. We've got this light now that we've focused into about a 40 degree spread, but say I don't want the light to spill on the floor. What if I wanna light you in the audience, but I don't wanna light up the floor? I can just tilt that up like that, and it's gonna flag the light, or block the light from hitting the floor, same with the ceiling, and then I can bring these in to spread out and light the whole front row, or just light you right there. So, that's the really cool thing about barn doors, is it allows us to narrow the spread with our reflector, and then further refine it. And if you guys have watched Chris Knight's class, or any other classes here on CreativeLive, you've seen some really dramatic, tight lighting patterns that people do for portraits. Dan Winters is notorious for this. But, barn doors are a great way to kind of mimic that look, because it's an affordable way to go ahead and get a focused beam of light that you can put on the face for that really dramatic highlight. And then you also notice, they're gonna have some fill light in there too, so that's how they get that cool look, is they do a narrow hard beam of light, and then a soft fill, which is exactly what we're gonna be talking about here for some portraits, and also full body. So, grids, yeah! Let's go ahead and see these. Alright, thank you sir. So we have a couple different kinds of grids, you can further modify this down. This is called a fine grid, which means very very tight, and if we got one of the cameras, you can close up on this. Let's actually go a couple medium. Might as well toss both of them at the same time, and we'll go with the other one too. Thank you, sir. So, these come in different tightnesses. Do we have a camera that can punch in really close on these? I'm gonna do this one so it's easy, and if you look straight through this, it's transparent. And then as I tilt it, just a little bit, it closes down. And what that does, what you're seeing is the very limited focus of the light. So we've gone from a light that illuminates everywhere, that's hard, so it's gonna create a nice shadow definition, but I wanna focus it, so I put a reflector. And then I wanna narrow the beam some more, so I put barn doors. And then I just want this tiny spot to maybe just light the hair, or just put a circular kinda highlight on a background, that's when grids come in, and they sneak right in here, and set right in there like that. And then, depending on how tight you want that circle, you go to a tighter and a tighter grid. So, fine, coarse and medium. And I mean, these get tiny. Some grids even have a degree on them, where they might say a 10 degree grid, that means like, it's a 10 degree spread of light. Super tight. So, we're starting to get real surgical with lighting, with hard light, because the shadow's very defined, so we have to control where the edge of that shadow is, what shape it is. Do we want a round shadow, or a line shadow, a more geometric one like that, like a rectangle? So, that's how you start with a light. Hard light, remember? I said it's really easy, you don't need big modifiers for hard light, which is great, which is why I love hard light portraiture, 'cause I don't have to carry around giant softboxes everywhere I go. That being said, let's go ahead and look at one more option that you see quite often, and that's the beauty dish. There you go. And the beauty dish is great, because it acts much like our reflector there, it's just slightly bigger. So this is our beauty dish. Thank you. Beauty dish is about 20 inches, or 22 inches, and what it does is it starts to increase the size of our light a little bit. So check this out in comparison to me. It's now a little bit bigger than my head. If I poofed my hair up just a little bit more, it might be kinda about even. But having the size increased now, remember our softness rule? The bigger the light source, the softer it gets. So by having this a little bit bigger, I can place my model close to this, and we've increased the size, and that's gonna give me a soft light. And if I step back, it's still relatively small, so I can still get nice detail in my shadow. Nice, crisp shadows. So the beauty dish lives in that middle area between hard light, like a standard reflector, and a little bit softer light, like a big softbox or umbrella, and that's why you see this used by a lot of portrait photographers, because they're able to get that mix. Soft, nice highlights and shadows, and then really dramatic shadows on the cheekbones and the chin. So if you have someone that has a chiseled face, or a model with high cheekbones, this is a perfect intermediate kind of hard, soft light that's a great way to start. They also have grids that you can put in them, as you saw, and they have another modifier called a sock, which basically takes your beauty dish, and softens it and diffuses the light a little bit, so if you have someone with shinier skin, and you hit them with the beauty dish, and you like the shadow detail, but you don't like the shine, just put the sock on, and there you go. It's kinda like matting down with makeup. I don't know makeup very well, I have some oil blotting sheets that I always have in my camera bag, but if I see someone with shiny skin, I'll throw this on my beauty dish, and I still get nice shadow detail, but I diffuse the skin a little bit. So we're all set with that. Thank you very much. And let's go next, let's go back to some umbrellas. So this is the next step I'm gonna go up to. We'll go to maybe the shallow umbrella, and then we'll go to the deep umbrella. If you grab the deep one, I'll grab the shallow one. Thank you. Cool. So, this looks like a lot of equipment, and it is, but honestly, I'm saying this early, we haven't even gotten to the biggest pieces, but all of this equipment, I traveled from New York City with in a single Tenba roller. It's like the Tenba Roadie, 48 inch, it's about like this tall, this wide, about that deep, it's on wheels, I can pick it up and carry it if I'm in a rush, and all of these modifiers break down into that single bag. So it's really kinda cool, once you understand what the tools do, and you'll see that throughout this course, you can pick and choose which ones you buy, but if you start to be like me and accumulate way too much equipment, it's still packs down pretty easy that you can move around with it. So we'll get to this guy in a second, but this is the standard umbrella that you see. This is a bounce umbrella. Now we're starting to get size, okay? So this is gonna increase the size of our light, and also give us back that spread. 'Cause remember, without any modifiers, the light's kinda shining straight down, straight up and all over the place. And now this is the standard umbrella reflector we have on here, that narrows the spread a little bit, and then it bounces off this light, and then becomes like a 20 or 30 inch light source, and spreads out. The thing with a bounce umbrella, most of them are pretty shallow, you notice that? Or I can come over there to that one. They're not very deep, which means I'm gonna get a lot of coverage, which is great. I can go ahead and fly this up here, and if I wanted to light a group photo of you all, this light would bounce and hit you in the front row, hit our announcers here, hit all the guys over on the side, this would fill up the whole room. So this is great if we want a spread of light. And now you've seen these deep umbrellas start to become really popular in the industry. Broncolor's got one called the Focus 110. Profoto has a couple deep umbrellas, Elinchrom does too, and let's get a comparison to those. You can just see how the shallow umbrella's gonna give us a nice spread of light everywhere, and the deeper the umbrella gets, the more focused this beam of light gets. So this Focus 110, I love, because I can set this up high, and far away, and it gives me enough coverage to light someone full body, but it's not gonna bounce light off the ceiling and the floor, like a normal umbrella would. And the farther I get away, the smaller it gets, and the harder it gets. So if I want good shadow definition, like that hard line in ab detail, I'll step someone back here, and then if I want a little softer, more forgiving light, I'll have them move a little closer, and in relation, this will become bigger. So, umbrellas are great for getting coverage, but when I'm photographing people, I prefer deep umbrellas, 'cause they allow me to focus that light a little bit more. So you'll see us put these shallow umbrellas on the background, 'cause if you wanna light the background, they do a great job of spreading light everywhere, and then we'll use this deep umbrella to light our subjects, 'cause it gives us a little more control. And this class is all about controlling the light, so good spread, while maintaining control, and the shallow umbrella just gives us good spread. The shallow umbrella, again, another reason I recommend that is because, if you're starting out, maybe you don't want to have that much control. I'm a control freak, which is why I'm a photographer, so I say this lightly, but with the bounce umbrella, if you go out and you're like, "I wanna light an environmental portrait," you walk out, you've got a beautiful area in the park, and you've got one or two people you wanna photograph, you can kinda set a bounce umbrella up, and turn it on and get your exposure right, and forget about it. 'Cause if people move over here, they're still in the light. And they move over here, they're still in the light. So it's very forgiving. So if I'm photographing a subject that moves around a lot, like kids, or an athlete that I wanna give space to, the regular shallow umbrellas are great, 'cause they give you nice spread, nice coverage, you can kinda just set 'em and forget 'em, which, sometimes, is one of the best things about technology. It gets out of the way, and allows us to become people again, and kinda coordinate and communicate with our subjects. Understanding your gear, and setting it, is half the battle, and then just forget about it. And then the best thing you can do is start focusing on your subjects again. Alright, let's go to the Octa. Let's do it. This is my favorite light. So, this is what I call a cheater light. I said this in our first class too, yesterday. Thank you sir. The reason for this is because I'm 6'2", and this light's way bigger than I am. It's five feet tall, but it's also five feet wide, and again, the bigger the light, the softer it gets. If you shine a five foot light modifier at someone, anywhere in like, this whole distance, they're gonna have nice, soft, flattering light on them. And then, if you bring up someone really close, now they have five feet of light wrapping around the front of their face. So this is great, if we just want a soft, very flattering, easy transition in the shadows, wrapping, illuminating light. The five foot Octa. For today, you notice we have a grid on it, this allows us to take that big spread of soft light, and focus it a little bit more, so I can hit my subject with it, instead of it hitting the ground and the walls and everything else. So we take the beautiful soft quality, and the grid gives us a little more control. And you're gonna see me, today, use this as a fill light, which we'll talk about in a second. Alright, the final one is gonna be what I call my scalpel, when it comes to lighting people, and that's the strip, so if you could bring that over here. Everything's on rollers today in the studio. It makes life so easy. Thank you, sir. This is our strip light. It is what it sounds like, it's a strip of light. It's four feet tall by one feet wide, which happens to be perfect for illuminating bodies, or for illuminating the backs of bodies. We're gonna talk about rim lighting, and how you create a sense of depth with rim lighting, and I can set that back there, and it's gonna be perfect to light me from head to toe, and get that nice rim and that separation. If we go to the picture here, of our subject that we used as our course title, you can see a rim light, we have a window there, so it's wrapping around and it's creating flare and cool effect, but if I want that surgical precision, I want a more focused rim light, I go to the strip. And you can further refine that by putting a grid in here too. So, you're noticing a theme here. Just about every modifier can have a grid added to it. So you pick your tool for the quality of light you want, and then you add grids if you want to then narrow that down so it's not contaminating the rest of the scene. So that's what I got. That's a lot. We also have the parabolic back there. I'm not gonna have the guys wheel that out, we will talk about that when we get to it, but the Broncolor parabolic is that versatile tool that can look like a beauty dish, it can look like a five foot Octa, it can look like a Fresnel, it can look like a reflector. The parabolic is great because you buy one modifier, you set up one modifier, and you can change the depth of it to look like a million different modifiers. It's one of the most versatile ones, and we're gonna use it in a couple different ways today. So, that's all of the tools, there's a lot of them. I'll have a PDF here that you can download at the end, too, that lists all the lights that we used in every setup, and also all the different camera settings that we have for this too, so don't feel bad if you haven't written down every single thing and what it does. Alright, so creating depth through direction. Where do we place these things now? We just went through like a million dollars in lighting modifiers, (laughs) and six different strobes, now where do we even start setting them up? Well, there's three different kinds of lighting, or placements of the light, that I wanna talk about. There's frontal lighting, there's directional lighting, and there's the back rim lighting that I've talked about a little bit here.

Class Description

Would you like to expand your lighting repertoire beyond traditional portraits but don’t know where to start? Photographer and educator Erik Valind will teach you lighting techniques that you can use to sculpt curves and enhance features while photographing athletes.

In this intermediate class, Erik will show you how to:

  • Understand and use the tools necessary to shape light
  • Create dimensions and depth with light and angles
  • Use special effects to control contrast and atmosphere

You know how to shape light for portraiture work, but it’s time to expand your knowledge and learn to take images that don’t focus on the face. After this class, you’ll be able to control and shape light in ways you couldn’t have previously imagined.

Reviews

a Creativelive Student
 

He has good demeanor and there a few good tricks.

Travis Harvey
 

Good class, I like how he doesn't waste any time and moves through the course quickly, but covers the material needed.

a Creativelive Student
 

Erik is an incredible teacher. He is very humble and able to transmit all his knowledge in a very easy way, the course flow very well and is a combination of theory, practice and real studio issues. So happy by buying this class.