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On Location Shoot: Portrait Using Top Light with Strobes

Lesson 22 from: Strobe Lighting on Location

Joel Grimes

On Location Shoot: Portrait Using Top Light with Strobes

Lesson 22 from: Strobe Lighting on Location

Joel Grimes

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Lesson Info

22. On Location Shoot: Portrait Using Top Light with Strobes


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Develop your Artistic Vision


Learn Strobe Basics


Which Strobe Is Best For You?


Strobe Questions Answered


Balance Strobes with Ambient Light


The Sunny 16 Rule


Choose the Right Modifier for Strobes


Lesson Info

On Location Shoot: Portrait Using Top Light with Strobes

Alright, so what we're gonna do is we're gonna have our one light overhead here, an edge light coming across his shoulder. This one, I think I'm gonna add, and see if we can light a top light coming across the steps, okay? So let's try that. And this is, again, just an experiment. We're gonna go down on it, like this, and raise it really high. Oh, turn it on. We in, plugged in? Okay, we're gonna raise this really high. That's not quite angled right. Let's go right about like that. Okay, one. Like there's a light coming from the top of the gym onto the steps there, okay? So we're gonna roll this into position here, straight over the camera. So there's my camera straight over the top, right about there, okay? Let's go back over here to the camera. Oh, I need my cam ranger. Oh, let's put this down, and put that there, and we'll put this right here. Couple little props. We can adjust them accordingly as we need them. So you're gonna be like wrapping that thing real relaxed. Okay? So let me...

just frame up my shot. We're gonna focus. Hold on. Let me just make sure of this thing. I'm gonna fire one off there just so I have it, okay? Alright, right there. Okay. Almost like you're just (exhales) You're just, the end of the day, you're just really, real relaxed, okay? Cliff, spin that third light more toward the wall, just a little bit. Just a little bit right there. And now we're gonna way power it down, 'cause that was way too much power on it. So we're gonna go to that light. And here we go. Alright, Rod, here we go. This is just a test. And there goes the compressor. Okay, alright, I went too far on my exposure on the back, so let's bring it up. Hopefully, it's firing off. Let's just take a look at that back there, the fires. Yeah, I think it was. So it's bringing a little bit of light on that right there. I'm trying to figure out my background light on the steps. And I would say this, I'll spend more time with one light, lighting just a little teeny background accent, than I'll probably ever spend on moving my lights on the subject, right? It's just that little teeny thing I'm trying to get right, and it's like, it's an experiment. Do I use a grid or use a hood? So it's an experiment. So I'm sitting there looking at my steps, trying to get the highlight across the steps to give a sense that he's sitting on steps. So that's what I'm battling here. So again, I'm gonna fiddle. And again, I'll probably spend more time on that light, which is just a little accent, than I do actually on him. But that's just the way it works. Well, I think that's a really important distinguishment about where to focus your energy, and that you have to keep looking around in the whole scene. So thank you for that. Could you tell us a little bit about, now, we've switched from the boxing ring to the benches. Are you going for a new lighting setup in relation to him? Sort of, what are the things that you're gonna show us and teach us in this video? I really kept the one edge light on the left, and then the overhead light. And then I didn't actually use another grid on him as another accent light on his right, or his left, our camera right. I wanted to use that third light on the steps. So it's a little bit different, but I still have that one cross edge light coming from the one side, the left side. So this is kind of a similar lighting but not really. So the overhead lights still lights the middle. So I'm building drama. Now, what's gonna happen? You're gonna watch this. He's gonna move to his right and shift. And all of a sudden, it works. Him sitting straight on didn't work, but as soon as he moved to the left and shifted, to the right, sorry, camera left but his right, Bam, the image took a whole new look. So what does that tell you? Again, positioning, it's that extra little step you take that usually is gonna make the shot, right? And so, that's what I'm looking for. And I don't know. I don't know until I see it. Usually, that's what happens. My overhead's a little too much. So let's take the overhead down. 2.7. Here we go again, ready? Let's take a look at that. Okay, that looks pretty good. Let's take the light back there down a little bit more. It almost might need a grid. So it's just hitting the center of the back. You wanna try that, Cliff. So you have to lower it down. Yeah. And then put that grid, I think it should be right in that one slot there. That'll be a little more spot on the background there. And maybe it doesn't have to go that high either, Cliff. Okay. Try that right there. Let me just see that one. I'm gonna fire this off just to see if it's kinda cutting across the top of the- Nah, it's not really doing it. It's too broad, so put that on there. It's at 20 degrees. 20 degrees is fine. And then we'll add our glycerin to the mix here. Can we bring it back up? Yeah, bring it back up. And then now swing it back toward him. More, right down in the middle of that. Right there, let's just see what that does. And I'm gonna increase my power on it, on that spot. Here we go, one, two, three. Okay, so that should give me a little more spot in the back there. Still not quite bright enough. Let's give a little more juice to it. So we're at five. Let's go to seven. Here we go, capture again. Okay, come on, baby. Give us a little more value back there. Oh, yeah, there's a little highlight across the steps. Now, swing it a little bit more toward Rod, just a little bit. Okay, 'cause I'm gonna catch a couple steps back there. Okay, here we go. And then, I've got, what is that right there? That is like, John, come here. See that little whatever that is on the steps there. There's a little bit of highlight. That's actually, the steps aren't even. So let's put something there, like one of those pad things or something. A couple of 'em. Like it's like it's just some stuff hanging back there to hide that little spot, okay? And then- So at this spot right here? Yeah, just throw a couple of those. Yeah, exactly, like they're stuck back there. Okay, he's surrounded by stuff, goodies. We're clear. Okay. Alright, here we go again. I wanna try another one. Let me make sure I'm there. Let's go, I'm gonna zoom in just a little bit tighter. Let's see what this looks like. Focus right there. Ready, one, two, three. Okay, except for that logo now, on that is really glowing. So maybe flip it. Yeah, like that or something. And then, Cliff, let's just swing it back. That gird, swing it back a little bit away from, yeah, toward the wall a little bit more, 'cause that's almost lighting too much there, okay? Alright, here we go. Try it again. This is still our base shot. And I'm at, oh, I'm at 320. Shouldn't be at 320. Okay, that's okay. We're gonna adjust that. So we're gonna go back to 160. And let's go to 5.6. Here we go again. This later, but when the cam ranger does it's HDR, it starts at the 50, the 160, and that sequence the 320. And then it leaves your camera set at ISO 320. So then when I walked over here and did this other setup, it was sitting at 320, and I didn't realize that. And this happens to me a lot. So in a way, I wish it would default back at your normal. So you gotta keep an eye on that. I might say this here, but anyways, that's what happened there. One, two, three. Okay, that's a little dark, which is what we want, kind of a mood. Now, Cliff, just raise that light stand up higher. See what happens. Let's go higher. Okay, here we go, one, two, three, capture. That might just throw that light just a little bit further in the back. Boo, yeah, okay. Now, I'm at 25th of the second. So if I change that to, let's go a tenth, we'll get a little more ambient. Ready, try it again. Okay, so that's gonna be a tenth of a second, little more ambient on this background. It's a little warmer. Now we're starting to get a color shift. So that's not good because of these fluorescents. So let's go back to, let's go to 50th and see what happens. Ready, one, two, three. And now I can overpower the background a little bit more. Here we go, one, two, three. And then let's get the glycerin going. Let's add a glycerin. Alright, now we got the sweaty mess. Here we go. Okay, I wanna do another one here. This is my base shot here. 25th of the second, F 56, ISO 160. So that's my bracket on both sides. You know, Cliff, if you bring that light toward Rod, it might hit a little bit more light on the insides of the steps. So just bring it toward. No, the whole thing, physically bring it. Yeah, and then now swing it. There, let's just try that that, because I got this really highlight, looks like it's too much. Ready, here we go. That should light the inside of it. That helped a little bit. See how I got texture back there now? That looks like steps, a little bit more like steps. Okay, so that looks pretty good. Let's do a sequence bracket, okay? So that's my mid-exposure. We're now going to go to HDR. We gotta go back to ISO. We want three shots. We want one stop increments. And we wanna start at ISO 50. There we go. Alright. (exhales) Relax it. We're just kinda like, okay, ready, one, two, three. First one. Second on. Third one. Okay, let's take a look at our sequence, make sure we got our bracket sequence perfectly. There's the dark. That's pretty dark. The mid one. The over. Okay, that seems like a pretty good spread. What I might do tough is, let's just start it at 100, and just see what happens. Here we go, ready? Sequence again. Relax, hold still. First one, one, two, three. There's the first one. Here's the second on. Then the third one. That way we get a little more detail on the background on the steps. So my over exposed, I got plenty of detail. There's my mid one, and then there's my under. So the gloves, or the wraps look perfectly. So I gotta look at my picture here, anything that bothers me? Well, I'm gonna take that little thing out there, that down there, and clean that up. That's got a little bit of a highlight there. I don't know. If I do my HDR that's gonna bring a little more detail, and that's probably fine. Rod, you're looking good, man. You're making me look good. You know what? It looks like you really are working out. The glycerin looks perfect. Okay, so do one now, but now, maybe you're pulling a little bit longer on the wrap. Okay. Just a little bit, not too much, okay? And look at your hand. Yeah, I think you'd be looking at your hand right there. Ready? Let me make sure I'm focused again. One, two, three, first one. Second one. Third one. Now, again, you go and do something that fits you perfectly, right? So you just kind of, you know the scenario. So just kinda do something relaxed, and I'll just kinda capture it. Ready? It's right before it, so before- Okay, there you go. That sounds good to me. I gotta refocus though, ready? Focus right there, okay? Get it all set up here. Okay, here we go, first one. Second one. Third one. Okay, that's good. What if you took and put both feet up. Alright, so that one, your right foots on the top there. Yeah, exactly. And you just kinda lean in, yeah, lean in toward the- Yeah, there you go. Let's try this. So it's a little bit more of a side profile thing here. Let's try it. Ready, here goes the first one. Second one. Third one. So now, I'm getting a couple variations just to make sure I got it. And like before, (excited chuckle) See, this looks good. See, now, we've got the cutting across his face there. That looks great. Okay, let's just make sure we got the highlight there. Oh, yes. Okay, maybe a little less pull on the distance. Yeah, just like, yeah, like. Maybe under or like this? I don't know, let's see. Go back. I liked your arm. No, I love your right arm on your knee. Okay. Yeah, relaxed there. Now, just drop your left hand just a little bit. There you go, let's try that. Ready, make sure I'm focused again. Nothing's worse than an out of focused picture. I'm trimming right now. We might wanna raise that light just a little bit. But let's do this one first. Ready, one, two, three, first one. Second one. Third one. 'Cause now, I can't get his whole head in there. So we'll raise that light just a little bit. Just a little bit, okay? Now, let's see if I can get his whole head in there. Okay, ready, looks good. We're focused. Here we go, first one. Second one. Third one. Amazing. There's my shot right there. Look at that. And then I got the under, the normal, and the over. So I got all my, I got a little bit of spot there. That's just going through. We got the highlights. We got the gloves. Good job, Rod. I want drama. Okay, so, you think, that's really dark. You're not lighting it enough, or you're not throwing enough light on him, right? So it seems like it's too dark in a lot of ways, but that's the way I like it. I love drama, especially with sports stuff. And on this monitor here in the studio here, it's a little bit, this is a little bit flatter. If you look on the, well, the monitor down here it's pretty edgy, so it's build contrast. But drama, that's what I'm trying to, accent the muscles, and sweat, and all this stuff. Of course, I have a 50 mega pixel capture camera, right? Which is really fun to see all that detail when you blow it up. But I love that. I love the droplets, and the whatever on his face, and all sharp and focus. So cross light does that, or an edge light cross light builds all that contrast. Of course, I go into Photoshop and I do the drama, which we'll show you how I did this later. But, yeah, I want drama. That's my goal, drama. And so, the strobes in that particular spot for that look, in terms of the bleachers, how did that go through your mind in terms of that spot with elision. Well, we have the one light. That's not the shot, but we have the one light coming across. And just like I do my edge light, that's probably, in some ways, you almost call that your main light, 'cause it's the brightest value. The overhead light is lighting inside, just filling it in. The background light, which you see I spent a lot of time on that stupid background light, right? But I had to get those steps right. And again, only by looking in the back of the monitor am I kind of getting an idea of what's going on. But I can't spend all afternoon on one shot. So at some point, I gotta say, I'm moving, and let's go to my final.

Class Materials

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Gear List

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Bonus Video - One Light Portrait

Ratings and Reviews

Christopher Langford

I love Joel, even though I'm not a big fan of his style. He's a great teacher, really down to earth, and best of all, humble. He's a true professional and knows the business. Even if you're a seasoned photographer, I believe you will pick up some great tips throughout this course. What I enjoyed most from this course was learning Joel's thought processes and how he takes on challenges.

Dana Niemeier

After seeing Joel at Shutterfest 2016, I am a fan. He is intense, but that is inspiring. I especially like the segment using ND filters as I live in Florida where bright sun can be an issue! His teaching method sets the student at ease. You see him make mistakes and then figure them out! Makes us believe there is HOPE for us in the learning process! I also bought his commercial photography class as an add on. Great to see him work and think on his feet. Thanks CreativeLive for giving artists this platform that reaches out to artists around the globe.

Gilbert Wu

I did enjoy the class despite not being used to the American product placement culture. The British say “the proof is in the pudding”, Joel’s pictures are fantastic and create drama. He has the eye. I like his very down to earth approach which is far better than many youtube photographic charlatans. Apart from the techniques he shared, one very important thing I learned from this class is “Be an artist and not a technician”. If you want to learn from people who can take better pictures and more confident and experienced in his/her work than you, Joel is one of those people.

Student Work