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Studio Lighting Basics

Lesson 8 of 14

Shoot: Portrait with Female Model Part 1

Tony Corbell

Studio Lighting Basics

Tony Corbell

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Lesson Info

8. Shoot: Portrait with Female Model Part 1

Lesson Info

Shoot: Portrait with Female Model Part 1

I think that what what I find when we do these is that there are uh I think that most of us is working photographers we learn probably sixty percent of our craft uh in the first three or four, five years then we spend the next however much of our life it's left trying to get that last ten, twenty percent of our craft so having said that, those of you that are newer at this are going to get more tips today and you're going to find more tools for your tool box today those have been doing this for a while before they got eighty percent ninety percent done, so you're going to get fewer takeaways but maybe there are more important takeaways for specifically what you are doing, so I think that's the main thing that we need to make sure is that you know what? Any time you take on the role of of teaching this kind of work, this kind of technique I have to have two intuitively know when I walk in here that I'm talking to somebody who's been doing this one or two years and I'm talking to somebod...

y that's been doing this thirty years steve kozak in dallas, texas sorry, steve, but but I mean, seriously, there are people that are watching this that just want to pick up one or two more little nuggets and uh all of us just have little nuggets and I sit and watch all of you too, and we all learned nuggets from everybody and that's what this is about, I don't know a craft that shares better than photography shares I have had mortgage rate opportunities for one of my competitors to save me when I've had a problem and I've helped my competitors when they've had a problem and we exchange and we share and we helped each other it's what we do, I don't know another business, it does that, you know, I don't know who who bails out their competitors when they have a problem we do you know, I don't think that many careers that do that, so this is a pretty it's a pretty good thing to do I mean, I was telling in front of you fists were not curing cancer here we're just taking pictures, you know? Well, let's, keep it in perspective, we're pretty fortunate pretty blessed to do what we do on not very many get to have the time of their life every single day, you know? I'm asked, what would you do when you retire? I'm gonna take pictures what doing your ongoing vacation I'm taking pictures this is this is who I who I have become, you know I don't go home at five o'clock and not think about it anymore none of you do you know I think that's the that's the fun part that's the key to this it makes it fun and keeps it alive for all of us but that's also why we keep learning because we want to get better and better and better because we all know when to walk away I uh they missed that one thing and I didn't tell anybody but I sure could have moved over two more feet to the left and I couldn't get rid of that tough a bowl or that telephone wire in the upper right corner I just missed it thinking yeah, I can fix it in post but why should I have to? I should have seen it, you know? So uh shooting is always what it's all about so what? We're going to this next segment we've been talking about this foundation were building the foundation of lighting and so we want to talk about several things I want to go on in depth little bit with our main light so let's talk about that first and then we'll start building up from there but we do need to talk about this just a little bit let me turn this guy off and I've got my, uh my br exes in the five hundred five hundred watt lights set up over here and these these are the ones that I most often used in the studio now the mere exes and I think they're just think they're really well made the controls are great they work with this sky port system really, really easily on they make a lot of sense so let me see let me grab the beautiful and talented caitlin and why don't we bring you on in and let's put you I'm actually going to turn this exactly the opposite way I want to turn that that way and have a seat right there just like that and then naturally intuitively just kind of twist a little bit you bring your hips around yeah yeah bring that hand all the way over here so yeah yeah just bring your shoulders a bit just a bit yeah so uh uh can I bring her to hear a little bit? Hey, john hey, how about can you can you guys see that little bit of a hot light on her face if I could just kind of go bo that off with a black just the black card just that one hot spot, right? And where is that? I don't know where that was coming from. Uh sorry, guys. I'm not sure where that one center we got a black pop up weaken his clamp it on the don't have a black book get a piece of foam corby right back oh, great, okay, okay, um here's the thing about the main line we're going to talk about the main line first let's get through this the main lights job is to establish the depth in your picture I mean it really does establish the foundation for the two totality the highlight and shadow on that's why we need to block that off because you can't see that highlight if I'm blasting it out and I didn't realize that light was going to that hot right there but yes so so the main lights job is to establish everything on the foundation of three dimensional contrast and my exposure for this picture is based on the main light whatever it tells me to do that's what I have to do so that's the idea now remember we've been talking about size relative to distance uh this is a pretty good sized source and and I like it I like it I like square also like vertical and it all depends on what I'm going to do when you when you're trying to determine the size of the source that you're going to use here's a funny little tipped by a guy that was one of my great friends years and years ago and he got out of the business and he's retired but he said you know he said always try to think about the size of my light source to match the area size that I'm going to include in my picture what are you talking about and he's like family photo so let's take miss caitlin if I'm gonna photograph miss caitlin and if I'm going to see this much of her from here to here he says I want a life source that size and bring it in until it's in the edge of your frame and and back it up and if I'm going to see a three quarter length of her then maybe I bring in a soft box that size and bring it into it just shows and back it up a niche used the size of the source to match the area that you're going to include now it's kind of a generalization because they're sometimes you want a sharper shadow or softer shadow and you want more oven area there's a lot of options here so there's not an absolute but it's an interesting theory and it's an interesting place to consider starting so I had that in mind when I grab this light source first I know that this light sources you know, three feet three and a half feet so I know that to start with at least I'm just going to go from the edge of this chair probably cropping just below that to include this part of her as a starting place so this would be my first my first stab at where to put you know where I would go with that? Thanks john let's bring your head toward me just a little bit there you go and john if you come on this side and you could just you could just see it on her face here and you can just pull this forward till it goes away you almost think you're almost there I think you're almost there oh where is that one coming from it's gonna be that guy right there in that you're not sorry sorry, sorry everybody this is live tv right here we're talking about yeah no no it's coming that's pretty weird do me a favor let's just turn your head over this way just a bit right in there well I can cover we're going we're going to keep her face turn into the main life so you could move that cause we're gonna block off the camera there anyway so we'll just work well I'm just gonna keep her face working toward the light source which I'm going to naturally do anyway uh so we'll do that I do think I want to make one change so I think I want to turn you if you jump now for a sec let me just turn that chair a little bit more I'm thinking it might be better if I have you yeah turn like that so that you're facing that way interesting concept and this is something you can think about it doesn't always apply and again I rarely have absolutes and general statements but I will say this I generally will start a session especially when photographing a woman with her shoulders away from the light source with her face turned back to the light source I want her head on her shoulders going two different directions rarely don't want a woman's face and shoulders going the same direction I'm losing femininity I lose I gain a little but I lose a lot when I have her head and shoulders going the same direction it's pretty stiff looking and when I can cross the head on the shoulders everything starts coming to life and it just comes together better and it's and men too not just women so yeah I put it out there if you need us to turn down the house lights to achieve what you were looking to dio that's an option as well so you just let us now okay, I'm just I'm just if I could just bring your head and keep her head turned over here I think I'm okay okay yeah it's going to be hard for everybody to see what I'm doing assumes that fires I'll overpower the ambiance and so then you'll see exactly what we're talking about so um twists a little bit more my way with your legs who just a bit that's it right there that's it and we just let your shoulders coming round that's perfect right there? Yeah and then this let's bring your head around toward the light source so for me I'll bring this light source and a little bit closer and there's an interesting thing about the light source if I put this main light let's say I've got it right here he just from the raisins out just a little bit and drop it down a bit sorry and if I if I bring this in in most cases most people if you if you stand opposite the light source and just look back you'll see that she's kind of in the middle of the box she's kind of in the middle of the soft box and that's where most people just work no problem but I'm finding that the pictures looked better now I can give you the reason why in just a second but my pictures almost always look better if I can have her to the back edge of the soft box and what happens is there's a there's a term and photography that I hate and those that have studied with me know that I hate this term I hate the term wraparound lighting there is no wraparound lighting and I just want to smack whoever invented that word light doesn't wrap light doesn't bend the only time like even changes direction is one hits water so but but there is there is a feeling of like getting into shadow areas a little bit better more uh less contracting maybe if I work her to the back edge of that box and what happens is this as I move this back too slow so you can see as I move this light source and I move it this way just a little bit too where she's sort of toward the back edge of it what happens is that gets me a little bit more use of this inside forty five degree forty five angled side of the inside of the box so that when that thing fires off instead of all the light just coming out straight the light is still all coming out straight but there's a significant amount of light that hitting this side and it's coming back at an angle that that side's not even seeing so it's lighting up this corner of her eye considerably better so let me just back up so I guess maybe pull right in to see her I this whole area right in here just opens up by having that light just a little bit moved forward and it does two things for me it also minimizes the amount of spill of the light that goes onto the background it eliminates it doesn't eliminate it but it certainly does hold it back quite a bit it really helps keep that background under control a little bit better so it makes sense okay so let's uh page on let's get reading real quick you get this gremlin figured out think so okay let's fire this already one of the late yet a little more toward their test vito what one hundred uh yeah that's okay that's okay I'll be there so so I'm my shutter speed you know for those who are new at this uh when you want you get into this uh this role of uh meeting an exposure and control and shutter speed an aperture and all that with flash you'll come to realise in the studio shutter speed is not a big deal shutter speed on lee is an important aspect in the trilogy of sort of capture and s o uh when there's uh a lot of ambient light well in this room there's a little bit and get like so I'm going to bump it up a little bit but sixty one twenty fifth thirtieth two hundred doesn't matter exposure on her is gonna be the same from the flash because the flash doesn't care about speed the flash only cares about roger that computer okay and our viewers at home and abroad get that too ok so well that was even john nato okay great so I'm gonna pull over here and get right in front of her now you know I am in using my uh I'm using my seventy two hundred four limbs which everybody's like why are you using the four lands watch using that to eight wins and I'll tell you why because this lens is absolutely as sharp as my two eight absolutely a half of the weight and it's thirteen hundred dollars less so why would I buy the two eight well, but I like that extra you've gotta have that extra speed you don't you've got a great idea so these days you can compensate for that extra speed so there's just not enough of a good reason for me at all to ever carry two, eight seven, two hundred I'm old I'm tired I don't want to carry that thing around waste fifty pounds you guys know what I'm talking about? You hate to pick yours up don't you? Don't pick it up any more picked this guy just got ways and nothing. Okay, let me take a look here. All right? Now I'm shooting in such I'm shooting horizontal just so for the video and for showing these on light room we'll have a good clean syriza pictures that'll all be same orientation stuff here so can you just bring your hands a little bit more? Yeah, I think that's better right there, that's. Great, great, great, great. So let me just get this now, then, okay? Nobody moves and nobody gets hurt who good, good, good, good, all right, so let me pull into that just a little bit so if you look at the back of my camera I've got a nice portrait I've got dead on exposure in fact let me open up let me pull this up and I'll open up my info palate and you can see that on my exposure it's pretty dark the saddles are pretty blocked up and that's okay with me but the highlight side is certainly under control yeah got it over there forgot wow so mike has exposure look first off so so here's the thing I don't ever second guess that meter let me rephrase it don't ever second guess the meter whatever it says that's what I do every single time I take a picture and I don't make a mistake don't out think it don't try I've been known as thirty six years and I'm not smart enough to out think it I just do what the meter tells me to do it's my measuring tape I'm on daylight balance great color balance is what it's supposed to be everything is the way it's supposed to be that's the way this works so with that main light if you think about it uh can we have them in the booth can still if it is it possible to zoom in can you just get that space bar maybe soon on one toe wanna goto our eyes yeah just like that yeah yeah look at him go you go steal you go yeah, so we might be a little bit high I might want to drop this down just a little bit but uh only because I don't want to get a little bit a little bit brighter catch light not brighter but a little bit more defined catch light in her eyes one thing all costing you about with catch lights come on, bring this around just a little and I'ma drop it just a little I will caution you about catch lights catch lights are fantastic in the dark parts of the eye catch lights are terrible in the whites of the eye they just just be aware that there are times when your subjects will cut their eyes one way or the other and all of a sudden the highlight that's in a dark area spins in such a way that it's no longer in a dark area than you've got issues with with a highlight looking great um I just move this down a little bit and toward me just a little bit but I didn't change its distance so the exposure hasn't changed because it's still the exact same distance to her so I don't have to re meet her this one so let's shoot it again and let's talk about this little bit of what we might want to do differently here okay good, good, good I'm coming just a little bit tighter on her face here right there just in your head around just a little right there. Turn, turn, turn! Turn right there. Great kid just pushed her back off your left eye a little bit. Yeah, good, good, good. And bring your head around. Just a tiny bit perfect right there. Good, good, good, good. So and everybody blowing the screen. Oh, it should be faster than that. Thirty years, uh does look a tiny bit hotter. I hate when that happens. Let me do that again. I'm just gonna close down and do that one thing again. Good. That's better ok. Eso one of the things that we might want to do here is first and first and foremost determined. This is our shot at this is this is an arrangement that we like, um, if you'll notice, look at the lines in the wrinkles on over her left shoulder of the fabric of her blouse if if I have her chest turned flat into the light, what I lose is I lose all shape, form texture and rightness on her clothing because I'm lying flat into it, canceling out any hollister shadows on her garment that she's wearing so that's. One of the reasons for shooting with the shoulders opposite my life source. Okay, uh, size wise, I think the size of the source is great still can you just zoom in to rise again for me one time on this one great great great great let's check and see how how's our sharpness o yeah, we can't use this lens is not sharp enough are you kidding me? Please have mercy this lens is a sharp is the two eight, seventy, two hundred trust me? Yes, ma'am people were wondering when you said that about the for two point eight. Well, what about boca? What about depth of field when you're in this scenario tell me if that matter in this scenario doesn't matter to me at all the only the only situation where it would matter to me is if I really, really, really, really, really wanted that that boca of a two point eight of ah one like an eighty five one point whatever for one point two whatever that's that's a whole different deal for the most part that's not something that matters to me in my world if I need that background to fall out a little bit further and focus, I'll pull her two three feet further away from it and let it fall off further or I'll power down my life's an open up so uh I don't shoot the only time I shoot it for the only time I really shoot this lens wide open is one of the doors with no flash added then I then I worked wide open. Ah, lot. Probably more than most people do. Most people don't like to shoot that wide open. I do. But the difference between the four on the two a days so negligible to meet guys the the wind for me, the tradeoff is absolutely worth it for me. You might say no, I would rather stay with two eight great stay with it and hate yourself for picking it up. One one of the cannon guys talk to me into this he's in before you buy that to wait, just test this. Just just try it. And I tried it and I looked at that kind of result. On what? Why would I not do that and save the weight it's about the weight? This thing doesn't even have a tripod color that's how light it is. It weighs nothing so it's not a problem and in fact it made life a lot easier for me. So I'm happy with it. I'm very happy, but it might not be your bag if you if you really like that to a boca that's. Great that's great, but it doesn't matter to me.

Class Description

Lighting equipment doesn’t come cheap, so it is crucial you get your money’s worth. Learn how to make the most of your investments in Studio Lighting Basics with Tony Corbell.

Tony is a celebrated photographer, educator, and author. In this class, he’ll help you get more out of basic studio gear. 

You’ll learn:

  • How to use off-camera speedlights
  • The basics of studio lights including; mono lights and pack lights 
  • Combining studio lighting with natural light
  • The properties of light 
  • How to position lights for varied results and styles
You’ll learn practical ways to work with strobes and light shaping tools and get tips on creating the exact look you’re aiming for. Tony will also help you overcome any hesitations you have about purchasing and setting up your own lighting equipment.

If you want to get more looks out of your existing gear or want to know which gear you should invest in, don’t miss Studio Lighting Basics with Tony Corbell.


Catherine Stevens

Excellent class. Tony does a great job of highlighting different ways to work with light without being prescriptive. He's also a great speaker - very clear and easy to listen to. I would love it if this class came with a gear list and some basic guidance on the different lights as a starting point - I think the class does assume a certain amount of pre-existing lighting knowledge. Still worth every cent though!


I love watching Tony Corbell. He is such a wealth of knowledge. He is one of the Great Masters. Tony is an excellent teacher and he both freely and honestly shares his immense experience. It is truly a delight listen and watch to Tony teach.