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Studio Lighting - The Power of Control

Lesson 3 of 30

Light Controls & Shaping

Tony Corbell

Studio Lighting - The Power of Control

Tony Corbell

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Lesson Info

3. Light Controls & Shaping

Lesson Info

Light Controls & Shaping

Let's dig into just a little bit of light controls and, like shaping, and then we'll get back. Most of our lights are are sort of supplied with some type of a standard reflector. This is a pretty standard reflector that when it's placed on the lights, you know, it's funny light will come out of these things, these air, these really durable, you don't want to, then these and you can't there they're really if you get if you bend up your reflectors, you're doing something wrong because they're really made to be pretty rigid. Um, when the light comes out of those standard reflectors, whatever the shape is of your head, life follows that path. So I keep it's shaped like this, like those in that kind of a path, and that means that if I'm ten feet away from this big grey wall and I've got a standard reflector, I'm pretty much evenly illuminating a very large area of that wall, okay? And then every once in a while, while you've got this light all going like this, you can put in one of these gr...

ids, and I use grids a lot and you talk about grids, you'll hear people talk about grace and show grids, I'll put a grid in the standard head. And this is I'm not sure what this size, this one as they come in. Ten, twenty, thirty and forty degrees of spread. So I'll just set this guy in this standard head and wherever, you know, wherever that lie was coming out and fall in that pattern. Well, once I put a grid in place, it stops following that pattern that goes like this and it's right here. So now I can place that light exactly where I wanted. I could put a grid on and from here, it's. Amy, right from here. Yeah, a million. Ok. So from here, I can like just you and not touch catherine. Orly pretty good about that, huh? So, that's, the beauty of the grid is I can. I can I can control where it goes and where its bills and where it doesn't. And so, for that reason, a grid is one of most important tools that I have in my bag. And I use grids. All my listen, every shoot somewhere for something you know think about. Think about a life that's away from my camera coming back toward my camera. Look at this. Like, look a look in the center portrait of this girl in the middle look at those twin accent lights on her cheeks. You see those those air to strip lights that are behind her pain back right into my lymph? They're coming right forward, right? So the reason that it didn't flare my lenses because I had grids on the light if I didn't have the grids on lights, my lens would've been flared so much this is on you, it would've been unusable. So that's, why you gotta have grids and there's some things that we can do with grids and we'll talk about it, and we'll show this week where we're going to have a little bursting effects. We're going a little burst of light and we can put little bursts of color and weaken since blash is of light, you know, from here, if I aim it at that wall at ten, feet away, ten, twelve feet distance here, I'm going to have a pretty concentrated burst of color, but if I walked straight over to the straight over to the wall and put it right there, I've got a really small type type, bright, bright, bright light, and then I can skim it like that, and now I just got a splash of of light going in one direction diagnose and I can raise it up and tip it down and put a gel on it, and I've got stage lighting. So so we can replicate something that we see on state on tv show on a movie or whatever I mean there's so many things that we can do with these guys grids are critical from my work. I use them all the time, and they're either called honey comb grids, grid spots or spot great is depending on the brand and they're expensive and they're ridiculously expensive, but they are awfully good and and you can get hard grids like this, or you can also get the soft grids that are also known as honeycombs on, and they just will velcro onto your soft box in the front of yourself box so we'll talk about soft box is a little bit later, but these were really helpful. These these reflector heads, the standard heads there. Some people kind of think of us throw away tools because almost people liketo get these often put a soft box on or another tool of some type, but don't discount the importance of this the standard old traditional regular head. This will send light to a large areas pretty easily. Okay, now that also that also comes in a smaller version. With this little guy and it's very shiny and bright, you can see the difference so it's all about efficiency with this one. And this one is to send like everywhere this one's a little bit more bright and a little bit more efficient and it's job basically it's got this little small bracket right there for an umbrella. So you put this guy mattered on there and this is the umbrella holder. You just put the stem from the umbrella that stand what's it called post stem the long, skinny thing, the rise of the right idea, the stinking ride you have the rods, you put the umbrella rod right through that little hole, tighten it down and you can adjust how foreign and distant that the difference in the distance from the head to the center of the umbrella based on what you want the light to do. If you want the light to really spread over to a large area, then move that umbrella as far out as you can. But if you want to concentrate a little bit, you could move that on brother closer makes sense pretty cool technique, tony on some of those reflectors I've seen some that looked to be about maybe a foot wide with two or three feet deep look like a big bucket. What is that doing different from these? All that does is without the added control of the grid, it doesn't narrow the theme a little bit and make it a little bit more powerful so, like, I would do something like that he was one of those type of reflectors that's a little bit more tubular and little bit longer if I was ten or twenty well, say, twenty or thirty feet away from something, I need their life that corner up over that corners really dark, and I'm back over here and there's a car in the side, I can't get closer with the light because there's a car in the shot I could put one of those on and back over here, and I can parrot up and I could fire and I could hit that corner. I would have a little hard time doing that because there it's going to spray everywhere and the grid and the thing you do have to be careful about with the grid, is it when you are off access with your meeting with a grid if I'm off access, I mean, when the light goes straight out, that grid it's great, but if I'm over here, I've lost to two stops of light, it falls off quickly on the grid, it really falls, I was like, ok, so here is let's I'm reading, you know, f eleven and right there I met a man over here about five six already well, with this guy on eleven eleven eleven, maybe eight and a half I mean it really spreads light out where that really controls it really brings that beam into more focus okay you have questions about this yeah I'm not sure how to articulate this algae my best that lining that's inside when that super shiny and the one that's more for matt that produces it doesn't really make it softer it makes it more evenly spread yeah and and the silver is a little bit way call it brighter it's a little bit brighter which which means it's a little bit um it's going to give us a little bit more exposure but it's also going to be a little bit more speculator means a little bit more shiny like coming out awesome thank you softness so we'll talk we're going to talk a lot of us office tomorrow especially tomorrow that's our big day on unlike quality and talking about controlling that yeah no question we're ready go keep moving this is great heaven on a nice cold thank you um ok so let's talk a little bit more about these these tools the umbrella the umbrella nobody likes to work with an umbrella and yet everybody works with umbrellas umbrellas are are sort of a they're a reflective light source in there and it's kind of odd because of that the way that the way that it would work you know as I was talking about with the with a reflector the umbrella reflector I would put the route the umbrella in here like this course tightening down and that just mounts on the front of that stroke so that light fires often it goes in here and it bounces around inside the belle of the umbrella and it comes out it also has the ability to you can remove this black layer so this particular one has a twin layer so if I remove the outside cover then it's a shoot through him run so this is a diffuse fabric so aiken instead of them bouncing light into it to light my subject here then I would turn it around this way and shoot through it and aim it right at my subject totally different look and we're going to go through these this this weekend will illustrate this and go through all this and so we'll be able to actually see what we're sort of talking about make sure that makes sense okay, but the umbrella interesting thing about umbrellas uh if you were in a small studio you're in your home studio and you're tryingto really learn this craft and you're trying to really find your shadows and separate your subject from your background from your accents from your shadows and do all this control you're killing yourself if you use an umbrella because umbrellas sind light everywhere with one umbrella I could let all seven of you guys one, two, three or six our twelve however many there are I can't see, but one umbrella will light a very, very large area in a very large number of people, you know, you can do a high school football team with two umbrellas. Well, you might want to use three, maybe four, but they just sends light everywhere, you know? But the drawback is you lose control, you don't have how much control, and I think that's that's a big challenge is how this sends light everywhere and especially, you know, for me, I always want my backgrounds to be controlled completely separately and not every case, but in a lot of cases, I want my backgrounds to almost be black while I'm shooting on my subjects so that I can then like them exactly where I want to like him, and I can't do that if I've got spill going on or what I call light contamination in the background so umbrella is not my choice in the studio too often, but there is one thing that does brilliantly in the studio we're going to go after the more you're gonna love it, we're going to a fooling fashion shoot with one life and it's it's gonna be awesome this and this is what we're going to use, but not this one we're going to have one it's a little bit bigger than this ok, it's a lot bigger this it's seven feet it's big and it's wonderful, but these things are they're just great tools and what's great about the umbrellas is they're very not not very expensive and umbrellas almost any kind of this kit that you use, the umbrellas come with it, you know? So they just fold up pretty easily and they're exactly what do you think they are? Um, gather started working for was a pretty funny guy when I was first starting out and he always talked about using a black reflector aah black umbrella and any any didn't really funny slideshow uh, where did this photograph of this girl and said one of my friends said I should use a black umbrella and course then he showed the next picture and it looked exactly the same. There was no difference and he said, I don't know what the problem is any back up and showed an overall set shot and he was holding umbrella over his head like this, so but they're great tools, they're really great tools, but just be be advised, they do send light everywhere. So then so then we got a couple of other things that we have talked about here let's talk about the dreaded light meter, then we're not going to spend a lot of time on using one year yet but we're going to talk about about him a little bit interesting thing about like er and meters there are there are two types of lime meters not brands but two types. They are either what's called a lieutenant's meter or an ill luminant meter, and for those of you that are round two with me, you know how I am about this. The illuminates meter is also known as the incident meter, and the the illuminates meters definition is it will it's designed to measure life that strikes or falls on your subject, okay, and basically that's the white dome this fear it's designed to measure light that strikes or falls on your subject. The reflective meter. The luminous meter is designed to measure life that reflects off of or emits from your subject that's the meter in your camera that's a reflective meter or spot meter. Ok, those air that's that is the reflective or luminous meter that's in your camera and here's where they differ the meter that's in your camera its job is to do one thing and one thing only replicate eighteen percent great. It is designed to give you a relative value that's middle gray, a middle tone if you are using the camera on automatic and or if you were using your camera and using the meter for your readings through your camera you are in great shape as long as your subject is of a middle tone if you are photographing someone dressed in black on a black background, you're gonna be sorely disappointed and if you are shooting automatic in your camera and your shooting a bride at a wedding and she is, you know, in a white down she's you know I'm standing in front of white curtain with a white tablecloth and she's cutting a white cake and you're shooting on automatic you're gonna be in deep kimchee you have an exposure that is going to be off by a stuff and a half minimum maybe two stops too dark because it sees all that and tries to make everything that it sees middle rate, which is two stops darker than like that's the way that works, its two stocks darker than light, so for me, the importance cannot be expressed deeply enough people die oh yeah, I just use my spot meter ok, so that's great as long you know what your body if I take a spy reading off of your face, I'm going to miss your exposure because you aren't the same value is an eighteen percent great card you're not a middle value your denim jacket is your red shoes are greengrass the average green grass in the park that's eighteen percent my hand is one stop brighter than eighteen percent I know that so I can spot meter off my hand and open one stop and I'll get a dead on exposure as long as my subject is getting the same life that my hand is getting there are there are variations of of consistencies of things that are just predictable things that we know their value you know, like the sunday sixteen rule on exposure on a bright sunny day we know some of those exposure and we'll talk about that later but we get that but what we have to understand is that in this world of capture and exposure and using meters and making sure that we don't miss we have to understand that that I'm going to go to this board over here and draw out a couple of things in the world of digital capture what changed what changed? Well several things changed when we went toe digital but the biggie is that you know, in the film days we have a thing called the agency curve and data d curve was kind of like this okay? And this was we call this the shoulder of the film in this we called the tow of the film and so from that distance from there to there was kind of like that far and eighteen percent grey would fit right down in here somewhere in the middle value and that would be white without detailed this would be a shadow black without details but you can see that we had about that much distance ok so that was the I don't want to get too technical here but that would be the dynamic range of what we could capture with film then then bam introduced digital who digital's here yea are curved changed to fall off quicker and more narrow, right? So so the dynamic range changed and that's why for the first year of digital capture everybody freaked out because everybody was blown out there highlights and blocking up their shadows because they didn't know what was going on we lost the same dynamic distance from white to black we lost the distance it became much more less it became much more lives it became much less of a dynamic contrast range are our range changed dramatically? Okay so having said that now you have to couple that with what are you delivering to your client? Are you delivering slide shows or you delivering photographs? Are you delivering prince? If you're delivering prince well that changes everything again because of reflective print has a different dynamic range then your eye can see which is a different dynamic range than your camera can capture right? You have to know I was still students to start with the end in mind what is your what is your use of this photograph? And if it's a print, then you've got to start with a print in my and you've got a capture and expose this based on what you're going to do and here's the way I think about it, let's, let's put it this way so we've got on eighteen percent great middle great let's just give that a little bit of a shaving so that's middle great and then if I open up one stop above that I'm over here and again light gray and open up again. I get white with detail and if I closed down over here another stop, I get dark gray this's middle agree I get dark grand if I closed down another stop over here, I'm basically get black with details. Okay, now I know this might be a little confusing, but if you think about it on this on the scale in that eighteen d scale it's kind of like it kind of goes off like this. Eighteen percent gray fits right about there eighteen percent is the number and I know this is mostly we're going. Why do I have to know this? I'm about to tell you why it's called eighteen percent grade because it is a mid point. The middle point of the log rhythmic curve, everything in photography works on the exponential we don't live in the world of a narrow thematic where the previous number you had one one two three four five six we don't live in that world we live in an exponential a log rhythmic one two four eight sixteen thirty two those numbers sound familiar right so that's where we live so I know that eighteen percent hits there if I opened up one stop I got right there thirty six percent gray this is eighteen percent gray sorry for my writing open up another stop damn it puts me right there had seventy two percent great if I closed down one stop half that distance that's nine percent gray if I close down that again I'm way down here four and a half percent you get the idea so I've only got this within which that I have to work for the printed page if you're just capturing and looking and sharing online that's different but if you're gonna make prince that's where you better live because two stops above eighteen percent you're white with you're almost out of detail to stops below you're almost out of details and you have to know that if you're using the meter in your camera that's my point you can't miss this you have to know it if predictable results is anywhere in your vocabulary you know I need to know what's gonna happen I can't shoot this picture and look at my camera go what happened? Not more. The client stand next to me. Ok? Totally confusing. Isn't it totally weird, isn't it? Where the girls were is the pretty pictures. Sorry, sorry. That'll come later, but we've got to get through this tough part. This is this is that this is a challenge of teaching it's like, you know, I got it. Boone features some of the technical stuff. We'll get a nice picture of that promise what we got. We got to know this stuff so that then when we do take the pictures we know what's going to happen. Tell me someone in the chat room did say, I want to thank tell me for the science behind this without the science we're only memorizing what to do do you love your timeline? Demonstrations, my first studio lighting book that came out in two thousand um, I had it was selling on one of the a word internet companies and it's sold quite well off the bat and there was, like sixty reviews that were so great. I was so proud that was one of you. That was this got me to pieces. He said he didn't do put one diagram in their detention, the lights, right? I didn't want tio my job is not to tell you where to put your life my job is to give you the science in the foundation behind the craft you guys figure out where to put the lights that's none of my business where you put your lights so I think the science and this all pieces together uh to really make a pretty important point, which is, you know, it's great if you could take this artistic picture but it's so bad and so awful if you can't figure out a way to put it on a piece of paper and if you can't hold the detail of those sunsets that you see that across the sound are so spectacular and yet you and and and and new photographers want to shoot the engagement couple out there or at the beach and they don't want to use flash I don't know how to use flash and they don't understand why the subject's looks so grave and they've lost the brilliance of the sunset well, because there are seven stops apart from someone's back to the sunset to what the exposures on their face seven stops the part you've got to get him closer together somehow either by darken and that one down our line than this one up, but you've got to do something and get those ranges closer together I can't do that without a measuring tape that's what? This is to me, I'm a I'm a contractor, I'm I'm I'm I am a cabinetmaker and this is my measuring tape in it sits on my hip and I cannot go to work with us. I can measure my work, you know, we've all done some construction work, and we've all been told you measure twice, cut once measure twice cut once, well, I live by the by the world of measure twice to shoot once, and I'll tell you, when I finish shooting, I could hand anybody my cf card, and I don't have to think about those files. They're going to be dead on these files. These prints that are appear on this wall, not one of those prints that I touched the raw file and just I didn't have to change anything on the raw files of these prints of these this girl in the world, and I'll show you those if you want to see him, you know, people get a little bit freaked out by how much I use this tripod in the studio because it is kind of in the way sometimes and you know, you can trip and fall and all that kind of stuff, but for me, it's a I need my hands. And I don't want to walk over to the side of the studio and set my camera down every time I go over and talk to my client so for me having a having a tripod makes the most sense so I can get away from it from time to time but there is some things that you have to know about a tripod and most people are smart enough to figure this out but for the two of you that aren't you know who you are I'm going to tell you how to set your tripod up and that is one leg goes under your lens one leg under your lens period if you do that then when you have your camera on your tripod and your tripod set up and if one leg is under your lens then you can safely walk up to your camera see there's no hole instead of oh right but one leg under your lens it gives you the stability and it gives you a little entry you have an entryway right up to your camera yes, yes it is true, but but here's the thing I don't use the tripod because I'm worried about motion when I'm in the studio because again, when I'm using a strobe in the studio, my shutter speed isn't very critical I consider it a thirtieth a sixtieth one twenty fifth and I'm going to get pretty much the same picture because in that case when I turn on elektronik flash my exposure is based on the aperture based off of how much light is hitting my primary subject so I'm mostly taking meter readings with my meter going let's say that reads f nine that reads f eleven eleven great so I'm shooting at eleven my show just doesn't really matter unless there's an awful lot of them the light in the studio which is not good you want to get rid of grand line as much as you can but for the most part let me just say a tripod is a really good thing to do I think I mean it's great to use in the studio I use an imperial tripod they're lightweight they're small this is my small one I've got to that are bigger but this is my small because it comes it's his three sections so it compacts down to here and I can unscrew the head and it goes in my suitcase I'll have to check it goes another bag stays kind of close with me so it's a pretty good too and I like a ball head for the obvious reasons uh this is this is a pretty costly here this is a really write stuff head this is a ch fifty five it's called lifetime warranty best investments it's well let me just say stupid expensive but it's the best investment ever made for myself it really is that good, uh, lifetime working all that stuff, but their precision and by not having the pan until handles, I don't hit anything. All the control is right there on one big knob. So it's, really grand tony, you're comfortable with those bowl heads would like it two hundred millimeter lens as long as you mount the lens on there, not the body of the camera. I don't want that weight of that lens hanging out there. I want the central point to be on the lens for big lands. Yeah, ok, let's, grab some questions. Fantastic. So first one on I know that we're going to talk more about light meters as we're going to be using them throughout the next day or three days, but really quick for driver forty nine what type of light meter do you use? Well, I use a psychotic meter, and for the last eight years I've used the sick connick l seven fifty eight d r and that's this this big guy right here, this guy has been I don't even know how many exposures this guy's taken, but he's been with me for eight years and he's been dropped, he's been kicked, he actually got a little salt water running once, and he still works somehow. But but he's reaching the end of his life span and I know he's going to break down at some point and just say I'm sorry I'm tired I can't do this anymore and so when that day happens, I have the new four seventy eight d r, which is the new touch screen and it's just like your iphone or one of your text screen smartphones that everything is a touch screen on this guy uh same features, same accuracy and even a few extra features that are in this one in a smaller package that I'll never use, so but but they're both really they're so durable what I always liked about this guy and they both will work with flash and ambience both this guy also had a reflective spot meter built in so I could remove the cap here, take this off of incident, flip it around this way now I've got a one degree spot meter and aiken suit through and check my reflective readings, so that was a great feature I've lost that feature with this, but there is an attachment that will plug on this it's just an added, you know, it's, just an accessory you bite in this unscrew is in the noon about mounts on there, so they both do the same thing what they're designed it is give you proper exposure if they're used properly which we're going to learn during this client and for you guys out there on the internet. Antonia's well, sick comic is giving a fifty dollars, instant repaid on the new l for seven eight d r so if you're interested in that, I'd say now is the time to head on over so twenty, we're going to do just one more question before raising head out for bravely on bits. This is from stephan daniel swartz, and I'm going to ask actually, two questions they read, they read that camera meters air calibrated to twelve percent gray and not closer to eight eighteen. Can you comment on that? And new dubai wanted to know why is the standard eighteen percent and not twenty five or twenty two? Because eighteen percent is the midpoint on a log rhythmic curve between zero one hundred? Ok, so that's, why it's eighteen percent uh, I don't know about the twelve percent I can't speak to that because I've not heard that before. God, I would have to do some serious research on that, okay, so I won't say that's incorrect, I'll say I didn't know that I'd better check my tech stuff again, but to my knowledge, it's all based on the eighteen percent, breaks down the middle.

Class Description

Get ready to learn how the lighting secrets every sought-after photographer needs to know. Join creativeLIVE for an in-depth immersion into understanding and controlling in-studio light.

Taught by award-winning photographer Tony Corbell, you’ll explore how to work with a wide variety of lighting tools. Tony will explain how a photograph’s look and feel are influenced by the size, shape, and placement of its light source. You’ll learn about correct light metering techniques and the role logic and physics play in metering and working with light. Tony will cover basic, subtle lighting adjustments that transform photos. You’ll have a front-row seat as Tony applies his one-of-a-kind lighting techniques live in-studio as he shoots both portraits and still-life photos.

By the end of this course, you’ll have a new and improved skill set for working with light and achieving jaw-dropping results.


AJ Photography Ireland

Watching this Course from Ireland live, and at my leisure having purchased the course, I cannot praise Tony Corbell enough. I felt I was right there in the Classroom with him and gained so, so much from stunning course. He really does explain the techniques he uses so well and is one of the greatest Educators that I have seen in photography. Worth every Euro ( Dollar ) !.. Thank you Creative Live and Keep up the good work ! Andy Jay Cork Ireland.


I learned a lot from Tony´s class. Very experienced, talented, smart tips and funny comments. Generous on sharing his knowledge. I am passionate about learning portraiture since about a year or two, had bought a couple of flashlights, stands, modifiers and now the most difficult part, to have my wife and kids be patient and let me practice with them. John Cornicello did an excellent job helping with the lights and bringing his own comments too. They both did an excellent match. This is a class I will watch again from time to time. This is the second course I watch from Tony and about the 15th course I watched from Creative.

a Creativelive Student

This is just a tremendous class. I love Mr. Corbell's teaching style and appreciate his levity. Most of all, I value the expertise he brings to the subject matter. After watching the entire class, I have been able to make adjustments to my lighting that I love and feel like I have a better idea of what I am looking for with my lights. This is a terrific value at any price.