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Controlling Your Light in a Small Shooting Space

Welcome to yet another Image breakdown! Today I will be breaking down a shot I captured at the Capture One booth at Imaging USA last month. Join me as I walk you through the process of controlling the light and background to create stunning portraits in a small shooting area.

The Initial Shot

At the start, I set up a single Profoto B10x with a deep medium umbrella and diffusion. By angling the modifier towards the subject, I created a loop light effect. You can see the angle of the modifier by looking at the catchlight in her eyes. One thing to notice, is the exposure from the key light was also affecting the background.

Despite the limited space, the shot turned out great. The key light provided a good overall exposure, though I could have reduced the shadows on her left side by bringing the light around front. Nevertheless, it was a solid shot.


Feathering the Light

To gain more control over the background exposure, I decided to feather the light toward me. Since moving the model, light, and myself away from the background was not an option (due to limited space), I had to find an alternative. By feathering the light towards me, I was able to significantly reduce the background exposure.

In addition to controlling the background exposure, the catch light in my model's eyes also changed shape from the previous image. The diffusion on the umbrella allowed me to feather the light much easier because adding diffusion to an umbrella basically just turns it into a softbox.


Adding a Background Light

With the background exposure under control, I introduced a separate light source to enhance it further. Using a Profoto A10 placed on a stool, I illuminated the background to achieve the desired effect.

Although it may appear slightly overexposed, I was able to control the exposure much easier, and in the final image I lowered the power of the background light to make it less distracting. At this point, the image is really starting to come together. Just need to add one more light to bring it all home!


The Final Piece of the Puzzle

To add depth and separation between the subject and the background, I incorporated a gridded strip light on the side. This strip light, placed strategically, created a pleasing separation and added depth to the final image. The grid prevented light from spilling onto the backgrond, but also eliminated any light hitting my lens element that may have caused lens flare.

In the behind-the-scenes shot, you can see the setup and positioning of the lights. The key light, a Profoto B10x with a diffused medium deep white umbrella, is angled towards me, allowing for effective feathering and control over the background. The rim light, another B10x, features a 1x3 (even though it says 1x4) strip with a grid to prevent light spillage on the background and lens flare. Lastly, the A10 on a stool gave me control of the background exposure, rather than relying on the key light for that.


Final Images



Join me at my upcoming NY/NJ Creative Lighting Workshop on June 8th!

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Where does the warm light on the left come from?


That was part of the background. I just used the booth as my background and that just happened to be there.

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