I wanted to create a fun and interesting Cover Image for our Facebook page and thought I’d try out a technique from Joe McNally’s book, The Moment It Clicks, where he has some body builders holding their own lights that are part of them image rather than trying to hide them like we usually do. Since this is a website all about lighting our photographs I thought it would be a perfect picture for in this context, and would be a lot of fun trying it out as well.
I wanted it to be lighthearted and fun because I certainly don’t take myself too seriously, so I thought I’d keep the image bright and light. I started off with a cyan gel under a Stofen omni-bounce flash diffuser which is just a little piece of plastic that fits over the front of a Nikon SB-28 speedlight to squirt the light out in all directions rather than just out the front, and aimed it a white background at half power. The reason I used it at such a high power is that I wanted it to blow out the texture of the background and give a bright spot on the paper, the roll off and get darker, like a circular gradient. The more power you push into a colored gel, the lighter it gets and going with the intent of the picture, I wanted it light. Once I had it spaced out and positioned where I wanted it I needed to light me, so I opted for a softbox as my main light just outside of the frame to the camera’s right. If I had tried to use an umbrella here it would have spilled light out everywhere which would blow out my colored background. I feathered the softbox away from the background, almost pointed back at the camera, again, avoiding spillover.
I wanted some separation from the background so I put another Nikon SB-28 way in the back to the camera’s left pointed back at me with a piece of cardboard velcro’d to the side facing the camera to avoid lens flare. This added just a little rim light to my shoulder which pops me off of the background. My side to the camera’s left was still pretty dark and I played with using a reflector to put some light back on me but wound up using another Nikon SB-28 speedlight to add some light where I needed it.
Alright, now that my background and I am lit acceptably well, I needed to add the flashes that I would be holding in my hands. The goal was to have them held in such a way where the light from them looks like they are what is lighting me so I held them in an approximate angle of where the actual light was coming from. Since I wanted the light from the flashes to be visible in the photograph I had to angle them back toward the camera slightly which pretty much negated their light on me. And just to knock them down as much as possible I set them on their lowest power setting, zoomed out the flash heads, and put down the little diffusers. I used a radio flash trigger to set off one of my handheld speedlights, and a little optical slave unit for the other one since I was out of receivers.
I setup the camera with the self timer and would run back to a very specific spot so I’d block the speedlight that was illuminating the background. I played around with the position and the crop with a 55-200 lens until I had what I was looking for and called it good, quick and dirty and uploaded it to my Facebook page.
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