I had the opportunity to photograph a local firearms instructor and competitive shooter for her website. I wanted a very serious image that was dark, moody, and edgy so I opted to really restrict light as much as possible and keep the focus of the picture on her rather than all of the other things that were in the image. I started out with a black background and added a couple rows of well punished targets. I didn’t want to have them be too distracting so I used an aperture that ensured that they would be out of focus yet recognizable. I used a SB-28 on a small stand with a blue gel to add some light on them and keep with the theme of the picture.
Next I had her stand about 5 feet from the background and lit just her face with a SB-28 up high at camera right with a 1/4 CTO gel to add some warmth to her face and contrast the blue background. I wanted detail everywhere on my subject but just barely, so I experimented with a small grid on the flash but tossed it and went with a 10″ snoot which gave me a tighter fall off. At this point she would have looked flat and the edges would have just disappeared into the black, so to give her the separation she needed I added two SB-28’s shooting over the background just out of frame pointed back at the camera. I used a gobo on both of them to minimize my chances of lens flare and added warming gels as well. These provided a much needed rim light to the right and left of the subject and added that separation that we desperately needed pop her off of the background as well add the little light that shows off the muscles in the arms and across the top of the shotgun. Again, it’s subtle, but an effect that I really think flatters athletes and gives a cool style to the image.
The lighting setup here was certainly not what you would want to use to get glamor type images and flatter the subject as far as soft light goes. Again this was intended to be gritty and tough and popping a softbox or umbrella on the main light would have changed the entire feel of the photo and would probably spill light all over the place, a problem with the area we were shooting in that just so happens to be painted white. You have to use what you have, right? One comment about the rim lights that I don’t like is that it shows any blonde hair that is sticking out against the black background. I was conflicted about whether or not to fix it in Photoshop, but grittiness and perhaps laziness won out and I let them live.
On a side note, one great thing about using “bare bulb” strobes is that you require just a touch of power to get a small aperture, even with gels. You could shoot as fast as you wanted and never outrun your speedlights.
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