Monday, July 27, 2009

whats in a main light 1

This post and the next 3 will be talking about, and showing examples of, the "main light". This of course is the light that does the heavy lifting when lighting your subject, most of the time anyway.
If you used an on camera flash, and no others, then that would be your main light. If you used a flash off camera to camera left and aimed at your subject, and a flash placed behind the subject, then the first one i mentioned would most of the time be called the main light. I say most of the time because there are really no hard and fast rules here. Your main light could be aimed at your background if you wanted it to be.
I would call my main light in the shot above the one that is placed to camera left and is aimed at the models face. I zoomed it in a bit, cant remember how much, as i wanted it to more or less created a slight spot effect. I did not want this light to hit the books in the isles or spill too much down her body. I wanted it to be punchy so i moved some books to my left, at about her face level, and asked a very nice lady to be my light stand and hold the flash in the hole i made on the shelf and point the flash directly at my models face. No softening stuff here.
I placed a second flash (used sb 800's although thats not important, both set to manual) on a light stand behind the model and aimed it directly at her. I zoomed it a bit also so it contained the spill of light. I had to keep going back to adjust it as it took awhile to balance it to the main light. First it was too bright and then of course it was too dark. Ten trips or so back and forth and it was just right. At about this point i always would like to know what my subjects are thinking. Like "he really must care if he is putting this much effort into my photo", or, "I wonder what ratio he is using", or, most likely, "does this guy actually know what he's doing".
So after all this babble what do i want you to take away from this post.
1) There is really no right or wrong way to use a main light. Ex: you can use a direct flash, bounce it, use an umbrella, shoot thru one, soft box, whatever. What matters is what feels right to you at the time your taking the photo. If you want to convey a mood or a feeling then use a type of main light that helps you convey this.
2) Dont be afraid to experiment. Try something you havent tried before or something you read about once in awhile. Your taking photos remember, not doing heart surgery. Whats the worst that can happen.
3) Do what looks right and feels right to you, not what you think someone else wants to see. It's your name that will be going under it in the end.
4) Have fun.
Thank you very much to my model in this shot "A" for your permission to post your photo here. You did a great job in all the shots we put you in and were very patient with me running around balancing lights. One question though, what were you thinking at the time???
I'll go with door number three.

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