1. Welcome to NikonCafe.com—a friendly Nikon camera & photography discussion forum!

    If you are thinking of buying a camera or need help with your photos, you will find our forum members full of advice! Click here to join for free!

Lighting Problems...

Discussion in 'Studio Equipment and Lighting' started by Seneca, Jul 9, 2008.

  1. Seneca


    Dec 4, 2006
    As most of you probably know I shoot more seniors than anything else. All of my jobs have been on location. But last year it seems like I lost 2 seniors because it rained, or it was just too windy outside and I could not compensate for the wind. Well I spoke to hubby December 07 and told him I needed an indoor studio...he said "Go for it".

    Anyway I have lights now, but I just can't really seem to shoot well...it has really been a job trying to figure out exactly where to put lights. I've realized that it's become a science.

    I took this image a couple of weeks ago, and as you can see it has all sorts of shadows that I didn't expect.

    My question is...are there any really good books out there to learn this stuff. I already have 3 shoots lined up in August so I have to try and master this.

    Here is an awful lighting shot.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
  2. Phil


    Nov 25, 2007
    I think it just lacks a little light on her left side. Not alot just a little to get rid of the shadows. If I was the parent i would buy it.
  3. Seneca, what is your lighting setup right now? Maybe we can start from there?
  4. Start here. Then practice the techniques he shows you on family and friends. The best way to learn is to do.

    Visit your local camera store. They should have a good line-up of books on portrait lighting. Leaf through them and look for one with diagrams on were the author placed the lights for each image.
  5. Seneca


    Dec 4, 2006
    Well first of all I should add that I somewhat inherited these lights...(that's another post).

    Ok these lights are Novaton

    Here is a picture of the back of the can...

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Here is the other one

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    I think the first light is my main light since it has both a -1 and -2. The second light only has a -1 on it. I also have two other cans that cannot be adjusted at all. They all plug in to a big battery looking thing, and then I have a cord that connects to my camera...so none of this lighting is remote. I can't seem to dial it down at all...I tend to shoot around F13 or so. I feel that I should be shooting around F8 or so. But if I do that I blow everything out. So frustrating.

    I guess what I need is a good book on lighting. I always seem to fix the lighting but not until I've shot about 15 or so frames. But I really have to get this right.

    Any and all suggestions appreciated. I'll be happy to post my set-up if I need to.
  6. Ok, I couldn't begin to tell you the ratios/power settings, but this set-up I learned from the guy I worked for last summer, and I use it whenever I do a "studio" set-up.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    So basically, the main light is the light immediately to camera left. The fill (key?) light is the light to the far left. It also spills light onto the BG on that side. On the other side is the reflector... his motto was to get it in as close as possible without it in the picture. The light on the floor by the reflector is the main BG light, and the final light behind the subject is the hair light. I used something similar, minus the reflector, when I took these shots:

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Like I said, I don't know what his ratios/powers were set at, but I know he shot around f/8-f/10, and always had the subject at least 6 ft. from the BG to avoid shadows, and to blur it nicely. He also shot at ISO 100, which helped keep the aperture at a reasonable setting. I think his SS were around 1/60th - 1//125th. Hope this helps!!!
  7. That's a great set-up, Shaun. Minor correction: The light to the far left - it's the brightest, therefore it's the key (main) light. The light next to the camera is the fill. Were I shooting with that set-up, I'd make one change and move the fill to the other side of the camera, thereby taking the left side (camera right) of the groom's face out of shadow. Or add another fill light to that side, because the bride's face is beautifully lit.

    Nice job!
  8. Here are a few links with some good information:


    Here is a lighting diagram PSD file that is very handy for testing setups and helping to remember what worked.


    Here is an older thread with some examples with the PSD lighting setup file.

    As for your lights:
    They look like they are like these? :http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/38119-REG/Novatron_NSV240D2_V240D_Two_Head_Fun.html

    Most people here seem to use Monolights, the charging unit is in the head. A/C Studio stobes like yours have a bigger charging unit with smaller and lighter heads that plug into it. A/C are not as mobile since you need to have all the heads plugged into a center pack (or 2 or 3), but many of the cental packs have the output controls on the them instead of on the individual lights. So turning up and down the power on a head that is on a stand 6-10 feet off the floor is alot easier.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  9. Thank you! I know it's not perfect, but it does work... and I do know for a fact the main light was the light immediately to the left of camera... the other big light was only a fill light... in fact, most of the time, it was pointed at angles btwn the subject and BG... gave light to the BG and also spilled onto the subject... I asked early on why the larger box was not the main, and he had some long explanation that I don't remember :redface: but it worked!!!
  10. The explantion would be that the larger softbox difuses the light more than the smaller one, thus it's not as bright. Unfortunately, your friend added power to the fill, thereby making it brighter than the main. The fill light is supposed to do exactly as it's name implies: "Fill" in the shadows. But in this case, the fill light is overpowering the main to the point where the main is barely handling the shadows cast by the fill. That is why I mistakenly swapped the nomenclature for those two lights.
  11. You are never going to become the master of lighting reading books... period. You master lighting by moving lights around and observing the effect it has on your subject.

    I'm going to tell you the same thing my mentor told me, I tell everyone I mentor, and the rest is up to you.

    "Forget the books unless it is your ambition to work in a mall kiosk. Train your eyes to see light the way the camera does... in a compressed dynamic range"

    Or the Cliff Notes version: "It's light, not rocket science"
  12. Seneca


    Dec 4, 2006
    Thanks Woody.

    I guess ... and with all due respect...and you know how much I love your work, but everyone sees things different. So in essence lighting is a science and for some of us, we need direction with books. I am a visual person, but yet I don't see what you see.

    I own cheap lights, and what I need are good lights...but I will have to work with what I have until I can make more money shooting.

    I wish you lived close to me so I can see you in action. Perhaps that's what I need...another mentor...but for lighting.
  13. Seneca


    Dec 4, 2006
    I have this image also on the PEOPLE FORUM. Lee posted a pretty good video on lighting and it gave me some ideas. This is with one light and a white reflector.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
  14. That's very good! Did you shoot it tonight? If so, then you're already learning!

    Now make it better!* :biggrin:

    I'm with Czechman about shooting and shooting more and more. In fact, I've already said as much. :tongue:

    *That means to keep shooting.
  15. Seneca


    Dec 4, 2006
    Yes I shot it after I watched that video. Here is a PP'ed of it. Here is what I did to her face. Couldn't have done it without you Lee...that video had a great tip...something I wasn't doing.

    This one was PP'ed...ever so slighly...(i.e. eyes, lips, eyebrows, teeth and softness to the face)

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
  16. Well, what Woody said is really the key. And frankly, that's an easy thing to say, and a difficult thing to do (for most of us...). But once you get it, you got it. If you had lights equipped with modeling lamps you could move them around, adjust the intensity, move your reflectors, etc. and instantly see the effect all that had before you take the shot. And large soft boxes - they make a difference. I used to be one of those folks that claimed "It's the photographer - not the equipment". But you know what? Equipment matters. For example, my S3 takes a much higher quality image at 800 ISO then my D2H - regardless of the composition and light... I now profess that better equipment makes a good photographer better. (Nothing will help a poor photographer except practice...:rolleyes: ) So, the shots I take with my soft boxes look better then the shots I take w/o soft boxes, etc.

    Get your soft light as close to the subject as possible and get some practice with reflectors.

    If you can make it to the fall BBQ, you'll see how we do it with some limited but effective equipment.
  17. Links that I have found from helpful people on this site





    none of these are perfect but they provide some great basic information. If I get a chance I will take a shot of my studio setup in my fail safe (read boring) lighting setup. It's the one I use for family/senior portraits when the results need to be dependable and fairly standard. I start every session with this setup and then once I have my safety shots I start moving lights around and using different modifiers to get creative. However that "boring" setup sure pays the bills right now. Families want to get in and out with nice results and consistant fairly even (non-dramatic) light.

    One from the other day with this set up

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
  18. The second shot is much better, Seneca. I'm with Woody though, snag a willing/unwilling subject and practice with your lighting setups and placement. Document the cause and effect of placement. With practice, you become familiar with the desired effect you're going for and you fall right into it each time. With practice, you start to go outside the box and try other setups.

    I try to re-engineer the lighting setups I see in pictures that I like too. I'm a very visual person as well and that helped me immensely to SEE what the shooter was attempting and how it was executed.

    I found this link a long time ago and had kept the bookmark when I started out. Hope you find it helpful

  19. Seneca


    Dec 4, 2006
    Thank you all who contributed to this thread. Wow I didn't realize that lighting could be so difficult, but Woody is right...when I am messing with the lighting I need to see the different effect it is causing on my subject. Thanks Woody!

    The video was awesome too...I see I have other links as well. I will view all of them when I get home from work. Thanks ya'll.
  20. happy0034.gif
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    There ya go!!
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.