Never Meter or white balance a light again in Your Studio!

Wow, can imagine how you could focus on posing and interacting with your client if you never had to meter your lighting or worry about white balance.  Would it surprise you that for every main light source, in all my shooting areas (soft boxes, ring lights, spots, parabolics (beauty dish) etc.) I metered and systematically tested it once when it was first purchased and I never had to do it again!

The problem that photographers have with their lighting is excitement and impatience.  They purchase a new soft box and what do they do?  Do they systematically test the lighting characteristics of that light box so they know the exact placement for the different types of subjects they will work with?  Of course not, they put it together call someone in for a sample session and start photographing, creating some images that are beautiful and some that are not.  Do they ever try to figure out the difference or what made the good ones good and the bad ones bad?  In most cases not.  They work for years getting hit and miss results until they finally either figure it out or buy another light box in frustration and the process starts over again.

The only way to know exactly what the characteristics that any given light will produce is to test it.  When I say test it, I don’t mean start taking photos, I mean set someone down with only the main light on at a 90 degree angle to the subject.  If the nose is pointing at the camera, the main light will be pointing at their ear or side of the head.  Start with the light box at distance just outside the frame of the camera in a waist up composition. With only the main light on, take a photo and write down exactly what you have done and mark the floor with a piece of tape. Move the light six inches closer to the camera, around the subject, keeping an arch or the distance between the subject or light the same. Take another photo, write everything down, mark the floor and repeat the process until you have gotten to the 45 degree position. Now pull the light 12 inches further from the subject and repeat the process.  Now pull the light 24 inches further from the subject and repeat the process.  Now take all those images and your notes and print out each image large enough to see the light pattern of the face (8×10 is typically large enough).  Select the one photo that has the  light characteristics you like the best, leave that piece of tape on the floor and take up all others.  Tie a long piece of string around the light stand stretch it out to the subject and cut it so it measures distance between the light and the subject. This accomplishes two things, first you never have to meter your light again (because you will do this with each light you use-background light, hair light etc.) second the string gives you adjust-ability.  If you only had a mark on the floor for the ideal light you wouldn’t have the ability to modify that ideal lighting to the unique characteristics of each subject you photograph by moving the light around the subject.  With the mark on the floor, you place the light in that position as your starting place, then once the subject sits down and gets into the pose, you can quickly check the distance of your new adjusted position with the string for exposure.

The string is a training step to quickly working in the studio.  I haven’t used strings in my studio for years, because the string taught me how to judge the working distance of my lights.  Once you can judge the distance, cut the strings and you are set for life or until you buy a new main light source then the process starts again.  For more on Studio Lighting order My New DVD Studio Portrait Lighting.  It is the best $59.95 you will spend, that is if you want to improve your lighting!

Now to white balance.  We have many shooting areas within large open studio space.  There are a total of 7 many lights we use in any given session, but I only have one white balance and that is consistent throughout the studio.  I like most photographers have a variety of light brands and power outputs that I have purchased over the years. Different brands of lights and even different power/sizes of lights will produce slightly different colors of light.  All 7 main lights are the same brand, same power output and the flash tube is the same age.  This is a reason we use Alien Bees, the flash tubes are $30 to $40 instead of $100 to $200 so we can replace all of them any time we have to replace one.  This means I white balance any main light in my studio and I have white balanced for every light in my studio. It’s knowledge not equipment that creates exceptional studio lighting.  I could create a beautiful portrait with a single flash and a translucent panel or a cheap umbrella.  The equipment isn’t the important part, it is knowledge that is the key.  As a person that sells educational products this fact has amazed me for years.  The average photographer will happily go into debt to buy a new $300 soft box or Halo and put it on a credit card, but that same photographers will think long and hard about spending $60 on a DVD or $25 for a book so they know what to with the lights they already have!    Invest in your knowledge, $59.95 for a My New DVD and you will save hundreds in buying new light modifiers and make thousands creating truly unique studio portraits, Sound like a bargain to me!  CLICK HERE, YOU EVEN VIEW A FREE SAMPLE!

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~ by jeffsmithbooks on September 26, 2010.

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