I love the power of lighting to transform a scene, direct the eye, channel the mood of a design. Light can be subtle and understated, quietly sculpting the scene. Light can be bold and in-your-face, grabbing the viewer’s attention. For this shot, I choose eye-catching lighting using a creative in-camera technique to bring out my vision in a shot full of mystery and energy.
Concept & Styling
To add a bit of motion and mystery to my shots, I often utilized a technique that combines constant light and studio strobe lighting mixed AND camera movement to add creative streaks of light throughout the image. I love how it gives a sense of movement and energy to an otherwise still frame.
I enjoy experimenting with this technique, so I asked designer Lory Sun to create a head wrap with metallic embellishments specifically for this concept. Reflective elements are essential to showcase this creative approach, whether in makeup, jewelry, or the wardrobe— something needs to catch (and streak) the light. For this shoot not only did we use the headpiece, but my makeup artist added a bit of metallic sheen to her eye makeup to unify the look overall and accentuate our model’s beautiful eyes.
Side note: Katya, our model, was stunning and was eager to create art with us. She was an artist, musician, singer, and was passionate about life. I would recommend her in a heartbeat since she was not only beautiful and fun-loving, but eager to be a collaborator in the making of art! I can’t ask for more!
Lighting & Technique
I began with the main light, and for this shot, I utilized a Profoto Spot Small on a Profoto D1 Air 500Watt. This modifier allows me to create very tight areas of light on the face, a small circle, a strip of light, or whatever shape I choose. This modifier actually has a lens in it that allows me to focus or defocus my light, giving me extremely precise control. You may have seen this modifier in some of my other images and tutorials where I have used gobos (“go-betweens”) to cast creative shapes and patterns on the face or background.
With the Profoto Spot Small in this particular shoot I used a small vertical column of light (looks like a narrow rectangle), this allowed me to illuminate just her eyes or a portion of the face. The main light would be firing (strobe) and freeze the face in focus.
My second light was a bare strobe Profoto D1 Air with a rich blue gel on it (from Rosco creative color gel kit). This very saturated blue would be used to fill in all the shadow areas remaining on the subject. As I’ve talked about in some of my other gel tutorials, gels show up and are richest in the shadow areas of a shot.
Note: You may notice in the behind the scenes photos that there is a beauty dish in the frame. When I first started experimenting with this setup, I tried using the beauty dish as the main light, but I didn’t see the streaks as it was overpowering the fill light in the scene. Next, I tried using the beauty dish with the gels, but I decided I needed a more specular light source. In the BTS shots, you see the beauty dish, but it was not used in the final images in this post. The diagram included accurately represents the lighting setup.
Now, let’s talk about the ‘complicated’ part of the setup… the camera and camera settings. In this frame, I wanted to have the main light freeze the subject’s face but then also have streaks of light from the headpiece caused by camera movement. To do this, I would need a long exposure where I could move my camera and also register the modeling light from the second (blue) strobe.
Shutter speed: ⅓ second
As you can see with my camera settings, I ended up shooting at ⅓ of a second. This LONG shutter speed allows the modeling light of the blue strobe to register and plenty of time to move my camera. During my exposure, I would zoom my lens, move my camera, and even move my subject. Each type of movement would help create the streaks you see in the final shots. In fact, I’m pretty entertaining to watch when I shoot this— as I am zooming and shaking my camera wildly!
So, in this setup we’ve discussed my two strobes so far— the Spot Small main light and the blue gel fill light. There is one more thing to put into the equation. In my original trials of the setup the main light’s modeling light was left on, and because of the long exposure, the light created a blur to the subject’s eyes and skin. I found this to be undesirable, and it distracted from the mood of the shot, so I had to turn off the modeling light but leave the strobe still firing.
2 Profoto D1 500 Watt
Profoto Air Remote
Main light: Profoto Spot Small (fired but no modeling light)
Gelled Fill Light: Bare bulb with Blue Gel (Rosco gel creative color kit)
For the most part, the image looked quite similar in camera to the final deliverable file. We cleaned up the skin texture a bit (the spot small modifier is a pretty harsh light), and then desaturated the reds in the skin slightly to make her even more porcelain. Fundamentally the colors, mood, and look of the shot was done in-camera!
Check out the before/after slider: