Lighting for Stares

Yes, I do mean stares. What photographer doesn’t love people staring at his/her work?


My brother-in-law and I rented a 4×5 camera over the holiday at the end of last year. Super fun. Still haven’t souped those negs, so that’s for another post. As a bit of a preview, I offer these two images. They represent a couple moments when we asked whomever happened to be walking by to step into our set for a quick test shot with my Canon 40D. Y’see, there is no more 4×5 peel-a-part film that would allow us to ‘shoot a Polaroid’ and get a fairly instant preview of our image, so we used my dSLR instead. I was looking forward to shooting some
Polaroids (actually most recently made by Fuji Film), so I was a little bummed to learn the stuff wasn’t being made anymore.

So, yeah, that aside, here are a couple I felt came out nice. Took some back and forth between me and Aaron to get the lighting dialed in to where it didn’t look ‘too lit.’ Aaron’s a big fan of natural light, he likes to shoot as close to f/1.0 as possible…which I love, too. But, the lens on our 4×5 camera maxed out at f/5.6…which on a 4×5 camera, with a 110mm lens focused at about five feet, looks a lot like a 50mm at f/2 on a 35mm body. Our depth of field, according to the app on my phone, was about 3 inches.

This was a pretty straight forward three light setup. Key light is a Norman head very close to camera right, fired through a 42 inch umbrella. We put another head half way up the stairs behind our subjects, snooted that head to control spill, which gave us a nice, focused separation on the hair and shoulders. Those two lights got us close, but there was something missing. We needed the wildcard. We needed that one random element you often find in available light situations…that sidelight or that kicker that brings an extra something to the scene. I think that light is life. We’re surrounded by light so much, and we see light glancing off objects all the time…it’s how we define edges of forms a thousand times every day. With the placement of a bare strobe camera right, behind the model, firing through the banister rails, the images suddenly looked very…comfortable. They started looking like a warm wood staircase in a home.