Nikon D600 - CAMERA
85 mm - LENS
F 2.5 - F-STOP
1/160 sec - SHUTTER SPEED
100 - FILM SPEED
Flash - LIGHT SOURCE
The core of this lighting technique is diffused lighting and it's most commonly seen on very overcast days. Diffused lighting is seen as the softest form of light in photography with its characteristics creating very few shadows or spectral highlights. Essentially these traits are represented by having a larger light source than the subject. On a cloudy day the light scatters and therefore envelops the subject giving the look of very flat lighting which can be very flattering as the light will not cast any unflattering shadows. If you want to photograph models in the studio with a similar lighting style your light source needs to be very large, at least larger than the model, this is not only very difficult to transport but can also be very expensive.
So to create this incredibly soft and flattering lighting without spending a fortune or being tied to the same location there is a very simple alternative. The image shown here uses two lights but could easily have a very similar feel with just one, the trick is to utilise your environment. The key light here is actually pointing in the opposite direction and bouncing off the opposite wall, therefore making the wall the light source which is clearly quite large. As long as your strobe has the power and you have the room, the further back you get from the wall the larger the bounce and in turn the larger the light source and the softer the light.
With a little practice this can be a formidable technique to wield in a pinch as it can be achieved with a single flash-gun pointing behind you and a white wall, making it a great way of producing striking and flattering results when you have very little equipment to hand.
A key point to note however when experimenting with this is that you need to be very wary of the colour and tone of the surrounding area, remember bouncing light off any surface will also transfer the colour along with it. A lot of the time a slightly off-white wall can be corrected with white balancing but stronger colours may not be so easily fixed.
Advanced Bounced Light
Canon EOS 5D Mark II - CAMERA
70 mm - LENS
F 10 -F-STOP
1/200 sec -SHUTTER SPEED
100 -FILM SPEED
Flash - LIGHT SOURCE
The images shown here were shot without using any lighting equipment from the front, that is to say that all the light is coming from behind the model and pointed towards the camera. The light shown on the model is actually being bounced from two very large 'bounce boards' from camera left and camera right. I refer to them as bounce boards over reflectors to distinguish that they are 'diffuse reflectors'. They are usually painted matte white and therefore are far more light scattering than a reflector which is normally thought of as shiny silver or gold which will often just redirect the hard light not soften it.
"If we take one of the fundamentals of photography that says the larger the light source the softer the light and skew it a little, we can utilise our environment to create some very soft light from some very small light sources."
In this image my actual key light is made up of two heads, each with a straight dish and honeycomb grid attachment. This would commonly produce some of the hardest shadows in studio lighting due to its small source and effective channelling of the light. This type of light is quite often used behind models and in portraits to give a crisp highlight to hair and is unsurprisingly referred to as a 'hairlight'. Like these images illustrate here, that light picks up the edges of the body and hair and creates a strong line on any contour of the body giving it a very sculpted look. After the light has done its sculpting with its very hard light it then spreads and travels on towards the large bounce boards opposite. As the light falls onto these large white areas it scatters and now becomes the light source in relation to unlit front of the model. The light source is now larger than the model herself resulting in the light appearing to be incredibly soft and diffuse leaving a very flattering light enveloping the body evenly.
With this lighting technique it can be tricky to balance both front and back exposures, you will need to watch you don't loose edge detail but also expose the front accurately. The reason for this is that the power of all light diminishes over distance, so the light is at its most powerful when passing the back of the model and greatly diminished once it has passed by and then bounced back into the front. Bearing that in mind you will also need to be producing some considerable watts if you want to use smaller apertures.
Remember that those bounce boards are effectively acting as light sources, they can be moved closer to the model to increase the light falling on the front or be moved further away to darken the effective light.
There are also a couple of fine-tuning points to bear in mind when setting up this shot. First and foremost is the constant threat of aggressive flare in the lens from the two high powered lights pointed directly towards the camera. There are a few simple remedies to this, the most obvious being a large lens hood to flag the light but the other is to shoot with a longer lens and position yourself back behind the bounce boards and use them as giant flags to cut the light from going into the lens. The other consideration to take is how to angle the boards in relation to the lights. I have mine set squarely inline with the light opposite it crisscrossing the lights at right angles in the middle, this ensures the maximum use of the light hitting it without any spilling off at awkward angles resulting in a dimmer light being bounced back in.