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Understanding Light

Lesson 12 of 34

Working with Constant Light in a Studio

Mark Wallace

Understanding Light

Mark Wallace

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Lesson Info

12. Working with Constant Light in a Studio

Lesson Info

Working with Constant Light in a Studio

Welcome everybody, we're so excited to go today. Yesterday we talked about the effect of size of light and specular highlights and shadows and transitionaries and all that kind of stuff. Today we're gonna apply that to speed light photography, so we're gonna be working with speed lights today and we're gonna be working with studio strobes. We're going to be talking about metering for studio strobes, we're gonna be talking about balancing ambient light with light from a flash and how do you balance color temperatures all that kinda stuff so it's very practical today, very, it's sort of a workshop of practicality, applying all the principles that we learned yesterday. And so today we are going to begin with light modifiers and John and I have sort of put out a bunch of different light modifiers here and I want to go through first and foremost what all these different light modifiers are and why would you choose one over the other, why would you use an umbrella versus a soft box and a whi...

te umbrella versus a silver umbrella and all those types of things that people ask all the time. So we're gonna dive into that and then after we do that we will actually gonna bring Alexis back out and we're going to do some basic portrait lighting styles so closed loop, open loop, butterfly lighting, Rembrandt lighting, things like that. So if you've heard those terms you'll learn that it's pretty darn easy to do that stuff. And so we're gonna do that. Today we are going to begin with constant light because I don't wanna confuse you with flashes yet because it adds a whole new dimension so all the stuff that we're gonna be doing today we're gonna be using constant light and to do that I actually have two different light sources, we have this guy right here that we used yesterday, this light that just turns on. And then also we have, oh it's over there. John maybe you can bring out that Pro Photo head really fast. And I'll show you sort of what that is. In fact, while you're doing that I'm gonna give a sneak peak to what we're gonna be doing today. Oh and you're stuck there? Oh you won't knock me down. Don't knock me down. Maybe we can show this little picture right here, this is something I shot earlier this morning. This is our producer, this is Ryan. So he stood in as the model this morning and we're gonna be doing shots like this with our speed lights it's gonna be really fun so we did that really quick and I was like hey can we use it? And he was like sure. Okay so today just to clarify, we're using, to show you this stuff I'm actually using this head here and it is a Pro Photo light. And Pro Photo is a brand, it's not a style of light, it's just a brand and the reason we're using this light is it's really bright and it allows us to use all the modifiers that we're going to be using later. And so these are different soft boxes and umbrellas and reflectors and stuff and I shoot with Pro Photo gear mainly because they are known as a light shaping company and so in my experience they have more light shapers and that's what they're called than any other brand that I know of. And so they are really allow you to shape light in ways that are very very specific and so that's why I use these things. And so we're gonna start with that. First let's start by talking about soft boxes and how they work and we'll talk about a couple of different kinds of soft boxes. Now remember, we have, when we're working with light we're working with the direction of light, and so it doesn't matter which modifier you have, you can move that around to change the direction but then we're also talking about effect of size, and the shape. So remember yesterday when we shined that light on the wall here and we dialed it in and out, you could see how the shape of the light actually affected the specular highlights and how the shadows and everything were affected. And that's why there are different shapes and sizes of almost every modifier available. So we're gonna talk about which ones do what. So this guy right here this is a Chimera soft box and by the way there's a big debate about how you pronounce Chimera so a lot of people are like it's Chimera and Chimera and all this stuff so I actually went to Chimera and asked them and I said how do you pronounce this and they said it's Chimera. Actually I think even on their website they say we know it's pronounced Chimera but we like Chimera 'cause it's shimmery and think of light. Yeah so well and that's the thing so I said oh okay Chimera and then I went and was like at Photo Plus or something and I went to their booth and I'm like oh it's so great and they're like it's Chimera. Like wait what is it? So yeah I got two different results. But I call them Chimera soft boxes. Tomato, tomato. Tomato, tomato, whatever. Also yesterday John and I were talking about catch lights. Yes we had a disagreement on it. Yeah we had a discussion. Where Mark said he liked round catch lights. Yeah, square catch lights. And I said I like square catch lights 'cause I think of catch lights as windows and doorways and big open sky. The sun is round but how often do you see the sun reflected in someone's eye? They're usually squinting if the sun's there so I don't think round is that natural but everyone has a different taste. Yeah so that's a valid point. So good. Yeah so there's a reason for square catch lights. This soft box by the way, so it's a Chimera soft box and the difference between this soft box and this soft box, so they're very similar in size, so you can see they're very similar in size. The difference is this soft box here is made to work with a hot light. And so this light gets very, very hot, oven hot, so hundreds of degrees and you can't use a normal soft box on there because it would melt or catch on fire, burn your studio down, that's not good. And so this is made for high heat and actually you can't even close the back on this when you're using it with this because it won't stand that kind of heat so this is a high heat soft box. And it's, other than that it's very similar. All soft boxes have walls to them and then they also have this front diffusion panel. And this one only has a single diffusion panel and most soft boxes actually have more than one diffusion panel and so we're gonna go in and look at that. The other thing that you'll notice on this, and even on this guy right here is the velcro that holds these panels on, so if I open this up you'll see that there's a diffusion panel inside and then there's a diffusion panel on the outside, these can be removed so if you want something that's a little softer you can put in both panels, if you wanna make that a little bit harder you can take this panel out and that will give you a little less diffused light and then the other thing you'll notice is this velcro that holds this on, see how wide that is? It's a very, very wide panel. And so what you can do with many, many soft boxes is once you get this on there, there's enough room in there to actually velcro in a grid. And I think we have a four by six out in the hallway. There's one of these out in the hallway with the grid on it. With the grid on it? Yeah let's run and get that, I didn't realize it wasn't here. But yeah you can put actually grids on your soft boxes and what a grid will do, there's a grid over here that we have on this beauty dish. So noisy, isn't it? But if you look at this you can see how that shines through. This is a 20 degree grid and what that will do is allow light to come out and only, the angle is only 20 degrees as it emits from the light source. And so what that allows you to do, and here we have a soft box with a grid and I think this is a 20 degree grid. Same exact soft box. This is the same exact soft box but this has the grid that's velcroed in. And so what this will do is this will restrict the light and so you have very nice soft diffused light but it's directional. And this is going to have very nice soft diffused light but much less directional. So with a soft box like this you have a lot of options, you can have both diffusion panels in to have very diffused light and that's gonna help you with the specular highlights and soften those out. You can take a panel out to get a little bit harder light. Then you can put in a grid so you have soft and directional light. So we're gonna start shining these on the background so you can see that but that's how soft boxes work and these soft boxes are common not only for the small ones but let's get this four by six out here. Let's say you're working with a full length shot and you want nice soft light. Here we go, here's another soft box, this is actually my go to soft box. Yep and maybe you can hold this right here next to me just so I don't have to hide behind this giant soft box. This guy right here is a soft box that I use probably in 80% of all of my photos is this guy right here. And the reason for this is you can use it as a traditional soft box but you can also make this horizontal and then based on the position of this you can do multiple things, so we'll be working with this a bit later when we bring Lex out to show you some different lighting styles but this guy right here, it is so versatile for full length shot, for beauty shots, we can take that out. We're really gonna show you how this soft box is amazing because the way that you can position it either forward or back and you can wrap light around or you can feather the light and so I actually have I think two or three of those that I use just over and over and over. And mine at my home studio are just, they're not worn out but they're very dirty 'cause we use them all the time and so... In the old days we put an 81A filter on our cameras and then we just let our soft boxes weather. Just let them weather, yeah it works, yes. The standard flash, can you use a flash in something that ginormous? No, no you can't. So and that's a great point in fact John let's take this guy and make it go away. So we're gonna let that live, can you put that behind so we're done with that? But yeah so a speed light like this guy right here, most speed light light modifiers are gonna be much smaller. The reason for that is a speed light, the spread of the light is, it has to be broad enough to fill the entire thing evenly and have enough power to actually get somewhere. So when you're traveling, your light is traveling through something, as soon as it hits that diffusion panel that's in front here, you're losing about a stop of light, sometimes half a stop, sometimes two stops, depends on how many diffusion panels are in there and so we'll learn later that the power output of these lights don't compare at all to a studio strobe. And so the problem is physics, it just doesn't have enough oomph to throw that much light. Now having said that I have used a speed light in soft boxes that are two by three and sometimes even a little bit larger and you get nice soft light. So you can use it in something that's bigger than this and then you can use it on umbrellas that are probably two feet, something like that and you're not gonna have an issue. But to pump something like that through a four by six soft box it's gonna be very difficult. What you can do and my friend Kevin Kaboda does this all the time, he has these brackets and you can buy these at Adorama or whatever camera store you go to. But you can mount several flashes on a single bracket and throw that into a much larger light source and then you can get light that pumps through so you're quadrupling your light and so that works. The difference though is this flash right here I believe is around $600. So if you've got four of those, you're at $2400. Or you can get a studio strobe like the Pro Photo B which is equivalent to 10 of these flashes and it's $2200, something like that. And so financially for me it doesn't make sense to put all those flashes in now that there are options like the B1 available because it just doesn't make financial sense to me. Okay and I'm not, Pro Photo isn't paying me to tell you guys all this great stuff about them, I just love their gear so please don't write in and say how much did they pay, like they're not, they don't give me money to talk about their stuff or neither does Canon or PocketWizard or anybody else. Alright so we have those two things. The other thing I wanna show you is the difference on this studio strobe compared to, do we have a D1, where'd that D1 go? Just pull out any of those. The other difference between a speed light and a studio strobe like this, most studio strobes the light actually comes out. And so this guy right here has a globe on it and so when you put it in a soft box that light isn't just gonna go forward, it's gonna go in, it's gonna come out all the way so it's gonna fill that soft box corner to corner very very evenly and consistently as opposed to this guy, this is also a Pro Photo head, and see how that doesn't have something that comes out and so this has a really wide angle of coverage, thank you. Angle of coverage. So the light does come out pretty radically but you still don't get the same even consistent light as if you had something that actually protruded into the soft box. Yes, absolutely. You were telling me there's an attachment for this. Yeah this guy actually you can take this diffusion out and you can put a globe like this on the front. The difference is this one actually has a tube inside it, this one the tube is still inside here so it's a little bit different. But and by the way this is the new flash I was telling you about where it's a studio strobe battery powered and you can, I know, it's really nice, I know it's so sweet. So this is equivalent to 10 speed lights. And it's pretty awesome. Okay so we'll be working with that tomorrow I believe. And they just came out, they've changed everything, it's really awesome. Alright so what I wanna do, we also have some other modifiers and these are considered hard light reflectors because what they do is instead of diffusing the light they create really hard specular light. And this guy right here, you can see that the sizes are changing and the larger the size of the light, the softer that light is so you can have very directional hard a little bit softer than this light. And so the larger these things go the softer the light is and you can even go to something that is very large like this and this is considered, it's called a beauty dish. I think the technical name for this is soft light reflector but everybody calls it a beauty dish. And you can see that's even larger and so what you're getting there is you're getting this very directional soft light that can wrap around your subject and it is not quite as large as a soft box, you can see it's about half that size but this will give you this look that is pretty amazing. So we're gonna be shooting with this, today and tomorrow we'll start looking at this. This also has very broad light just sort of goes everywhere 'cause of this white. And so what you can do is you can take this guy, and this is a very common thing, and you can throw a grid on the front of this and that will give you a very restricted light so it will keep it from spilling in places that you don't want it to spill. So you can see with all these different light modifiers you're able to choose the shape of light that you want. Then you can also choose how directional, how controlled that light is so you can really dial in exactly where you want the light to fall and how you want it to appear when it falls. And so grids give you a lot of different options. And can you give me that little bag right there? Yeah just give me the whole bag, give me the whole bag, thank you. This is something that actually works with this reflector and it's the same kind of thing. So this is gonna give us a very directional light but if we wanna restrict that, we can put these little grids on the front of this and so again we can confine how that light is coming out and these I use for things like highlights on the cheeks and so if you have this with no grid on it, it's shining into the camera, you can put a grid on it and all of a sudden you've basically blocked the light from hitting your lens but it still hits the subject where you want it. Or you can put a little pool of light maybe a corner of a room or on a chair or on a lamp, you can really dial in where the light goes and these grids come in different degrees so you got five degrees, 10 degrees, 20 degrees and so you can choose how that light is being shaped which is really cool. And last but not least we have here ye old umbrella. And this umbrella the question is why would you use a soft box instead of an umbrella? The umbrella, and we're gonna show you this on this background here. If you just need soft light really fast, I feel like Mary Poppins. But if you just need soft light very very fast, this is the go to modifier. It's gonna give you very soft diffused light, it's gonna be nice and round, it's going to wrap around your subject, it'll look great, and it takes 10 seconds at most to set this thing up and they're very affordable. And they pack easily, you can throw them in a bag, you can carry them on a flight, and so umbrellas are something that every photographer should have no matter if you're shooting with speed lights or studio strobes, they work great. Yes. What is the benefit or drawback of going from a shoot through umbrella or one that bounces like that? There are a few benefits. So first and foremost, I'm gonna start setting up, let's get this guy here and let's start showing stuff on the actual wall. So a shoot through umbrella, what's gonna happen, and a shoot through umbrella is an umbrella like this but there is, the cover, the black cover can come off and so it's a translucent material. And so I think the best way to show this is to show you on this back wall here. So John maybe on the side over here I think there is a shoot through umbrella and we can do that after you get that set up. But the shoot through umbrella, when you're shooting through it, what you'll get, instead of a reflected light you'll get a very directional soft light. And so I like to call it a poor man's soft box. Because and I've done this in studio lighting classes where I'll set up a shoot through umbrella and a soft box and we'll shoot two different set ups and see if students can tell the difference and a lot of times you can't tell the difference. An umbrella you're losing a little light because it has to reflect, has to bounce and so you might be losing a little bit of punch. Perfect, and it's set to max, is that right? Okay so I wanna first start by showing you, this is called a standard zoom reflector and I'm gonna be blinding everybody over there. And so what we're gonna do here, we're gonna put these lights as close as we can to this seamless background so you can sort of see how the light spreads out over this. And so if we can get maybe this light over here turned off we can start seeing this stuff. Alright so this modifier you can actually zoom this in and out, see if I can get this even closer. I have to take this off for you to see this. So let me get this really close so you can see on this background. So this reflector what it allows you to do is you can actually zoom this light. So you can change how that light is coming out from there to a much wider light, see how this light right here is changing and the fall off is changing toward the end? So when I zoom it out it's sorta like a mag reflector, see how we have a long trail at the very end here, as opposed to this, very very broad light. And so with that reflector what you're allowed to do or what you're able to do is you can change the effect of size of the light from a much larger light to a much smaller light. The other thing that happens with this reflector is when you zoom it in sort of like a mag light, it doubles the amount of light that reaches the subject so you actually get one stop more light because it catches all that light and says it's right there, it's very very strong and so it's really cool. And then we have some, yes, let me show a couple grids here, give me, do you have a five and a 10? Yeah I think you have the 10 in your hand. Cool. And I got a 20. Alright so let's see what happens when we put a grid on here. Let's say we wanna light something right here and we don't want it to fall on this background. What we could do is we could start putting flags and all kinds of things over there. Or we could just say you know what? Let's put a grid on it. Put a grid on it, boom, it's not a bird but it's a grid. So yeah now like John has got light on him. And there's none on the background. And so we can really restrict the light and make that what's called a special, we're saying hey we want this right on John's face. So we can take this off, blam, and now it's everywhere. If we want a little bit more light but still we want to restrict that, we can put a 10 degree, you can see that now we're getting a little bit on the background and so by using grids it's very very easy to control where that light falls. The other thing with these grids is they get hot really really fast, those feel like a warm oven mitt which is really cool. Alright the other thing we have here is this is called a magnum reflector and this guy is, it is a light that is extremely versatile. There's a guy named Jerry Avaname and he shot a very famous portrait of Halle Berry and you've probably all seen this, she's all smiley, he did it with this one reflector. And the nice thing about this reflector is because it has sort of this pitted insert here you can either have that on your subject directly or you can feather that light and so you're just getting a little bit of light on your subject and you can change the qualities of light.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers. 

The success of every photographer — artistically and professionally — is based on a strong understanding of how light works. Join photographer Mark Wallace for a three-day course that will demystify the fundamentals of lighting and give you the concrete skills you need to get a powerful image using the right lighting every time you shoot.

Mark will cover everything you need to know about hard, soft, directional, and diffused light. You’ll learn about reading natural light and manipulating it with tools like reflectors and diffusion panels. Mark will also guide you through working with light in a studio environment. You’ll explore using basic studio lights to manipulate and shape light and working with strobes and speedlights. You’ll also learn about shooting on-location and how to balance shape, and color ambient light and light from a flash.

By the end of this course, you’ll be equipped with a whole new understanding of light that will help you to shoot more efficiently, capture consistently well-lit images, and reach new creative heights as a photographer.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Presentation 1

Presentation 2

Presentation 3

Zone Lighting Basic Setup

Gear List

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Claudia Ochsner

This is an excellent course. I recommend this course to every photographer, of any level who want to put money into lighting stuff. Mark Wallace has a gift to teach and to truly enlighten his audience about complex issues in photography. The money for this course is well spent, the time is more valuable than hanging around in forums and ask questions to others who don't have a clue as well. The products used ( partly promoted ) are very "American" - I have to say that as Swiss. Because you know there are two other brands which could compete at the top level of studio lights as well. Just kidding - But seriously - many thanks to Mark, John, Lex ( Gosh - you are so beautiful ) , CL and their team to help me to reach out for a new level in my photography. I am now going to push my boundaries, well knowing that understanding light is science, but for sure not rocket science.

Rose-Marie Gallagher

This was an outstanding course! Mark presented TONS of quality information, starting at the very basic concepts and working up from there. He is interesting to listen to and very understandable. Great examples that expand the learning. Highly recommended! Thanks for bringing Mark's class to CL...I hope there will be more.

a Creativelive Student

This is probably the first Creative Live course I have purchased that I've watched in its entirety. Every single solitary video. I feel so strongly about Mark's teaching ability that this is also the very time I have written a review. I first came across Mark Wallace on Adorama TV. Interesting and so knowledgeable. So I explored and found other tutorials by Mark on Pocket Wizard. So when Creative Live offered this three day course - I bought it without hesitation. Mark makes the difficult - easy to comprehend and the un-understandable - understandable. I have learned so much from him and I haven't even met the guy! There are so many questions I'd like to ask - that doesn't mean that the videos were lacking in any respect. Rather, time constraints prevented Mark from covering topics he wanted to cover. I am definitely going to purchase the original Mark Wallace Creative Live course on Speedlights. I am also voting for a course: "28 days with Mark Wallace," so that we can tap into his genius with Lighting. How about it Creative Live? Bravo Mark - a very successful course. I am looking forward to the next one.