Beautiful, easy, inexpensive lighting setup.

Yesterday I posted one of the lighting techniques we created during our "Lighting in a Day" personal project that Benjamin Edwards and I did. That was a popular post, so I thought I'd share another image from the day. This time, it's indoors. We asked a local furniture store if we could use the upstairs showroom to shoot in. They happily obliged! By the way, Furnish is the coolest furniture store in Bend, OR! (You can order online too) We love shopping there and the owners are incredibly knowledgeable, helpful, and genuine. I always suggest to photographers who don't know where to shoot - just ask! I've gained access to some amazing locations simply by taking a chance and asking. You can do it too! 


Our goal here was to use the minimal amount of equipment - stuff that most any photographer, new or experienced, should probably own. The only thing out of the ordinary was my Nikon 85mm f2.8 PC (Perspective Control) lens. It's made primarily for commercial tabletop photography and architectural work, but also gives a killer look for portraits! Ben got a little drool on my lens - nothing a little lens cloth couldn't get out though. Ooh, by the way, I think Ben's having a baby this morning! Congratulations Ben & Lauren!


OK, back to business. The equipment we used was: 


• Nikon SB900 & SB800 flash units


Photographers don't often realize how much than can actually do with their camera makers portable flash units (Nikon SB900). They are relatively powerful and you always have them with you. The main thing you need, however, is a simple way to trigger them wirelessly. There are many wireless systems on the market. I use the Tamrac Micro Sync mainly for my studio flash units, but to trigger your on-camera type flash units, it's easier to have something with a hotshoe mount. I just got these new gadgets from Scott Robert at a recent workshop we both taught at. They are very affordable and super easy to use! The kit comes with a transmitter for the camera and 3 separate coded receivers - so you could control 3 flash units. I'd like to see a couple improvements in the system - like the battery doors that keep sliding open (easily fixed with gaffers tape :-) and they seem to go in to "sleep" mode in between setups so you have to manually trigger them once via the button on the receiver or your first shot will be sans light. Not that big a deal once you get used to it. It's also not TTL compatible, but that's not what it's intended for. Overall, it's one of the best deals around for a wireless trigger system. 


The light frames are one of my most treasured and used photographic accessories. I can create beautiful window-like light or soft, yet dramatic, light like you see in this image. I use them for babies, kids, families, groups, small products, even cars (by grouping several together). I've used these for nearly 20 years as a pro photographer and it's, to me, one of the most indispensable tools we can have. I have these older PVC frames that are no longer made, but the newer aluminum style frames are a bit heavier and much more stable in the wind! (which is one of my main complaints with the light PVC models). This kit here has the essential diffusion fabric as well as reflection white and some snappier gold and silver. I'd probably add in a second frame so that you can use the diffusion and reflector together as we did here. This is one of the most versatile lighting tools you can have. Really.


I love my Sticky Filters, and here we applied the warm tungsten filter to the back light to, well, warm it up! These are primarily used to balance your flash to any existing light temperature - for example, if you want to use fill-flash while shooting indoors under tungsten light. However, they are great to just add color accents to your scene.


So, here's the shot and the setup. I tweaked the PC lens to throw her feet out of focus. By the way, if spending $1800 on a PC lens is not in your budget, you can get a similar - even more unique look - from a Lensbaby. I use this much more often than the PC lens and it's only $270. We do offer them on our Kubota Image Tools store if you want more info.


The exposure was F2.8 at 1/125 and ISO 200. The single Nikon SB900 was fired through the diffusion. Note that we kept it relatively close, about 3-4 ft., to create more dramatic light and falloff to the floor. If we were to pull the flash further back, lighting more of the back of the scrim, then we'd have softer, more even light from head to toe. Make sure to check the zoom of the flash as that will affect how much of the scrim it covers. We set it here to about 75mm. If it's too wide, you'll cover more of the scrim (giving you softer light) but it may also spill on to the background - so you'd need to flag it off a bit.


We added a groovy chair, a lovely model, and fired away!


I'll post more of the other images and information on the project after my presentation at Skip's Summer School next week, where I'm including all of the images as part of my talk on "The Power of the Project".