I love lighting, for me it is the most exciting part of any shoot! To this end I almost always shoot tethered, even outdoors on location. Tethered shooting allows me to create stronger images faster. Seeing my lighting immediately on a high-end laptop screen, greatly speeds up the process and allows me to fine tune my lighting to a much higher degree. And no exception to this, is this image of mine of Californian model Kara Duenas striking a pose on a Hawaiian lava beach. This image was an attempt to capture the vibe of a smoky sensuous B&W 1960’s beach image of actress Brigit Bardot that had caught my eye and imagination as a wee lad.
The lighting for this image is a combination of available and artificial light. Since there was so much great scenery to choose from, I could shoot in just about any direction. I live and die by back-lighting and so I chose a background that would require Kara to stand with her back to the sun. This back-lighting adds so much depth and beauty to the image plus it means that I don’t have to create the backlight with a strobe.
Once camera position and background were decided upon, an incident meter reading was made for the open-sky lighting that would fall on Kara’s front. I generally set this to underexpose the subject by 2 – 3 stops turning it into a fill light rather than a main-light. It read F 9.0 at a 1/40th of a second at 100 ISO, and so set my camera exposure to F 9.0 at 1/160th of a second 100 ISO — effectively underexposing this frontal existing lighting by 2 stops. The sun, which struck the camera-right backside of Kara, was veiled by clouds and so was greatly diminished. An incident meter reading of this back-lighting read F 9.0 1/160th of a second at 100 ISO making it the same as the camera setting but as you can see it looks brighter than a correct exposure because the light is coming from behind, that is, beyond 90˚ from the camera and so appears brighter than the incident meter suggests. If I had captured an image at this point, Kara’s front would appear in shadow, in other words under-exposed. At this point everything is in place except for the main-light. To that end a battery powered studio strobe fitted with a 22”/56 cm beauty dish was placed a little in front and to the camera-right side of Kara. I chose this smaller sized light source to mimic the hard-light quality of the cloud-haze sun. The reason why I placed this source on the same side as the sun was to wrap artificial “sunlight” onto Kara’s front, that is to fool the viewer’s eye into thinking that the sun actually wraps around subject’s side by enough to light their front. The power on this light was set to give a correct exposure on Kara. This artificial sunlight wrap is a great cheat I use all the time, it allows me to have great backlighting on everything and have dramatic sidelight on subject. And it all appears to come from one source, the Sun!
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About David Montizambert
Dave Montizambert lectures internationally on lighting, digital photography, and Adobe Photoshop. He is also a published author, columnist, beta tester, and creator of training DVDs on Photoshop & photographic lighting for www.PhotoshopCafe and www.Software-Cinema in Los Angeles. Dave also authors “Dave On Demand” a photo blog with free & subscription based lighting video tutorials and articles. He has written two books on lighting and digital photography plus is a regular columnist for Professional Imagemaker in the UK, Studio Mag in Belgium, and has written numerous magazine articles in North America, Europe, Russia and Asia. Aside from education, Dave works as a commercial advertising photographer creating images for McDonalds Foods, Motorola, Toyo Tires, Tri-Star Pictures, Warner Brothers, Chevron, Cuervo Tequila, J&B Scotch, Hong Kong Bank, Tsing Tao Brewery of China, and No Fear Sports Gear, through his business Montizambert Photography Inc.