Here are the shots from the shoot together with the back story, the lighting plots and the strategies I use for lighting sets…
A recent phone call from a client for a rush photoshoot led to a great opportunity to use
the lighting skills I learned many years ago at the BBC. All I knew was we had the Bristol Museum available for 2 hours and we needed a couple of wow shots for an event campaign.
I suggested a few models and together with designer Molly Mishy May, we worked out the plan. Vicki was to do Victoria’s hair at my studio ahead of the shoot to save time on set and while I rigged lights she was to work with Donatella. It was a great plan and it worked perfectly.
You have to start with the end in mind. As soon as I was on set with my clients I established the fact they wanted one shot with portrait orientation for a poster and leaflet campaign with space at the top and on the left for text and one landscape orientated shot for body copy. Both shots needed to show the museum as a classic building suitable to hold functions. The models were to be in dramatic poses as if playing roles in a performance rather than just looking pretty.
I needed the house lights in the museum turned off so my first job was to rig a Lupolux spotlight for Vicki Waghorn to work on Donatella’s hair and makeup. I then established the camera position and rigged my tripod. Working from a tripod enables me to see at a glance what is in shot and what is not. That enabled me to start setting lights in the right places from the start.
I chose to use the 23mm lens on my Fujifilm X-T1 because that focal length gives a wonderfully natural perspective. The relative size of objects in the frame is completely natural. The Fuji 23mm f/1.4 prime lens exhibits the same 3D rendering qualities as it’s f/2 little brother on the X100, x100s and X100t. I’d have been happy to take this shot using the X100t (if it wasn’t still on back order) because the new larger LCD on the back is equally suitable to the X-T1 at showing clients the development of the image in real time/ live view as positions of models or objects in frame are adjusted.
Using the wifi feature for this kind of job is wonderful too. The backlight on Victoria (in the foreground) was rigged on the second floor balcony and I could see exactly where it was going without the trial and error of point and guess. I used a Lupolux LED1000 Qdot for this job and rigged it on full power and in full spot mode. It was lighting Victoria from about 30m away and that’s the beauty of using lights with lenses. They have a decent throw. There was no power close to hand where I rigged the light so I used one of my Li-ion powered inverters to power the light. Inverters are great when either there is no power or the power installation is dubious. I always power my lights from inverters when I’m shooting in hospitals or buildings with very sensitive equipment too. [UPDATE – We now recommend using the new Lupo battery kit to power the DayLED spotlights]
When lighting big spaces I either:
a) Light the space in the building and let people go where they want in that space. Good examples of this strategy are reality tv programmes like Big Brother, shows like Grand Designs and the TV coverage in the Houses of Parliament.
or b) Light the walls and fabric of the building separately from the people within it. This technique is more often used for big budget TV dramas like 24, NCIS and Downton Abbey plus virtually every feature film since the 1940s.
I went for strategy b. I set the light s on the walls of the building in the background and then lit Victoria and Donatella separately.
By switching the lights off in the museum I gained the contrast and bite I needed in the shots to give the impression of a film set. The Scattergels give the effect of multiple light sources. It’s kind of cheating but when time is tight all efficiencies are greatly welcomed. We arrived at the museum at 5pm and were wrapped by 7pm. I work fast and without assistants.
If you are writing a book on lighting and would like wonderful illustrations drop Luke an email.
My next interior lighting workshop for portraiture is at the wonderful Manchester Hilton on Wednesday 6th May 2015.
Please feel free to comment below :)