Seasoned Beauty Lighting, Italian Style!

Funny Setup

My Approach

This may sound strange, but when I photograph a person or an object, I often feel like a chef preparing a special meal. As with salt and pepper, I regard my lighting modifiers as essential to creating the “seasoning” of my photographs. You just need to know where to use it and how much to apply.

I like to experiment off of established lighting setups, like Rembrandt lighting and Butterfly lighting, and then add my unique ingredients: creativity, technical expertise, and my vision of female beauty.

My intention for this quick session was to demonstrate the power of speedlites, and how they can be used with Photoflex light modifiers. Without seeing the lighting setup, most photographers would assume that studio strobes had been used for these shots. But in fact, the main light sources were from speedlites! In order to gain fast recycling times for these lights, I attached Photoflex TritonFlash Power Packs via TritonFlash Power Cables for Nikon Speedlights.


The Lighting Setup
For this shoot, I decided to build off the basic Butterfly lighting setup. For the main light, I had a Medium Photoflex LiteDome mounted to a Nikon SB-910, which was secured to a Photoflex Boom and Boom Stand. Both layers of removable diffusion were attached to the LiteDome

For the hair light, I had an Extra Small Photoflex OctoDome mounted to another Nikon SB-910 and secured to another boom. Having your light mounted to a boom provides increased flexibility with positioning without obstructing the camera frame.

I then set up two large large strip boxes on either side behind the model to serve as strip/rim lights. These both had 500-watt monolights attached.

Next, I mounted a 42” Photoflex MultiDisc to a LiteDisc Holder and positioned it below the model to bounce silver light into the shadow areas.

And finally, I set up another speedlite and placed a simple “tree shadow” mask in front of it to provide texture against the pink paper background.

This lighting setup gave me the look I was going for: incredibly even, bright and three-dimensional. For me, this is one of the most flattering ways to light and photograph a woman!


The Challenges
While the setup I’ve chosen is a popular one, it’s the power ratios that are critical for stunning results. Combining powerful studio strobes and relatively small speedlites requires precise exposure readings of every light source. So for me, a light meter is a “must have”. Also, analyzing images live on a calibrated monitor (or notebook) is critical in obtaining accurate results.

Another factor to be mindful of is “light spill”. When you want your lighting to be soft, you need to place the lights close to your subject. But light sources that are in close proximity to each other can “contaminate” desired shadow areas or flatten the overall lighting effect, either for the subject and background. However, the simplest solution to light spill is to attach soft Grids to your soft boxes. These will maintain the soft quality of light, but will also channel the light and keep it directional.

Remember that among other elements, great photographs contain a balance of light and shadow. Kind of like salt and pepper!

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Written and photographed by Roberto Insalata.

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