Jay P Morgan: Using a Motivated Key Light

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A few months ago, Jay P Morgan did a fantasy portrait with a woman holding an umbrella in the wind. While he was on this set, he took some time to shoot elements for another image. Check out how he brings a new fantasy image to life below.

A few months ago, Jay P Morgan did a fantasy portrait with a woman holding an umbrella in the wind. While he was on this set, he took some time to shoot another image using the same set elements. Check out how he brings a new fantasy image to life.

To get started, Jay P had the branch, the grass and the backdrop ready to go. He wanted to add a woman with a lantern as the main subject. Jay P’s wife Julene says that Jay P shoots with lanterns too much but he loves the look, and holding a lantern is a great key light source.

What is a motivated key light? This typically refers to a visible light source in the shot and it creates a reason for all the light that will happen in the image. Street lights, lanterns, lamps, flashlights and windows create motivated lights sources and give the viewer a clear view of where the light should come from and how it should look in the image. Jay P knew during shooting that he would later add a background of some sort. The perfect background presented its self when Julene and he traveled to Maine. They became fascinated with lighthouses and photographed several of them as they traveled up the coast.

Let's take a look at how Jay P shot the primary image and then how he did the background. Using a Canon 5D Mark III with a Tamron 24-70mm lens, Jay P shot at 1/50 of a second at f5.6 with an ISO of 320. The color balance was set at tungsten because he was using an orange gel in the lantern. The first light was the motivated key. Jay P put a Dynalite Pencil Light in the lantern and ran the cord to the floor, which needed to be removed in post. The lantern was wrapped with diffusion and full Rosco CTO, or orange gel. He stacked several layers of diffusion on the front of the Pencil Light and only one layer on the back in order for the lantern to light the subject’s face but not look too blown out on the side facing the camera.

The second light was a deep beauty dish with a Dynalite Studio Head. This was placed toward the camera to get around the lantern and light her face. It imitates the motivated key light and opens up the subject's face. He then added three Photoflex FlexFlash strobe heads on the floor pointed up at the backdrop. All of the FlexFlash heads were used with diffusion but no CTO so the background will cast blue.

The final light was a Dynalite Road Head as a rim light from camera left that rim-lit the subject’s body and helped to separate her from the background. This light does not have a full Rosco CTO as the intention was for the blue to show up as smoke was added. Jay P also used a Photoflex LightPanel reflector on the camera left side to reflect some light back into the face and open up the shadows. Jay P used a wind machine from camera right to blow the subject’s dress and create the motion in her hair. Julene lifted up both the scarf and dress and dropped it just as Jay P took the shots, allowing them to catch the wind.

Here is the lighting breakdown and the final image before any retouching was done. The fog in the background picked up the blue from the rim and background lights.

The last piece of the puzzle is a good background image. As mentioned before, Julene and Jay P found some great lighthouses on their last trip to Maine that fit perfectly with this image. In one location Jay P had the camera set up on a tripod and left Julene to shoot some images from a different angle. Jay P looked back just as Julene was engulfed by a wave up to her arm pits and holding the camera over her head, trying to not get pulled out to sea. He grabbed the camera from her and pulled her up to higher ground. She saved the camera! True to form for Julene, as she was standing there drenched up to her shoulders, she said, “I think I’ll change. I got a little wet.” No drama, no fuss. Here is the final lighthouse shot.

Julene did a great job compositing the lighthouse into the background of the main shot. She used two images, one for the water and one for the lighthouse. When she was done, Jay P took the image into Nik software and using the Bleach Bypass filter, took out some of the color and made it feel a little more subtle. Here is the final image.

Jay P Morgan loves this type of fantasy portraiture. It’s great fun to produce and put together. Using motivated lighting helped to create this successful image and adding a background allows for more depth. Jay P says to “Get out there and see what you can do with motivated key lights!” Whether they are lanterns, windows or street lamps, the sky is the limit.

Equipment List:

Photoflex FlexFlash400W

Photoflex LitePanel

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