Dynamic Lighting for Group Portraits

Cl Final 1


Anyone who works with a camera will tell you that setting up and capturing an image is a form of communication. A single picture or still frame, when done correctly, has the ability to tell a story. As a result, lighting becomes a crucial aspect of this storytelling. It sets the tone of an image and in advertising; the story or tone of an image is everything.

Recently I had the privilege of helping out a friend who owns a games facility used for team building exercises. They were looking for some promotional images that really communicated the energy of the space and showed the wide range of the activities they had to offer in a way that caught the eye and captured the imagination. I needed a light modifier that was able to help me better tell a story and that would contribute to executing the wide range of moods that I wanted to convey.

The OctoDome White: Large (7’) from Photoflex was the perfect modifier to achieve the different atmospheres and moods I wanted for this shoot. With an 8-sided shape and narrow profile, the OctoDome White is one such technology as it’s designed to be the perfect key light and bathes facial features in bright, soft light. The internal baffle eliminates hot spots and it’s designed to give big box light spread in a space-saving soft box. It’s particularly effective when being used with the HalfDome and LitePanel, which were the other pieces of modifying equipment I brought with me for the shoot.

It’s easy for a single person to assemble and set up. Photoflex soft boxes are dependable and versatile for creating the perfect image under different circumstances and in different environments to relay the exact mood and tone that I want. The OctoDome White excels at helping me communicate exactly what I want to say through my lens.

The first of the three set-ups was a white backdrop that I often use for corporate or web-based photos. I placed the OctoDome White as a frontal key light to create a beautiful, even spread of light that was crucial to a clean bright background. In addition to the OctoDome White, I used two Photoflex 45″ Adjustable Umbrellas to even out the white tone of the background.

To capture the nature of the activities, I put the models in colorful wardrobe that popped cleanly against the white background and helped show the energy and movement associated with the sports. The 39×72″ LitePanel was used in conjunction with the OctoDome White to fill in the shadows and even out the image.

The second set-up set a much moodier and mysterious tone reminiscent of something out of a gritty action film. We changed the OctoDome White from a frontal key light to a top light with the addition of a grid to create more intensity in the shadows. The black background, in combination with colored gel added to the HalfDome: Medium soft boxes at the sides of the back light and the added haze, contributed to the more ‘dangerous’ vibe that would peak the viewers’ interest. I originally added a grid to the HalfDomes as well, however I found that the haze didn’t catch enough light due to a limited spread so I removed them.

Sometimes it pays to step back and keep in mind the KISS method; Keep It Simple Stupid! The simpler set-up in this instance proved to be what we needed to give off that post-apocalyptical vibe I was searching for. Models dressed in edgy black leather and with serious emotional expressions (I had told them to think of the hit book/movie series “The Hunger Games” while composing their facial expressions for this shot) completed the look, reflecting the blue edge light and popping their faces in the final image for a crisper look.

The final set-up, thanks to the good background and location, was the simplest to achieve. The beauty dish helped better define the background bricks and really accentuated the features of the models, and the OctoDome White helped fill in the shadows and lessen the contrast.

Using a bare bulb backlight cut out the models from the background, adding depth to the image and making each model stand out. The back light is the brightest part of the photo, and combined with the added shadow on the floor creating a natural vignette, the viewer’s eye is very effectively drawn to the middle of the shot, where the PVP logo is front-and center, surrounded by all the available activities at the facility – crucial to any high quality promo image.

It was a fun, clean, even wholesome look that conveyed “fun” and “teamwork”. In the end, both the client and I were thrilled with the images, none of which would have been fully realized without the help of the OctoDome White, or any of the other Photoflex products that I used. The high standards they set for their products was totally evident, and their ease of use and the stunning final images have cemented their permanent place in my arsenal. I know that my upcoming projects, like this one will be all the more spectacular with Photoflex at my back.

Written and photographed by Clifton Li.

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