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  • Behind the Scenes: Gods and Monsters

  • by Aaron Nace
    January 17, 2013
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Tutorial Description

The goal for this photo shoot was to create two completely different looks using the same model in a short amount of time. In this behind the scenes video you will learn how to set up lighting for a full length portrait as well as a headshot. We focus on creating drama for both shots, and to do so we use backlighting. Backlighting your subject helps to define their shape, but still leaves a lot of detail in shadow.

Jumping Shot

When setting up lighting for a full body shot as compared to a headshot it is generally a good idea to use larger lighting modifiers such as softboxes, large umbrellas, v-flats etc. This is because you have a larger area that needs to be evenly lit. If you use small lighting modifiers to light a full Body you will get a sharper falloff and part of your subject will probably not be lit.

We use parabolic reflectors often when lighting a full Body because they are a very large light source but they are directional at the same time. This means you can light an entire person, and still control exactly where the light goes.

For this image we use a parabolic reflector above the subject to imitate lighting from the sky. To add a bit of definition to the subject, we also added a parabolic reflector camera left. This made sure their face wasn’t in darkness. To add a bit of pop to his face, we also used a regular reflector camera left aimed at his face.

The right side of the subject was coming out a bit dark, so we added a 24″ x 36″ soft box to brighten the shadows up a bit.

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gods and monsters lighting diagram full body


Setting up lighting for a headshot sounds like it may be easier than for full body because you have less of an area to light, but in truth many times it is more difficult. The reason is that each light plays a more important role. One light in the wrong place or set to the wrong intensity can take a great portrait and turn it sour.

It is also important to think about intention when lighting a portrait. Do you want to create a bright and fun portrait or are you looking for something a bit more moody. You have the ability to portrat emotion through your lighting. If you are looking to go for more of a serious somber shot, try placing your lighting behind your subject. That will place them in shadow and add a bit of mystery to the shot.

Even if you don’t use off camera lighting, you can still achieve this type of image. Having someone sit on a chair with their back facing a window at sunset will backlight your subject naturally. You could even use a reflector to fill in shadows.

To create a bit of drama in this portrait we use a 24″ x 36″ softbox camera right and behind the subject as well as a gridded beauty dish camera right. The softbox lights most of the model from behind, while the beauty dish controls where the light will fall off. This allows us to create a sharp line between shadow and highlight and choose where we want it to fall. To add a bit of definition to the top of our subject, we add an light into a 7″ reflector gridded 40 degrees and aimed directly at our subject.

gods and monsters headshot phlearn

gods and monsters lighting diagram headshot

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