Better Indoor Lighting: Handy little bits

My friend Jess

After Christmas, I spent a bunch of time getting used to my new setup and building a lot of little bits to get my lighting where I want it to be. I also took a step back and decided I didn't like where my whiteground photos were going at that point; I wanted to do something else.

First, I ordered a second light stand that happened to be on special, this one's a boom stand. After playing with the light stands at the B&H store, I decided that the air-cushioned and boom stands are much better put together than the normal stands. I also decided that eventually I'd be doing hair light, so I might as well get a good stand for it. Plus, it also works as a reflector holder.

I'm still fighting with getting fully reliable synch out of my RB67. I'm wondering if I need to take the lens in and get the synch plug replaced or if it's just the usual troubles with PC-synch connectors.

I started making cardboard light modifiers. I made two modifiers, one a grid, the other a snoot. I think I miscalculated the size of a grid, because I ended up with an unusably focused grid that I ended up cutting apart to make a much shorter grid. I'm still fighting with home brew grid designs. On the other hand, the snoot is incredibly useful.

I started sacrificing gel books to be cut apart and taped to the flash. I found that the easiest way to work was to use binder clips after cutting the gel book apart. I broke them into very small sets so that I could just grab the CTO/CTS set or the CTB set of gels.

This brings to mind an interesting linguistic point. I'd like to, if I could campaign for one change in lighting language, insist that we use the terms "warm" and "cool" as infrequently as possible when talking about light. Depending on what you are talking about, warm can mean higher color temperature (e.g. more blue) or warm colors (e.g. more orange). I find when I'm explaining technique, I use "CTO" and "CTB" instead, because there's enough in there for me to know that a filter is orange-ish (a "warming" filter to lower your color temperature) or blue-ish (a "cooling" filter to raise your color temperature) via the last letter and also remember that I'm not thinking about a blue color filter like "Congo Blue" that's very much blue.

Uncurled in blue

What I did discover is that the little bits are actually more important than lights themselves. Putting a snoot and a gel on a flash ended up being a big improvement, trying to do a "standard" four light setup with key, fill, back, and hair lights ended up a waste of time. I was in a shoot and I had carefully set up all of the lights.. and then I realized it wasn't going anywhere good, so I turned off the back light and key light and went off of the hair and fill lights entirely.

One piece of advice that David from Strobist drives home is that you shouldn't be afraid of hard light. It's like the "rule of thirds" where a helpful guide to better composition becomes a seemingly unbreakable law. Especially when you are working with a model who has been made up and therefore has neither pores nor facial blemishes, some effectively done hard light will do wonders and require less power out of your flashes.

I found that I really enjoyed the look of just one or two lights... a snooted gelled flash to highlight one part of the model, and a maybe a contrastingly gelled flash into an umbrella.


About this series:

This series is a time-lagged chronological journey through my off-camera lighting. I write about stuff that happens months after it really happens so I can get it organized and also to make sure that I don't writing a glowing review of something that turns out to be a piece of crap later on.

My goal with my off-camera setup is to be inexpensive (but not cheap) and portable and easy to deal with. It also has to work with my largely film-centric lifestyle.

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