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Extreme feathering of two octas

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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Extreme feathering of two octas

For many years a classic clamshell has been my go-to setup for portraits (mainly corporate headshots). But I somtimes feel (depending on the client) that the look is not always the best choice even though it is flattering for most people. It can give the model defined thin facial shadows (especially around some noses) which I don't always like.

So I was trying out a new way to get the same soft light but with a slightly different "look". I've seen some use the "horizontal" clamshell but for that you need space between the modifiers, otherwise the catchlight will make the model look like a lizard. So what I did was to reverse the horizontal setup with an extreme feathered version. I am basically aiming two 100cm octas in a180 degree opposite direction. They are more or less facing me and the camera. I've tried it with one single 135cm Octa as well and it worked great. I also have a huge 200cm Octa which I think would work even better for this.

I like the initial results, although a bit flat/non-slimming since the falloff is not really present. But the light is very soft and "windowlike" and skin is rendered nicely. With some postprocessing to compensate for the non-existent fall-off it gives the portrait a nice natural look and not the "glowing" effect from clamshell.

I haven't tried this much though (just some experimenting on my own) but just wanted to check what you guys think and if anyone has any experience with this. Obviously the angle of the octa is important or you'll end up with a severe flare depending on the lens. But I was surprised how well it worked.

Also, since the surface of the octabox is not present, I need to fake some catchlights. And also need to consider spill if the room is small/white walls. But other than this...am I missing something? Is this a common setup? I haven't seen anyone use it so I just wonder if this is a case where you discover potential mistakes afterwards. Like going blind after an 8 hour session :-). Or that the client/model might think "they look fat" due to the lighting. I only used it on myself so not sure.

Apr 20, 2022 at 08:50 AM
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Extreme feathering of two octas

Would be good to see a photo of the set up or some of your results to be sure Iím following along. Iím sure there are a ton of videos available about soft lighting, feathering, etc. but I found this one quite informative for his thoughts about feathering. Just ignore that heís an Elinchrom ambassador if you have other lighting equipment preferences.

From what youíve described, it sounds like extreme feathering. Almost to the point that thereís no direct light from the face of the modifier falling on the subject. So then where is the light coming from? Reflecting off the environment around you and lighting the subject? IMO, if seated where the subject will be, I want to see some of the modifierís face. For corporate type headshots I want to have good light on their eyes without shadows from the side, like that cast by the nose due to cross lighting. Sure, it depends on the personís face too, and I agree, certain types of lighting flatter some more than others. Iíve generally avoided clamshell lighting from each side for this kind of work, preferring instead a single key light and a reflector for fill. I prefer to see some uniform directionality in the light, rather than it looking like light coming from a couple directions. For softness, I play with distance between the subject and the key lightís modifier and the amount of feather. My usual go-to is a 39Ē octa.

Most recently for Ďmassí portrait sessions where Iíve got maybe 5 minutes with each person, Iíve set up two key lights. One in the form of the 39Ē octa in a classic butterfly lighting position directly on axis with the camera and slightly from above on a boom, with a frosted silver reflector below for fill. Kind of like the horizontal clamshell you mentioned. This is flattering light for many women. The other key light is a ~60Ē octa to the side with the face turned roughly 90˚ from the subject to feather across their face. When I use this key light I turn off and rotate the boomed octa away so it doesnít indirectly affect the image. When I use the 39Ē octa, I turn off the 60Ē, but donít rotate it away. The size of the larger modifier as key light with this feathering means that light wraps a fair amount around the far side for a soft falloff. I just keep the silver reflector below for simplicity, but it could be moved to the opposite side if more fill is desired. This way Iím able to quickly pick which of the two looks I think will be most suitable for the person currently sitting in front of me. Of course if thereís a lot more time then Iíll move things around to optimize for the personís features. But when moving people through every 5 minutes I want to avoid moving lights to keep everything consistent and post production as hassle free as possible.

Apr 20, 2022 at 09:04 PM

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