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How to achieve soft shaping light

  
 
boldcolors
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · How to achieve soft shaping light


Does anyone have any pointers how to set a light that is very soft yet directional and has a buttery smooth fall-off and equally so on BOTH sides of the model. I would like to avoid any clamshell setup since I believe it can make the models face flat/wider and does require the right facial structure and very careful contrast-ratio.

Any ideas? I'm going for a slimming yet soft light. I'm thinking maybe a big white umbrella above camera pointing down a bit and then flags on each side of the model - fairly close?




Apr 29, 2024 at 04:56 AM
rico
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · How to achieve soft shaping light


I use 2'x3' panels for most of my light shaping. That includes flags, scrims, reflectors, silks and diffusers:



For portrait applications like yours, I have a panel with medium diffusion and fire a strobe with Magnum dish behind. At 3' distance from the subject, the light is directional and moderately soft. My shooting space is white so the considerable light spray creates the ambient fill (no reflectors needed in the image below).



A low-power flash is adding sparkle to the necklace on the left side. Umbrellas can be tricky to select and position for a similar effect. In addition, the catchlight is often noticeable as a polygon with radial spokes—distracting and unnatural. My panel scheme resembles a window with a hazy sun shining through.



Apr 29, 2024 at 08:37 AM
boldcolors
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · How to achieve soft shaping light


rico wrote:
I use 2'x3' panels for most of my light shaping. That includes flags, scrims, reflectors, silks and diffusers:

https://makino.fi/rico/fm/panels.jpg

For portrait applications like yours, I have a panel with medium diffusion and fire a strobe with Magnum dish behind. At 3' distance from the subject, the light is directional and moderately soft. My shooting space is white so the considerable light spray creates the ambient fill (no reflectors needed in the image below).

https://makino.fi/rico/nikon/misc/j0011.jpg

A low-power flash is adding sparkle to the necklace on the left side. Umbrellas can be tricky to select and position for a similar effect. In addition, the catchlight is
...Show more

Thanks for that! And what an amazing portrait and light. It doesn't get closer to window light than that IMO. I have experimented with a diffusion panel and a large white umbrella to get window light but I think the light got too soft and spread everywhere so I will try this instead.

When you say Magnum Dish, what do you mean...is a big sized BD? Silver or white?

Thanks!



Apr 29, 2024 at 10:08 AM
sungphoto
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · How to achieve soft shaping light


If you want soft, something like a 4-5 ft octa or a large umbrella with diffusion positioned a few feet on either the left or right side of talent is quite soft. Feathering the modifier will dial in the quality of light. Then position a v-flat or reflector on the other side of the octa for fill, adding a fill light if that doesn't give you the ratio you want.

Flagging the sides of the subject with negative fill is important because it helps you retain contrast - I usually use a couple floppies on c stands as they travel better than v-flats. The challenge with big sources is they go everywhere, so pay attention to how your walls, ceiling and floor are potentially ruining the ambiance of the lighting. Sometimes adding a little highlight to the lighting, usually in the form of some sort of boomed light overhead also helps give the setup more visual interest.



Apr 29, 2024 at 10:58 AM
rico
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · How to achieve soft shaping light


boldcolors wrote:
When you say Magnum Dish, what do you mean...is a big sized BD? Silver or white?

No formal definition, so manufacturers have their own interpretations. Generally, it is a larger dish, not parabolic, and not a BD with its deflector. The Profoto version is 13" diameter and has a stippled surface, so more directed than white paint:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/141155-REG/Profoto_100624_Magnum_Reflector_for_Profoto.html

Any source with a directed throw can serve this lighting scheme.



Same lighting, same shoot, different mood.



Apr 29, 2024 at 01:45 PM
 


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boldcolors
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · How to achieve soft shaping light


sungphoto wrote:
If you want soft, something like a 4-5 ft octa or a large umbrella with diffusion positioned a few feet on either the left or right side of talent is quite soft. Feathering the modifier will dial in the quality of light. Then position a v-flat or reflector on the other side of the octa for fill, adding a fill light if that doesn't give you the ratio you want.

Flagging the sides of the subject with negative fill is important because it helps you retain contrast - I usually use a couple floppies on c stands as they travel better
...Show more

Thanks! Yes I think flags will do some of the trick. It feels sometimes that they don't do much of a difference when using large modifiers but I guess I need to put them really really close to the subject to stop some of that light spread reaching the models sides and thus making the face appear wider.

One thing I have experimented with is a 95-100 degree feathering of a regular octabox very close to the subject. Basically aim the edge of the softbox towards the face. The feathered light then behaves like a strip of light and when in the right position the very center of the face is hit with very soft light and thanks to the close position of the octa there is a quick smooth falloff evenly on both sides.

I just don't know if this is practical for business headshots for example. It's crucial to be in the right spot, otherwise the ratio will look off.





Apr 30, 2024 at 01:42 AM
sungphoto
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · How to achieve soft shaping light


boldcolors wrote:
Thanks! Yes I think flags will do some of the trick. It feels sometimes that they don't do much of a difference when using large modifiers but I guess I need to put them really really close to the subject to stop some of that light spread reaching the models sides and thus making the face appear wider.

One thing I have experimented with is a 95-100 degree feathering of a regular octabox very close to the subject. Basically aim the edge of the softbox towards the face. The feathered light then behaves like a strip of light and when in
...Show more

Totally, I need to place my flags pretty close because of the white walls and ceiling in my studio. I often use a 5 ft octa for headshots if space allows, as the sweet spot when it's feathered is pretty big pointed around 60-90 degrees from talent. Also lighting the background independent from key is important, especially if you're moving the key around a lot for different heights and complexions. I do a ton of corporate headshots



May 01, 2024 at 09:49 AM
rscheffler
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · How to achieve soft shaping light


boldcolors wrote:
very soft yet directional


Slimming effects via lighting are usually achieved with some degree of side lighting and/or having the subject's face turned to some degree away from the camera while lighting the 'short' side of the face. If double-chin is an issue, that's a matter of subject position, posing angle, lighting and/or retouching. Overhead on-axis light position (butterfly) would help with shading a double-chin but wouldn't slim round/wide face structure. I can see the appeal to butterfly for women but it will still depend on face shape.

I agree with feathering the light across the subject's face. I find this allows using a relatively large modifier closer to the subject while still getting some directionality. That said my preference for business headshots is the Elinchrom 100cm Deep Octa pretty close to the subject. I've also used the 150cm Rotalux indirect but found it on the large side for the environments in which I typically work (too much light scatter/bounce off walls, ceiling and/or ceilings too low for me to get the light raised to what I prefer). With the Deep Octa I generally just use a soft silver reflector for fill plus separate hair and background lights.

As you likely know:

Softness is generally dictated by size of light source relative to size of subject.
Directionality is usually a combination of modifier type and distance. For example, a modifier that scatters a lot of light becomes more directional the farther it is from the subject, but becomes relatively smaller looking to the subject and therefore not as soft. A large modifier that outputs collimated light can be directional at near distances while still offering a degree of softness and even falloff while scattering less light around a room that could reflect back and 'contaminate' the scene.

I kind of feel like what you're asking for requires a somewhat focusable modifier, such as one of the adjustable paras so that you can play with the range between perfectly focused/collimated and completely defocused. Or a 'box type modifier that allows for adjusting the diffusion amount via internal baffle(s) and external diffusion so that you can get a central hotspot from the light source to offset the overall soft/scattered light. I recall there used to be something like this available from Westcott that had a clear central portion of the front diffusion fabric. The Elinchrom Rotalux boxes give you a range of options from full to no diffusion and also use of an opaque or semi-opaque deflector over the flash tube to adjust how much of a central hotspot affects the overall light quality. Another option that Rico would probably use is to shoot a light with a small reflector through a diffusion panel, which based on distance to the panel would allow adjustment of central hotspot intensity and gradual light falloff across the panel that could be use to get a hard/soft look.



May 04, 2024 at 03:26 PM
jlafferty
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · How to achieve soft shaping light


TBH we’d have to see the kind of photo that’s your goal or inspiration to really comment. And I think your assumptions about how large the modifier needs to be are probably a little overstated - a 35-38” octa should do great, in close, maybe 4-5ft from the subject.

As for the directionality and even-ness, you’re looking at yes, centered over camera axis… or, equally good but different, feathered from one side, somewhere midway between Rembrandt and “broad” (that gets your directionality), with at least bounce full from the shadow side (that preserves shape but opens shadows, making the light feel more even).



May 05, 2024 at 08:50 AM
jlafferty
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · How to achieve soft shaping light


Two single light setups (well, the top set has the background lit) - Godox QR-P90 in each as the key:

https://imgur.com/a/DbNMdry



May 05, 2024 at 12:23 PM







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