Lighting Walk-Through:Keep it simple with minimal kit

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: February 1, 2010

Category: General

Sometimes I think one of the biggest challenges to us as Photographers is not what shot to take, but what kit to take with us. Clearly there are times when we need all manner of lighting equipment, stands, props and so on but it was Zack Arias‘ influence that turned me towards the ‘minimalist approach to produce maximum results’.

Although I have a number of lights that I can bring to a shoot, as a rule I like to work as much as possible with one light and that’ll generally be a Nikon SB800 or my Alien Bee 1600 (if I need that bit more..oommppff!!!). This approach over the last year has helped me to ‘Keep It Simple’ and as a result get much better results, and in a much shorter period of time. That being said, there are always going to be those times when one light just isn’t enough as you’ll see a little later in the following lighting walk-through:

‘Vince the Hat’: Lighting Walk-Through

First things first, set my camera to manual mode and expose for the sky. Then I set up a single SB800 without any modifiers, aimed directly at his ‘upper half’. The only problem with this was that the lower part of his body and the ground around his feet became quite dark as the light ‘fell off’. So, the solution…fire the SB800 into a 60″ Shoot Thru umbrella to create a larger light source; the result being that light then spread over a wider area ie his lower body and the ground around his feet.

The following two pictures show you the photograph as it was directly ‘out of camera’ and then the final image having had a few tweeks in Photoshop.

Now the second set-up which had us photographing ‘Vince the Hat’ in his shed was one of those times when one light just wasn’t enough to get the job done.

I’ve included these two images to show you first of all what kind of photograph the camera would give us in ‘Aperture Priority’ mode and in natural/ambient light…pretty lame huh? So, to get the kind of photograph I was after, it was back into ‘Manual Mode’ and set the exposure so that we get some detail in the sky.

The result of doing this as you can see from the second photograph was a great looking sky but Vince going into complete darkness, so then it was a simple case of using the same Nikon SB800 and 60″ Shoot Thru umbrella as before and aiming it in through the windows to create a large, natural looking light source.

This worked just fine but the only ‘challenge’ then was that the area under the shelf that Vince was leaning on was getting none of the light so the solution here was to bring in another Nikon SB800, hand held by my good friend Noel Hannan just outside of the doorway and aimed into the lower area of the shed.

These last two images show the photograph as it came out of the camera and then the resulting final image once I’d worked on it for a couple of minutes or so in Photoshop to remove some ‘give away’ shadows and tweeked the colour/tone.

Questions or comments about this post? Please let me know in the comments section below, but in the mean time,


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  1. Greg V

    Wow! Another excellent article Glyn. I’m curious how you normally go about setting the power for your light. I’m assuming you use manual control since you mention Mr. Onelight. Do you start at half power and go from there? Are you using pocket wizards for controlling the lights? Thanks! Greg

    • Glyn

      Thanks alot for that Greg. With regards to setting the power for the light I’ll generally have a rough idea, give or take a stop or so but that’s only come from having used them alot in all sorts of lighting situations ie inside, outside etc… 99% of the time they’ll be in Manual and yeah I fire them using Pocket Wizards. I will however make use of the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) from time to time as I did last weekend when photographing in the studio. Hope that helps, Glyn


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