SWPP Live Shoot: Pictures and Lighting BTS

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: January 28, 2016

Category: Photography

Okay, so following on from posting a few of the sample pictures yesterday across social media, today, having had a few question I thought I’d post a quick Behind The Scenes to show you how some of the pictures were made.

What I’m also going to do at some point is record a video, which is actually the whole of the presentation I did a number of times last weekend at the SWPP. There are a couple of techniques in there, photography techniques for shooting in a very confined space and getting really cool results, as well as actually little tips and tricks. This will be recorded in two parts, and will be available for those of you who are subscribers to my monthly newsletter.

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Now, let’s take a look at some of the pictures…

The technique for the first two is actually my Invisible Black Background. If you’re not familiar with that, at the bottom of this post I’ll include a little link that’ll take you through to one of the videos that shows exactly how you can do it.


This is a picture of our model Scarlet. Nice and simple, taken using one light, using my favourite of all the modifiers, the Elinchrom 135cm Octa.

Now you can see from the photograph below and from the lighting diagram that for this picture I used cross lighting. Again I’ve mentioned this in an earlier video [LINK] where I show you exactly how to easily position your lights to get this kind of look. You’ll see that the modifier is positioned side on and to the front of Scarlet, just far enough to allow a little of the light to hit the cheek on the opposite side of her face.


Incidentally, in the black area surrounding the model, that’s shooting from the stage out towards the actual expo stand, so in that black area there, although you can’t see it, are other stands from other exhibitors, as well as attendees who were standing around.

The head I was using in all of these demos was the ELC 1000 from Elinchrom, although the same effect can be achieved using less powerful lights like the ELC 500 down to the D-Lite RX One and even a speedlight; it all depends whether your going to be indoors or outdoors doing this because if it’s very bright, then you would need a much more powerful light such as the ELC 1000…but then that thing could probably overpower the sun in Las Vegas 🙂


Now as for this second picture of Scarlet where we can see a much more limited light / a rim light going down the front of her face, that again was done using quite a large softbox. I can’t remember the exact size (maybe 100cm square), but we actually had the egg crate type of grid in it so that the light coming from it was very directional and focused. Of course this can be done without having a grid, but because we were shooting in a very confined space, the grid was a big help with actually making the light much more controllable so that it wasn’t bursting all over the place and bouncing of exhibition stands near us and so shining light, or probably giving light back into our pictures.


Talking about that, it’s one of the most common questions I do get from people who try the Invisible Black Background technique. Many times I get people saying that they’re trying to do this technique indoors but they just cannot seem, even though they get the initial camera settings to get a black background, the minute they introduce the lights the whole picture brightens up, as well as their subject.

Guaranteed 100% this is purely down to modifier choice. What we can’t have is a modifier in a confined space that allows light to burst all over the room. If it isn’t focused, that light’s going to hit walls and objects and that light will then reflect back into the picture, which is why in this case using the grid worked perfectly. Sometimes when you’re in a really tight space you may even end up using a snoot, but if you’re using an umbrella all you need to do is use one with a removable black cover so , obviously you have the black cover, removable cover over it, and you actually close down the umbrella so that you can actually make the light much more directional as it goes into the umbrella and then back out.


For this third lighting setup, and what I really like about it is that the footprint of your workspace is really small. Obviously with low key / Invisible Black Background ones above, all we have is ourselves holding our camera, our model and just one light, but in this high key background here, we don’t have to concern ourselves with having either pop up wide backgrounds or rolls of paper, which would also mean background supports and then lights to light the background and lights to light our subject; that’s a lot of kit to take around. It’s also quite a lot of kit to fit in what could potentially be a very confined space.

For me, what I like to do is us a light behind the subjects, and again, in this case I used my preferred modifier, the 135cm Octa.

I got a few questions during the SWPP presentations about getting lens flare from the light as I’m shooting directly into it. To be honest with you, this is something I’ve never experienced. Well, I tell a lie, just the once when I used a non-branded lens, a very cheap lens, I won’t name it, but I did get some flare then. Another time you could get some flare is when you have way too much light coming from that modifier to make the white background.


I generally always meter the white / light background, so for example, if I’m going to photograph my model say at  f/8.0, I actually meter the light coming from the softbox to give me the perfect exposure, and then I’ll boost the light by maybe one half to maximum of two stops to give me a nice, crisp white background; I tend to find that works great.

If I go further than two stops, that’s when things tend to go nuclear, and if you’ve got a model that’s got hair, unlike myself, then that’s when you’re starting to get it where the hair goes all crispy looking because it’s just too much light around the edges of it. Just meter for say f/8.0, and then just put the lights maybe one half to two stops a little bit brighter, and that will give you the perfect white background.

Now finally for the front/main light on the subject’s face, I actually used what is in effect a kit softbox; the Portalite softbox from Elinchrom.

I tend to use a smaller softbox high up on a light stand aiming down, probably just a little bit over forty-five degrees, so it’s aiming down towards that subject. Then to bounce a little bit of light back up into the faces, out of camera view just below the camera I then have the model hold my California SunBounce Mini with the silver reflective cover on it, and that is pretty much it. Not much else to that. Obviously then there’s the retouching side of things, but like I said at the start of this post, I’ll go into a lot more detail when we come to record the videos for those of you who are on the newsletter.

Now as always if you got any questions I’d love to see them, so be sure to make use of the comments section below so I can answer them, then everybody will see the answers and get the benefit of it. Make sure you put your email address in to subscribe to the newsletter. I don’t spam you, it’s purely to send you out one, if you’re lucky, newsletter a month. Last year I was a little bit lax and we didn’t tend to get them out as often as I would’ve liked, but it will always be no more than one a month unless something major comes in that I really do want to let you know about.

Do that, you’ll get the videos, and I’ll see you next time.

Cheers, Glyn

>Check out this LINK for my Invisible Black Background technique

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  1. Mark Cole

    Glyn, love your work/style! Just to piggyback on your mention of retouching, I would love to see a BTS look at your retouching workflow on the high-key image from this post. I assume it has been retouched but still looks 100% natural. This is the style of retouching I find myself needing to do most often. Not the beauty/fashion retouching that so many other photographers/teachers cover. Cheers! Thanks for the constant challenge/source of inspiration.

  2. mahirali

    Hi Glyn,

    Would you please do the photography tutorial for white background with the details of distance and remedies for light spills on subject plus the retouch.



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