We were comparing different lighting techniques in the studio to understand various effects that can be created and to improve our knowledge of the equipment. At first we used tubes as the subjects for our experiments. I photographed them from different perspectives to be able to compare shadows, highlights and light spread created with a snoot versus a softbox.

  • Below are several examples of using a snoot with the following settings: ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/125 sec.

You can see the light is direct and doesn’t reach the wall behind creating a dark low-key background. Meanwhile the shadows are very harsh.

  • And here are some examples of using a softbox (ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/250 sec):

In this case the light is much softer, it spreads around the subjects, reaches the background and the shadows are lighter and softer then in previous images.

To see how studio flashes work for portrait photography, we tested them on our classmates. Here are results:

  • Honeycomb  (ISO 100, f/8, 1/125 sec):

Light is quite direct and creates harsh shadows, for the 3/4 view portrait it didn’t work because of an uncomplimentary undernose shadow. But it works well for profile creating dramatic look. Cold tone is another effect of this lighting method.

  • Beauty dish (ISO 100, f/8, 1/125 sec):

A beauty dish gives soft light that nicely spreads around the model and at the same time creates beautiful shadows under cheekbones making face look slimmer.

  • Snoot (ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/125 sec):

Works similar to a honeycomb, but has even more direct, harsh and cold light. Environment around the model stays almost unlit and on the first photograph that creates the effect of model’s merging with the background.

  • We tested a softbox in two ways – without and with a reflector (ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/125 sec):

Softbox gives the most soft light and shadows and spreads widely. It looks natural but the image looks flat. On the first image the softbox is located on the side of the model creating a shadow on the other side of her face. For the second image we placed the reflector (white board in this case) opposite to the shadow. Light travels from the flash to the reflector, reflects and fills in the shadows making gorgeous difference between two results.

After testing single lights we moved to testing a couple of flashes working together. The main aim was to see the difference between lighting ratios. We used two softboxes for this purpose – one big (as the main light source) and one small (to fill in shadows).

Lighting ratio shows the full-stop f-number difference between two lights (which are metered separately) and is controlled by changing flashes’ power.

  • 1:1 or equal ratio means that f-number readings on a light meter were the same for the both flashes. Model’s face is equaдly lit from the both sides. ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/125 sec.
  • 1:2 ratio means that there was 1 full-stop difference between the flashes’ f-numbers (f/13 for the main light and f/9 for the fill). You can see the slight shadows on one side of the model. ISO 100, f/13, 1/125 sec.
  • 1:3 means 2 full-stop difference (main – f/13, fill – f/6.3). ISO 100, f/13, 1/125 sec.
  • 1:4 means 3 full-stop difference (main – f/16, fill – f/5.6). ISO 100, f/16, 1/125 sec.

The shadows become darker as the difference between the lights increases. Shadows on the wall behind the model start appearing.

Then we moved to comparing backlights for background. As the main and the fill-light we used two softboxes.

  • High-key background


High-key background is the lightest of backgrounds. It’s brightly lit by two softboxes. LIght meter reading for the front flashes was 11 and for the back lights it was 16.3 (11.5 and 11.6 from each light). ISO 200, f/11, 1/125 sec.

  • Mid-key background

Mid-key background is created using faint backlight or without backlight at all. On these photographs you can see how the background becomes darker with the increasing difference between the front- and back- lights. ISO 200, f – shown under each image, 1/125 sec.

  • Low-key background

It’s the darkest/black background. We couldn’t create it in the same lighting conditions because  softboxes were working as the front lights spreading light widely and reaching a wall. However low-key background could be achived by using snoot or honeycomb for more direct light and/or by increasing the distance between a model and the wall.


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