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    Start simple. Go big. This is the lighting mantra I repeat every time I go to a shoot. Sometimes one large light is all that is needed to bring a portrait to life, and other times it takes numerous lights. I use the concept, subject and location to help determine how I light a shot. What is going to make this image jump off the screen?  What light best suits my subject? What style of lighting best matches the concept?

    © Tom Bol / KelbyOne

    Start simple. This was a shoot I did for Light It magazine at KelbyOne. I found a vintage Chrysler at a mechanic shop, and it reminded of the ‘good old days’ from the 1950s. I decided that it would be a great shot with an attractive model sitting on the front bumper.

    To light the shot, I brought 5 Elinchrom Ranger RX AS packs with Ranger A heads. The Rangers are my staple lighting unit. These packs are solid, reliable units, and with 1100 watts power, they have more than enough juice to keep firing for hours. Even better, I control the output of these lights using an Elinchrom Skyport attached to my camera. Wireless control and firing really makes an efficient photoshoot.

    To light my model, I started with an Elinchrom Rotalux Octa 39" (100 cm) as my main light. This light was positioned in front and slightly above her. I like the circular catchlights and beautiful quality of this softbox, and it is often my main light. 

    Next up was creating dimension and depth in the shot.  If I stopped with one light and blended the ambient light with the softbox, the shot would have looked nice, but the interesting background would have faded away.

    "Start simple,

    but don’t be afraid to go big!"

    © Tom Bol / KelbyOne

     When I create environmental portraits, I want to tell the story with the singular image. The background is the storyboard for the subject. To bring the background to life and create some separation, I added an accent light to my model’s right side.  This was an A head with a 30 degree grid to control the light.

    This flash added nice accents to the model’s blonde hair. I added another accent light using a 20 degree grid to the model’s left side. This light was aimed to add accent light to the car and model’s left side. At this point I was using three lights; start simple... But go big!

    Reviewing the images, I noticed a dark shadow under the car. I really wanted to make the car stand out, and the tires just blended into a dark void under the car. To solve this problem, I placed forth Freelite A head under the car near the back left side. This light was aimed towards the front to fill in the dark void and add more dimension to the image. Things were looking good, except I was missing one important thing; the Pepsi machine.

    A soda vending machine was important to the vintage concept I was going for, so I needed to make sure it stood out. The Pepsi sign was barely visible and the surrounding brick wall was very dark. To add some mood and drama, I used a fifth Freelite A head with standard reflector and aimed it to splash across the background. I put a blue gel over the light to add some mood to the final image. I set the light at low power to the background would be muted in the final shot.

    Start simple... But don’t be afraid to go big. In this case I started with a beautiful soft light on my model. But to create a stunning environmental portrait and tell the story, I needed to light my background and add accent lights to my model. For this vintage car and model I needed to go big, but the final image was worth it.

    Tom's To Go Set

    • Ranger RX Speed AS - A Head Set

      Ranger RX Speed AS - A Head SetN° 10276.1

      This is a great set for outdoor use where super short flash duration are necessary.

    • Rotalux® Softbox Octa 135 cm

      Rotalux® Softbox Octa 135 cmN° 26184

      Very popular among beauty and fashion photographers, as they prefer the round catchlight given by this softbox.

      You can make yourself a great folding beauty dish just by removing the front and inner diffusers and adding one of the optional deflectors. 

    • 20° Grid 21 cm

      20° Grid 21 cmN° 26053

      This grid strongly limits the light spread and offers sharper shadows. 

      Fits only the Standard Reflector 21 cm.
      Excessive heat can damage units and accessories.
      Reduce modelling lamp power when reflectors are used with grids or snoots.
      Grids should never be used with 650W modelling lamps.

    • 30° Grid 21 cm

      30° Grid 21 cmN° 26052

      This grid greatly limits the light spread and offers sharper shadows. 

      Fits only the Standard Reflector 21 cm.
      Excessive heat can damage units and accessories.
      Reduce modelling lamp power when reflectors are used with grids or snoots.
      Grids should never be used with 650W modelling lamps.

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