Shaping Light

In my work, I love using colour. I’ve always said that I like to think of it as ‘colourful goth’! In this blog I’m going to go through four of my favourite images where I’ve looked to use coloured light in different ways and shapes for these characters.

For this shot, I had a flash, modified with a snoot and a warm yellow gel positioned on the left and slightly to the rear of the model. The sidelight was gelled with a navy blue, and these were the only two lights for this set. 

You can see the limited fallout from the snoot, where the light is limited to the upper left of the image, whereas the rest is wrapped in blue. The reason this lighting worked so well is that the gold leaf detail on the corset picked up some of the lovely bright yellow light (which was on a very high power), whereas the blue light was on much lower and provided some contrast.

The backdrop in this case was added in post production, hence no major colour variations. I did try matching the colour, but the contrast against the lighting actually worked really well for me as a finished image.

This shot utilized one of my most loved setups – a simple two light setup with one ‘main’ at 45 degrees from the model (in this instance the teal light), and then a second flash at the immediate right of the model (pink). This pink light had a stripbox modifier attached – useful because it means I get the full sidelight effect continuously all down the side of the model. When not using the stripbox, the light often doesn’t get channeled throughout the whole length of the subject, and also can spill out onto the backdrop. While this is great for some setups, it’s often not the one I’m going for!

This shot in particular works really well in my opinion with this lighting, because the white wig channels the nice bright pink all the way down the side of the image for the viewer’s eye. Normally, models intuitively face towards the largest light source – in this case it would have been the teal main light on the left, as this had a large octabox diffusing the light all over the place. The reason facing the minor sidelight however works so well in my opinion is that you get those gorgeous little highlights all down the side profile of the face. I’m a big fan of strong facial features, so highlighting them with a pop of colour really appeals to me!

This shot again was two lights – the blue on the right is the same as in the last shot – a stripbox with a blue gel, limiting the majority of the light to purely that strip on the right hand side. The fallout results in that nice blue for the backdrop of the shot (this was shot on a plain, dark backdrop).

The warmer light in this shot is a second flash, with a warm orange gel, and using a snoot as a modifier. This is how I got that more concentrated light on the centre of the face, where the light fades off very quickly towards the edge of the face. You can see the dramatic fall-off at the shoulder, where the ‘edge’ is.

This setup was a little more complex. I had three flashes here set up as follows:

1. Un-gelled light on very low power from above model at the front, with a small softbox

2. Red gelled light positioned underneath the model, firing from about 45 degrees upwards, no modifier

3. Teal / blue gelled light on high power positioned directly behind the model, aiming at her head without any modifier

Using a couple of lights without modifiers and simply a bare bulb helped me create this striking shot. I also make the most of the backlighting by shooting through smoke. I love this as a textural element because of the ways the light then interacts. The red underlight as a contrast helped give this ominous or cinematic poster feel. (We were going for Sith Lord vibes, so I hope this came across!)

I hope this gave you a little understanding and insight into some of my most used light shaping techniques, whether it be modifiers, add-ons, gel use and so on. Do share some of yours with me!

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