After the sneak peek we posted from Brigid & Josh’s wedding, we got a lot of questions about how we’re shooting our getting ready details. So….we thought we’d post it up here as a pancake session so everyone can see. In today’s post, we’re going to be focusing specifically on how the addition of a simple $29 LED video light can really take your detail shots to the next level.
The first thing I want to say before we go any further, is that whether it’s all natural light or we’re adding in some off camera/video light set ups, our goal is always to shoot our details with directional light. By that, I mean light that is coming in from a side and falling on the subject as we position ourselves at a spot that forms somewhere between a 90-120 degree angle. If that’s hard to visualize, just imagine drawing a string from the light source to the subject and the subject to yourself. What kind of angle would that make? Like I said, our goal is almost always 90-120 degrees. Because what that does is create the optimum pattern of highlight and shadow (and therefore every gray point in between) and that gives the image all of that depth and dimension that we want.
A lot of the time, we are shooting our details using all natural, directional light. But more and more, we’ve been playing with the addition of a second light for more studio quality shots. On a whim a while back, we picked up this $29 video light mostly to use during dancing at receptions. But at some point, Justin started breaking it out during the getting ready portion of the day. And now we don’t leave home without it. Here are three ways we’ve been using it.
1. As a fill for natural light
Like we said, most of the time our main light is natural window light. We set the subject up so that it’s mostly facing us and the light is raking across it from the side. But sometimes, especially if what you’re photographing is white, that can create too contrasty of a situation. So we can use the video light (which is daylight balanced) to create fill on the shadow side. But because we hold the video light at a bit of a distance (a couple of feet), it doesn’t over power our main light and you still get that pattern of highlight and shadow while keeping it even enough not to lose detail in the shadow side. In this set up on the right below, a big bank of window light is coming in from the right creating our main light, and we held the video light on the left and from behind to create just a little kick.
**You may notice that the shot on the left has the window directly behind it. Shooting the perfume is about the only time we’ll have the light coming in directly behind because it lights up the perfume and makes the logo easier to focus on.
2. As a fill for off camera light
If we have a rockin’ pair of shoes or some jewelry that we want to go a little more dramatic with, we’ll set up our off camera light either shooting through a white umbrella or a small soft box and use that as our main light. This creates that rich, dramatic look, but if you’re shooting something darker (especially like Brigid’s killer black shoes) then you can end up losing a lot of detail in the shadows. So for this shot on the right below, we used our off camera light as the main source coming in from the left, but brought the video light around from the back and to the right to kick a little around the edge of that shadow side. Again, because the video light is never going to overpower our flash, you still get that pattern of highlight and shadow but are able to keep detail in both. And if you want to see the effects of directional light in action, just look at how it makes every fold in that bow stand out.
3. And finally, as the main light.
This one is much more rare for us, but occasionally there will be a piece of jewelry worthy of a little extra dramatic lighting. Like Brigid’s bracelet here. For this Justin held the video light mostly coming from above, but still off to the right to create that directional lighting. He exposed for the highlights, and because we wanted to simplify the background he was ok with some of the shadows going darker. But look at what the directional light does to each one of those pearls.
So, I hope that helps! Even if it’s just because it gave you a really good excuse to go buy a new photo toy. And, as always, if you have any follow up questions feel free to leave them in the comments below.