How I got the Shot

Rembrandt Lighting + Blurred Effect

This winter season I am taking it upon myself to hone my studio lighting skills while sharing the experience with you! Like most photographers, I started out in my comfort zone shooting mainly outdoors with natural light. Any email inquiry that came along with a request to shoot using studio lighting was greeted with a long apology and recommendation to have someone else shoot their campaign. Because— I. Didn’t. Do. Studio. Lighting. The technology and science behind it is confusing, I was inexperienced, and the cost of lights alone would put me in debt. But this is a limiting thought and it will lead me to miss out on opportunities. I don’t want to have a weakness in my career - especially if I can learn how to do it by easily just making time to practice and study. This will be the first of many “How I got the Shot” blog posts so we can all together learn how to tackle studio lighting!

Location: Biz Babez in Downtown LA
Model: Rae Michalik
Styling/Beauty/Photographer/Water Spritzer: Me!!
Gear I used: Canon 5D Mark iii, 24-70mm f2.8 II lens, SDX-400 Studio Strobe, 48" Beauty Dish, Studio Lighting C-Stand w/Boom Arm, two sand bags, a stool, Standing Rectangle Reflector panel, 4ft Savage Charcoal Backdrop, Backdrop Stand, & a 24 in. x 34 in. slate of glass.

Welcome to behind the scenes magic! Its funny to look at the madness of what the set looks like and compare it what the final image is! I’ve created this handy dandy diagram to show you how I set up my equipment. I wanted to shoot some up close jewelry shots on Rae, as well as experiment using a slate of glass (bought for about fifteen bucks at Home Depot) combined with water to create a ripple effect. Using all Fovitec gear, I was able to accomplish this moody and dark lighting effect. For the first half of the shoot, I used their SDX-400 Studio Strobe and a 48" Beauty Dish.

I choose a dark charcoal grey backdrop color and angled my strobe just to the left of camera, above the model’s head, pointed down slightly towards her body. If I had placed the strobe right in front of her, it would not have created that nice moody shadow on the right side of the images. Notice the small triangle of light on the right side of her cheekbone, below her eyes - just on her cheek. This is called Rembrandt lighting (mainly because the famous painter, Rembrandt created this same lighting effect in his paintings). To create this look, the model has to be slightly turned away from the light and the strobe has to be above their head so the shadow from their nose falls down towards the cheek.

For the second half of the shoot, I kept the strobe in the same spot and added in the slate of glass. Using Fovitec’s Studio Lighting C-Stand w/Boom Arm to hold up the glass and a Reflector Panel to cut the window’s reflection placed just behind the camera. If you recreate this effect though, be super careful! I placed the glass onto of a high stool and set sand bags in front/behind the glass so it wouldn’t fall.

I liked the idea of not fully knowing if the blurred effect was created in camera or in post. That’s why I made sure the reflector was directly behind me while shooting in order to cut out any reflections from the windows.

If you’re wondering how I got the water on the glass…

Final thoughts: Lighting can definitely be confusing - but the more I’ve given myself time to play around and fumble with it, the more confident I’ve become. It’s also true that lighting equipment can be expensive - that’s why I wanted to share with you guys Fovitec’s gear! All the equipment I used was super affordable. Definitely check them out! They also have more product in stock on their Amazon page here.

Some helpful articles regarding different kinds of portrait lighting here. And a really cool site that lets you play with studio lighting virtually online for free here.

Hope this has been helpful for you guys! Feel free to hit me up with any questions, comments, or tips I might not have mentioned. I’m always down to help in any way that I can-message me on Instagram at @champagneunicorns 🦄 or send me an email at 💌