A small collage of Behind the Scenes images from photographic assignments.

I'm as guilty as anyone else when it comes to wanting to see "behind the curtain." How do other photographers set up their lights? What do their studios look like? How far away from the subject is the main light? How do they do their "jumping" shots? All the stuff that can be confusing when you are just looking at illustrations in books or hearing descriptions. 

When I started working on the LED book I really started to understand just how much detail people wanted to see when they sat down with a book in order to learn a new way to do something and at that point I started trying to make behind the scenes images of everything we set up. What I found out is that I am very much a creature of habit and love to "key" most images from the left (we read left to right--correct?), love to use soft lights and I could probably always use just one more C-stand or at least one more non-rickety light stand. 

note: I'm pretty tired today. I just transcoded the video I worked on for the past three weeks and I'm uploading the final to the client as I write this. Unlike still photography these video jobs have so many moving parts, the least of which seems to be actually shooting the footage. Motion graphics in particular can be daunting and are the components that are most detailed and engender most back and forth with clients. Finding the right typefaces to match client style books is always imperative and may mean buying and uploading different fonts than you currently have. Some changes in timing are also critical. We ended up experimenting with dissolves, etc. in tiny tenth of second increments.

So finally being finished means more than the fact that you've just delivered a good product. It means you worked with a team, built some consensus and collaborated well with your client. It can be a much more involved undertaking than turning in a well made photograph. But boy oh boy! is it ever a lot of time with your butt planted in a chair.

Makes the stuff in these behind the scenes shots seem like child's play...

Note the two lights on the floor to provide fill from the bottom...

Getting out from behind the camera to direct.

Sometimes all you need is a little "puff" of light to highlight your subject in a  bright environment.

 Black panels to the right provide "subtractive fill" for those times when you wish the shadows were more dramatic.
Small studio+long lenses= back against the wall (or filing cabinet). 
Note black reflector blocking sunlight from the windowns behind.

Ladders. Ladders everywhere.

Fill cards and diffusers abound.

Yes trampoline. Yes flash. No LED.


amolitor said...

I love the TOTAL CHAOS present just out of frame. Makes me feel a lot better about my own studio-ish efforts!

Max Rottersman said...

First, thank you for sharing these photos. Looking at behind-the-scenes shots like these are mini-vacations for me. Have you found any difference in color quality between strobes and current gen LEDs? I have a set of AlienBees but they're so cumbersome and complicated to deal with they've spent 99% of their time in a box. Except for the freeze action shot you took, where they're needed, where else would you use them (other than a group shot where you need a long throw)?

Anthony Bridges said...

I didn't realize you were the author of Minimalist Lighting until a few weeks into reading your blog. Then the studio photos in your book and on your blog clicked.

Lighting diagrams are not very helpful to me. Like some photographers, I need to see a setup for it to stick. Some concepts of studio lighting didn't mentally crystallize until I saw other photographers using fresnels, strobe packs, gobos, etc. Actually using them was better.

Anonymous said...

All the lighting gear always takes me by surprise. I do particularly like your available light stuff, though.

typingtalker said...

As much as we obsess about cameras and lenses, these images show them to be a very small part of making a good photograph. Unless you're a street photographer.

Patrick Dodds said...

The amount of lighting paraphernalia needed to make good photos* sometimes makes me think photography still hasn't really left the Victorian era. 6400 ISO this, 1.4 that... yeah, but when 64 ISO remains streets ahead of anything over 640 ISO, when you want depth of field and soft, beautiful light and nature isn't coming up with the goods, well then you'd better get ready to haul some big old pieces of stuff about.

*"Good" in the sense that the parameters are low noise, no motion blur, contrasty saturated colours and so on. Of course, "good" photos can contain any or all of these "faults".

G Gudmundsson said...

Very informative, thank you ....

Alex Solla said...

AS always Kirk, I find myself drawn to something that surprises me. The photo of the BTS food image... just floored me. On one hand, food photography always looks so simple in final form, but the setup and lighting takes some doing. I didnt expect to see everything laid out as though you would be dining beside your hero dish. I feel like I am a slow adopter of the LED lighting spree... and need to get on the ball!

Noel Hillis Photography said...

Thanks for the insights Kirk - informative as always. Out of curiosity, how did you light the large group you were directing from the ladder?

Thank you for continuing to be an inspiration!

Jacques OLINY said...

I am on the way to use led lighting for my portrait photography.

First of all, I have purchased your book on Amazon, and I think it is one of my best investment this year in photo area !

One question, what do you think about mixing led lighting with strobes ?

Waiting the day I will totally shift all my gear with leds panels, I would love to setup lighting using both strobes and led panels.

What would you think using main light with strobes and kick -accent- hair light with a couple of led panels ?

Many thanks if you don't mind sharing this info ? ;-)