Steven Brokaw Photography

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Fashion White - A Simple Lighting Setup

Annette leaning against a white wall

Annette leaning against a white wall

I recently did a series of lighting tests at M10 Studio.  Not only did I want to try out a new studio mono-light & modifiers from Paul C. Buff, but I also wanted to test several modifiers, backgrounds and light setups.  For one of the tests I worked with Indianapolis based model, Annette Chanel McKinney.  

The first test was to work on what I'll call an "editorial fashion white" look.  This can be used for commercial fashion or catalogue looks as well.  Basically, simple lighting.  Minimal shadows on the model, light straight on, very punchy, and a hard shadow close to the model against a white background.  The style I like is against a white background or wall.  A very bare bulb, on camera flash, or run & gun style. 

For this shoot I selected an unfinished white wall with concrete floor in the studio building.  There is a large bank of windows camera left.  I shot the series at approximately 6:30pm.  Light coming through the window, but it was not direct sun.  It lit up the room and white wall, but not enough to impact the look.  My model stood about 6-7 feet away from the window.

The key light for this shoot (except for the window light) was only a Nikon SB-910 speed light.  The light was mounted on an extremely inexpensive light stand.  To keep the speed light locked down tight on the light stand I used a Frio cold shoe.  I've used this little piece of kit for a few years, and love them.  Holds your speed light tight to the stand.  I used the SB-910 in manual mode and triggered it with my Elinchrom SkyPort triggers. 

I didn't use my light meter for this test, so settings for both he camera and SB-910 were set with trial and error.  I was using a full frame Nikon D600 with a AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm G-ED lens.  I ended up setting my camera at 1/80 second f/9 with ISO at 640.  The SB-910 was adjusted between 1/4 through 1/2 power.  

To get the proper shadow for the look I set the speed light about 6 1/2' high.  The flash head was unmodified.  The head was angled straight on, and angled at 45 degrees.  To keep the shadow tight to Annette's body I had her stand no more than 1 - 2' from the wall and kept the light within 1' from the lens axis.  So for most of the shoot I was standing right next to the stand.

Camera at the speed light axis, Annette leaning against the wall about 6 feet from the window.

Camera at the speed light axis, Annette leaning against the wall about 6 feet from the window.

This was an extremely simple lighting setup so it took us no time to get ready.  Once ready I just asked Annette to pose and dance.  I just started shooting.  The only variable was I changed the flash power several times to get different effects, moved Annette closer and father from the wall, and moved slightly camera left or right from the speed light.  That was it.  

I like the effect, and the run & gun nature of the setup.  It's very easy to over expose your model in this setup, so I was chimping regularly.  Ultimately from looking at all the photos I found that having my model very close to no more than 1 foot from the wall, the above camera settings, camera no more than 1 foot from the axis of the light got the best effect.  

Annette processed in B&W

Annette processed in B&W

Wind Blown with Model Caroline Anne

Freckles With Katherine