Creating Daylight with strobe in the studio

by JamesNYCDecember 13. 2012 13:36

This week I was hired for an advertising shoot to: "Create slightly diffused southern daylight" with strobes in a rentals studio here in NYC. for a pharmaceutical campaign.

This was a fun challenge as most of the time people want straight daylight duplicated in the studio; or they hand me a tear sheet and say: "..make it look like this...". More often than not photographers and assistants will bring in HMI lights (4K or larger) onto a set and call it "Good-nuff" when attempting to duplicate a day light type of light source in the studio.

The problem with that is that it looks like a big ass light was tossed onto a set and it never really looks like daylight. After seeing some poorly lite day light sets I decided several years ago to try and create a studio lighting setup that more closely resembled how daylight actually looks on a subject. To date I've now come up with 6 different lighting setups that very closely approximate the day light look by using either studio strobes alone or strobes and HMI's in combination.

I had a lighting teacher at Columbia college in Chicago who became a photographer after working as a nuclear physicist for the DOE at Argonne labs, and I think the most important... well actually the only thing he told us in class was: "There is only one Sun". That statement alone has helped me over the years to be more cognoscente of how I light my sets and those that hire me to light for them.

Things to consider regarding the sun are: Distance to Earth depending on the time of year, Elevation in the sky depending on the time of year, Pollution levels and/or cloud cover that the sun light has to pass through, Color temp depending on time of day and atmospheric conditions, Qualities of Sun light as it passes through a medium or is reflected or refracted off of any surface.

Not very hard stuff, but hardly what most photographer consider when starting a day of shooting.

In my lighting workshops and previously in my Photo Assistant Boot Camp events, the one point I try my emphasis above all else is that: as a photographer you need to learn to see light, learn to work with your lights and lighting equipment, what it can and can not do, and never let the equipment become your master.

As a photographer you should be able to see and create the lighting flavors in your mind just as a great chef can create an original creation in their mind and know how it will taste before they even begin the prep work. Yes this is definitely and acquired skill that comes over time, but it is definitely Do-Able.

A full video tutorial of this setup and variations on this theme will be posted in the next few months.

This image is a small portion (Less than 1/4th) of the actual set.


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