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Creative lighting tutorial – Ghostly Visage

by Ben Heys, August 7, 2013
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Ok, before I get stuck into the tutorial I’ve got a quick challenge for those of you photographically minded: have a look at the shot, look at the shadows and have a guess yourself at what lighting setup I used, then read on to see if you are right!

The reason I thought I’d do a quick lighting tutorial on this particular image here as it’s probably the number one image I get asked about in terms of technique used in the lighting setup. These questions often come with explanations of attempts made or theories as to what the setup was. I’ve had every theory under the sun thrown at me, some with up to 6 lights coming from various angles at varying strength ratios through various modifiers etc

Funny thing is though, that as these theories get more and more intricate they also get further and further from the truth. The real lighting setup was in actual fact nothing more than a cheap piece of cheesecloth type material pegged (yes literally held up with clothes pegs) to my garage rolla door which was opened fully at about 4o’clock in the afternoon.

We then wet the cloth and Lutetium (the model) jumped behind the cloth and moved against it in different ways with my shooting effectively her 4pm shadow (ok that sounds a bit wrong, but you know what I mean!)

There was no photographic studio, no “professional” model (though Lu is still one of the most amazing models I’ve ever had the good fortune to work with – thanks Lu!), no studio lights, no makeup artists, assistants etc and the complete cost of the shoot was ~$5 (for the material, which has been reused many times for other shoots).

Now at this stage in my career I often worked in fully equipped photographic studios, however that didn’t stop me from pegging a bit of cheesecloth to the garage door and going nuts when at home. Which brings me to one of the main points I want to make here. The lack of such high end devices as studios, strobes, light modifiers, even makeup artists (I very rarely use them in my work) etc need not stop you from being creative and making the most of whatever you have.

This image has gone on to be one of my all time most popular photos and is even among my own personal faves. I guess other people just find it to be a pretty picture. But for me it’s a little more than just a piece of eye candy. It also epitomizes everything I love about photography – which is the ability for creative souls to use passion and drive (as opposed to gear and resources) to capture the world around them in unique and beautiful ways and then share that vision with others.

So next time you are bemoaning your lack of studio lighting gear or that L series lens you crave take a step back and think about what you can do with what you DO have – it may be much more than you at first realise.

Some more assorted images from that afternoon:

 

 

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2 Comments


  • […] Ok, before I get stuck into the tutorial I’ve got a quick challenge for those […]  […]

  • Thanks for sharing your tips and for the motivating words. It is very well written. Really appreciate and it comes in a good time for me :)

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