I stayed so much at home, it got boring. I turned it into a studio

Tips & Techniques

I’m still shooting portraits and doing creative work on a very regular basis. I have experience in various genre, I ran a studio, I have taught both workshops and one-on-ones, and I’m quite a sociable chap. Despite all that,  you probably never heard of me; I’m ok with that. All that aside, it is now 2020 and I’m now in a 12-weeks lock-down in a small bungalow, looking after my mother and daughter.

I’m lucky in quite a few ways; I have some great local friends who are making sure we have what we need, and I have my daughter who as well as being beautiful, is also very keen on becoming an MUA.

So stick a gorgeous daughter/wannabe MUA/model and a photographer with a passion for throwing light in a bungalow. What are we supposed to do now?

Well if you hadn’t guessed it already you may be on the wrong website.

What am I doing here?

When I watch online tutorials from other professionals, I often think “Oh I wish I had that much space”. But in the work I do, I usually get a very limited space to work with. This is why I have been itching to put something together. Just to show how you can use a small space to have fun. Also, I have some fun toys I wanted to play with.

My daughter got an email from her school saying they need photos for the yearbook. Sadly, they missed the photo day due to this &*$%!£@ virus. I immediately thought “Oh I know! While she is at it lets have a play, and lets video it just in case someone wants to learn”.

I have had a Spiffy Gear Light Blaster, and an optical snoot from Pixapro sitting around for a while. I had a quick play with the Light Blaster a while back and loved it. Weirdly, I never got round to doing more with it, so this just seemed like a perfect set of circumstances that couldn’t be ignored.

So, Wow, that was A lot of background info but here goes on what we did, and you can see it in the video as well if you like.

I used Godox AD200s (Pixapro Pika 200s for the UK folks) for this shoot. I did so for a few reasons,

  1. The Light Blaster needs that shape head to be used unless you have the studio light adapter, which I don’t but it is now on my wish list 🙂
  2. The fact all my lighting is battery powered is a godsend to me. Especially when working in a confined space or with small children (fewer trip hazards)
  3. The compact form and portability of these types of lights make them perfect when space is limited and finally
  4. I love the  Godox (Pixapro in the UK)  lighting system. I’m a huge advocate of stating “light is light” and as long as it’s controllable and consistent it’s fine. This system, though, is simply the best ecosystem of lights, In my humble opinion. The ability to mix speed lights with AD200s (Pika) with small AD400s (Citi400 pro) and large AD600s (Citi600) plus all the mains-powered strobes is mind-blowing. All with built-in radio receivers that are controllable from the top of the camera with a dedicated trigger is just amazing. Up to 16 groups all controllable individually it’s just a lighting obsessed photographers dream, well mine at least.

First setup

The first set up was just two lights and a reflector. It was just a headshot for the leaver’s book as I already said. Plain grey pop-up background, mostly because it’s easy to use and doesn’t take much space.

The key light was a single AD200 (Pika) on a dual bracket,  boomed directly overhead. I was pushing the light through one of my personal favorite modifiers –  the Pixapro 105cm easy open rice bowl softbox (link for our non-UK friends). I used it aiming straight down, in-front of the model. The feathered effect this gives is just gorgeous light.

With a reflector underneath to bounce a touch of fill and reduce the shadows under her chin, I metered the light on the subject at F5.6 1/200th ISO 100. The background light was a second Pika with the bare bulb head + standard reflector. It was not metered precisely and I just winged it two stops higher to start with, then dialed it up from there to suit my taste for the image.

The fact it was so close to the backdrop meant that I did turn it up to quite high power-wise to get the light how I liked. But then, that is the beauty of shooting digital, the instant feedback allows the changes on the fly.

Once this was done I got the chance to play…

Second setup

I have always liked the film noir style of B&W images and always wanted to create some myself. A quick change of lights, and away we went. I stayed with the same two lights but added a third light, and used different modifiers.

The key light was my Pixapro optical snoot on a Pika with an 85mm 1.8 lens on the front. This modifier essentially turns your studio strobe into a projector and allows you to use slides gels and gobos in a very focused fashion. The attached lens creates pin-sharp shadow patterns or defocused ones depending on what you want to achieve.

For the background, I used the Light Blaster. Now, to me, this is essentially the same modifier: fit a light inside it, a lens on the front, and the two modifiers do the same thing. The light blaster is just much smaller, more portable, costs less, and gives you the added option of being able to print your own slides or transparencies. They even have the template on the website for you to use.

A lot of photographers asked which modifier I prefer. To be honest, I don’t have a definite answer. I love them both. They are great fun and it would be almost impossible to say, but I do love the idea of printing my own custom gobos and slides, I just hope to try them and that they work as well as I hope.

Anyway back on track.

My key light was metered at f4 ISO 400 1/200tth. I bumped the ISO a bit as I didn’t have a second fast lens to fit to the Light Blaster. I metered the light on the background at f3.2.

The third light was a LI-ION 580ii speedlight on a smart bracket with a pop-up 60x60cm softbox just to add a kiss of light to the hair. I metered this also at f3.2.

I’m very happy with the results, and will be playing with these again very soon. In the meantime, if you are stuck indoors on lockdown, know that you don’t need a full-time studio space to throw some light around.

See you on the other side of this.

About the Author

Jason Vaughan is an obsessed photographer, who five years ago gave up the pursuit of fame and fortune. You can see more of his work on his website and Facebook page.

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