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How to Light a F-16 and a Pilot With 400 Watt Strobes

By Paul Faecks on June 9th 2014

Although you can use it as a keylight, the sun can sometimes be your worst enemy as a photographer. In this photo shoot by Jay P. Morgan of The Slanted Lens, he lights an F-16 jet and its pilot with just 400 watt strobes. Not an easy job because 400 watts isn’t enough to overpower the sun. And what made the task even more difficult: his lack of background options forced him to look straight into the sun to shoot the portraits.

See how he did it in the video below:



  • The plane faced in the wrong direction and couldn’t be moved
  • He had to shoot straight into the sun because the background would otherwise have been distracting
  • It was pretty hot outside
distracting background

distracting background

He began by getting the composition and the background right and then continued by lighting the plane and the pilot.

Morgan used a Photoflex Octodome as a keylight to illuminate his main subject, the pilot. He then used three 400 watt strobes to light different areas of the plane. He didn’t use light modifiers except for the standard reflectors on the strobes.

Lighting & Gear



Photoflex FlexFlash 400 Watt

Photoflex Triton Flash

Photoflex Octodome

Photoflex 7 in 1 Reflector

Tamron 24-70mm

Dynalite XP800

Vanguard ABEO Plus Tripod

Spider Camera Holster


The Final Images

f16-400w-strobes-7 f16-400w-strobes-final

What do you think about how Jay p. Morgan has overcome the challenges he had to face? How would you light a F-16 and a pilot? Feel free to leave your thoughts below.

[via TheSlantedLens]

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Paul Faecks is a portrait- and fine art photographer, based in Berlin. If you want to check out his latest work, you can do so by following him on Instagram or by liking his Facebook Page

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Paul

    The first image is a cracker and really captures the essence of a fighter plane. I just wonder is JPM style of video just makes this shoot more dramatic than it really was. No criticism intended, I love watching them.

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  2. fotograf ślubny zabrze

    Nicely done !

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  3. Rob V Photography

    Great Job! Love the way these photos turned out. Joe, your comment about the dof, I believe if he made it any shallower, it would have let too much light into the camera which would be forcing his shutter speed higher and that would effect the quality of the flash. I’m pretty sure he opted to go with the best possible combination of iso to aperture to shutter speed that he could’ve used here.

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    • Joe

      Rob, your probably correct in your estimation of the excess light, although I”m now wondering if a neutral density filter could have provided extra help he needed. – Honestly I’m not a lighting guy, my background is solely based as an experienced newspaper journalist from 19 years ago, and at that time you took what light you could get.

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  4. Joe

    I think that the composition of the top picture is the best – although I found the background distracting, a simple change of DoF could have helped. “The plane faced in the wrong direction and couldn’t be moved ” – what a crock… somebody was just being lazy. I think that Mr. Morgan did a good job of lighting the scene, I’m glad that I wasn’t tasked with trying to light the scene.

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