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Simple & Dramatic One Light Setup With A Beauty Dish | How I Shot It

By Brittany Smith on May 10th 2018

Gear lust is alive and thriving among us, especially nowadays where the added benefit of consistency has fueled the mindset of bigger, better, faster and stronger. Advances in technology have become so superior and convenient that it is often forgotten what was once accomplished with a lot less.

One of my first editorials was captured in a New York City live-work space with a single Norman power pack, strobe and a beauty dish that dated back nearly twenty years. The gear was acquired the previous summer while taking the LIRR along the New York Coast and fulfilling one Craigslist ‘for sale’ ad at a time.

Model Erica M. of Ford Models.

Gear Used: Canon 5D Mark IIICanon 85mm f/1.2L II USM LensNorman LH 500 lamphead, Norman 400-sp pack, Phottix Strato TTL Trigger Set For Canon

Tech Specs: ISO 400, f/7.1, 1/160th of a second.

Norman was and is known for creating durable gear that could withstand the industry’s demands at that time which doesn’t really hold a candle to the new equipment coming out today. The color shifted well over 500k and the recycle time was anything but immediate, but it worked. In fact, it was perfect for a simple black and white themed lingerie story.

Gear

Rich black shadows and ample contrast were embraced to add to the drama of an otherwise overly simple theme. The lamp head with the beauty dish was positioned several feet in front of and to the left of the model at an approximate 45 degree angle. It was raised significantly higher and also angled down to create a hard light with low shadows as well as to offer the option of a full body image.

Model Erica M. of Ford Models.

Gear Used: Canon 5D Mark IIICanon 85mm f/1.2L II USM LensCanon 50mm f/1.2L USM LensNorman LH 500 lamphead, Norman 400-sp pack, Phottix Strato TTL Trigger Set For Canon

Tech Specs: ISO 400, f/7.1, 1/160th of a second.

Higher ISO settings were used to compensate for the added distance between the light source and the model. A large black panel on was located camera left to absorb any excess light when needed by simply wheeling it in. The versatility of the lighting setup was easily adapted by mirroring the exact setup and lowering the light by several feet for images where the model was lying on the floor.

Model Erica M. of Ford Models.

Gear Used: Canon 5D Mark IIICanon 85mm f/1.2L II USM LensNorman LH 500 lamphead, Norman 400-sp pack, Phottix Strato TTL Trigger Set For Canon

Tech Specs: ISO 100, f/13, 1/160th of a second.

The thing to remember with older gear is that the capacitors need to be charged frequently. It is best to make sure they fire at least once a week to keep them in peak shape and, like most gear of its time, it will go the distance with proper TLC. This means taking time in between shots to ensure they have time to cool down and not overheat.

In the beginning stages of studio lighting, it is more important to master the skill than it is to own the best equipment that money can buy. A good rule of practice is to start small and replace gear when it begins to hinder growth.

Model Erica M. of Ford Models.

Gear Used: Canon 5D Mark IIICanon 85mm f/1.2L II USM Lens

Tech Specs: ISO 640, f/6.3, 1/160th of a second.

The good news is that there is an enormous amount of older gear available for purchase from brands such as Speedotron, Calumet and Norman which is known for creating reliable and durable gear. It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of the newest gear being manufactured today like the Broncolor Siros L and Profoto B1X, but it works. Best of all, stores like B&H still offer stock that is in brand new condition and if budget is of a concern, Craigslist and eBay are a click away.

Click here to check out the finished editorial that was featured in Cole Magazine and Ford Models Blog.

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Brittany is a fashion and beauty photographer who works between NYC, Montana and LA. She photographs the way she has always wanted to feel and believes in the power of raw simplicity. When not behind a camera she can usually be found at a local coffeeshop, teaching fitness classes at the YMCA, or baking something fabulous in the kitchen.
Instagram: @brittanysmithphoto

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