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Hello hello everyone! I’m going to do something different today and share a look behind the scenes with you. I’m hoping this post will be helpful for those of you who would like to simulate the look of a large softbox or a window with an artificial light source.
Below is the shot I’m going to talk about. What I did for this macaron photo is shine a light (I used a strobe) through a narrow, indoor doorframe. I use this technique now and then and find that it works well.
All right, let’s take a look at what went on behind the scenes. This is what the set looked like:
All the behind-the-scenes photos are fairly dark because I keep the room dark so that I can only see the light of the strobe and can prepare my set accordingly. My camera is on a tripod and connected to my iMac with a long USB cable, I have Lightroom open and am shooting tethered.
I have a piece of white felt on the table, which helps make the fabric on top look soft and pillowy, a trick I learned from this fantastic book a few years ago: Food Styling for Photographers. On the felt is a napkin (the exact same one that is also hanging in the back as the background), on that napkin is another napkin, a piece of paper, the cookies and the milk bottle and glass. To the left of the macarons are two square styrofoam blocks that act as reflectors and fill in some of the shadows.
Here’s a slightly closer look:
Behind the set is a napkin that is hanging from a clothes rack that I bought at Target a while ago. I asked Dan to cut down the vertical metal rods for me (they were about 6 feet tall originally) so that I could use this contraption as a movable background holder. I like to do that because I like the look of hanging fabric as a background but you could also pin fabric directly to the wall behind your set.
Now to the light. Here is another angle of the set:
To diffuse the light I have a white curtain hanging on a tension rod in my indoor doorframe. (The frame leads into a fairly dark hallway). Behind the doorframe sits my strobe with its modeling light (see notes) turned on so that you can see it. No light modifiers of any sort are attached to the strobe. Too much light was spilling onto the background of the set (in other words onto the hanging napkin) so I clamped a piece of black cardboard onto the rack to block the light in that area of the set. The doorframe keeps the light contained and directional and the overall scene looks (at least to me) like light coming through a window. (In case anyone is interested in my camera settings, they were: ISO 100, f/3.2, 1/125 on my Nikon D600 with a 105mm macro lens).
I used to use this setup every day for a few months some time ago but it became a bit of a pain since the door I was lighting through was also the door through which I had to exit and enter the room. I eventually got tired of it and bought my large softbox (Hensel Ultra IV Softbox – 35×58″ (90x150cm)), which gives me very similar results. But, if you have a light and no large softbox, it’s an option!
Anyway, that’s really all there was to it! What do you think? Do you like the light? Does anyone else use this technique? Let me know, I can’t wait to
hear read your thoughts! :)
Notes: What is a modeling light? I figure some of you may not be familiar with the concept of a modeling light so I’ll quickly explain what that is. So, a strobe unit actually houses two different light sources: 1) the flash that will fire very briefly and very brightly at the same time the shutter is released and 2) a “regular,” continuous light, which is called the modeling light. The flash is what illuminates the actual photo but the modeling light is what illuminates the scenes during setup, before the photo is taken. The modeling light’s purpose is to let the photographer see how the light from the flash will fall onto the set, where the highlights, shadows and reflections will be. Because of that the modeling light is a HUGE help in setting up the set, without it the photographer would literally and metaphorically be working in the dark.