It’s Raining Outside

I’ve asked a few of my workshop attendees over time what size their studios were.  The average seems  be around 20-35 ft deep.  As a model photographer I’m generally not shooting at the popular f8 that portrait photographers use.  If I’m shooting high key and the model is really moving I definitely would.

Most of the time I want the background to be out of focus but to also be indistinguishable.  If the background is indistinguishable you can use just about anything lying around your studio as a background.  Blast some light on the “stuff” and you get all kinds of interesting shots.  At 2.0 it all looks interesting.

One way to use strobes and to shoot wide open is to use Neutral Density Gels on them.  This is basically just a dark gel that will cut down the light.  I use the large sheets clipped onto my lights all the time, not the small ones that go into the filter holders.   For instance when I use my beauty dish close in it meters at f8.3.  Lets say I want to shoot at f4., now what?  ND’s would be one answer.  When you do that you black out the modeling light.  To compensate for that you could use a low power focusing light if you need to.  I use a Comer 1200 Video Light which I love.  Make sure the source isn’t contributing to the scene if that’s a problem.

Another option which was used in this image is a Variable ND Filter for your camera lens.  I actually used ND gels and a VND filter for this image. I use strobes when I’m shooting outdoors and instead of adjusting the lights I can choose to rotate the ND filter.

  • The filter tends to rotate on it’s on so I put a small piece of tape on it.
  • The filter is  stepped to help with vignetting so it’s hard to put on with the lens hood (really hard, on a cold day forget about it)
  • You can’t read the settings on the side when the lens hood is on so I had to use white nail polish to mark the top side of the filter.

I have blue seamless behind her and a palm tree not that far behind her.  I keep my eye open for the palms at Costco, they’re huge for $20.  I also shot this scene at f6.3 and the plant is totally in focus.

The bamboo frame was an interesting find.  It’s actually a head and foot board for a king size bed that I found at a neighborhood garage sale for $30.  I’m always looking for fast commercial style swimsuit setups to do during bad weather in Michigan.  Most of the swimsuits shots in my book were shot in this very spot.  A little fan on the hair represents a bit of vacation breeze to the viewer…just sayin

7 comments category: Backgrounds,Props,Swimsuit

1 Thorsten May 19, 2010 at 7:41 am

I think one of the mistakes that new photographers make when they start working with studio lights is that they go out and purchase the most powerful lights that they can afford. And then they struggle to shoot wide open because they are unable to dial the power down far enough!

Powerful lights aren’t really necessary for most people unless they intend attaching large light modifiers like big Octas which tend to suck up a lot of light. I like the tip with the ND filters though – gives one the best of both worlds.


2 Seraphic Imago May 12, 2010 at 2:22 pm

😉 I’m a fan of wide aperture portraiture … the ND’s offer up a simple way to bounce between f/8 and f/2.8 …


3 Aurora Vanderbosch May 12, 2010 at 9:51 am

*sigh…* I know, Mary…and it’s on the list of 1,001 things I need to invest more in, in my studio. :/

Up til now, I’ve gotten by very nicely (as long as I shoot at F8 ;)) just using a $30 eBay radio transmitter on my camera, with a receiver, on my main…which then triggers everything else. (Which is, obviously, rather limiting!) I’m definitely starting to find this limiting, though…and the Pocket Wizards are on the wish list! 🙂


4 Mary DuPrie May 12, 2010 at 7:59 am


If you really want to trigger your other lights you’ll need something to trigger those also. If you have a fair amount of light where you’re shooting or you have small light sources like snoots, grids ect. your main won’t see it. I use a pocket wizard on every light in my set ups.


5 Aurora Vanderbosch May 12, 2010 at 7:53 am

Wow–this was an especially helpful post, Mary! It has me saying, “Duh!”, and smacking my head at my own stupidity–but I’ve been struggling with the problem of wanting to shoot wide open, but have been struggling with my lights–if my main’s dialed down enough for me to shoot wide open, then it won’t consistently trigger my other lights to flash consistently. I hadn’t thought of using a neutral density filter on my lens–now I can’t wait to give this a try, and see if it solves my problem!!! 🙂


6 Mary DuPrie May 11, 2010 at 5:58 pm

ahh yes, the ever so lovely Karolina. The model with the shorts tan!


7 Kevin M May 11, 2010 at 5:53 pm

I remember that shot….. 😉


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: