Video: 3 Lighting Techniques for Creative Effects
I don’t know where in the world you’re located, but sometimes we just can’t get out and shoot and do the things we want to do. Fortunately, as you’ll discover in the following article, we can still create no matter what. This is exactly the point we stress in our Creative Photography 101 workshop.
We’re going to create a portrait series without ever leaving our home; in fact, we’re not even going to leave the garage. All you really need for this tutorial is a room that you can black out, a dedicated camera & lens, and a few other small gadgets featured in our final images:
- LED String Lights (aka Fairy Lights)
- Crystal Globe, Prism, or Similar Object
- Bronze or Copper Tube
As for the camera gear, I’m using the new Sony Alpha 7C camera body, paired with a Samyang 35mm lens. It’s a cost effective combo as well as a really great camera and lens setup. With this camera setup and collection of goodies, we’re going to create some cool effects. Of course, you’ll need to turn off the lights and black out whichever space you’re in before capturing your portraits.
You can find more information on our model, Chelsea, here on Instagram (@chelseavonmonro).
Creative Effect #1: LED String Lights
Ask your subject to sit against a plain white wall. Next, your subject will need to wrap the LED string lights around his/her arms and hands. For this shot, I asked Chelsea to hold one hand close to her face so that the fairy lights on her palm would light her face; then, I asked her to extend the other hand toward the camera and I used it as a foreground object.
This shot made me instantly think of an Iron Man photograph. It’s not necessarily the look I was going for, but that’s what it looks like to me.
Creative Effect #2: Globe or Prism
For the next image, I’m holding a globe over the front lens, but you don’t need that specific object. All you need is something that’s going to bend light, like a prism. Crystal will work as well. In fact, you can even grab a wine glass.
I picked this globe up from a local craft shop. I think it was originally intended to cover a candle or something like that. You can probably find something similar to this at your local craft store as well. What I like about this object is the open space in the middle, which allows me to focus on subjects while the crystal around the opening sort of bends the light in a repeating pattern.
[Related Reading: Light Paint with ANY Camera in Four Minutes!]
Creative Effect #3: Bronze Tube
Popularized by Sam Hurd, I liked this technique enough to actually merit carrying around this modifier in my bag and using it from time to time on shoots. I incorporated my own style using the bronze tube by using the LED light string. I simply held the tube directly in front of the lens and shot with a wide aperture, just like we did with the other shots. The bronze tube refracts light and repeats the light patterns, resulting in lots of small lights (when used with the string lights) and circular rings.
It’s important to remember that a lot of these techniques and the experiences that you create are going to work well and produce interesting images. Others are going to be complete fails. In my experience, most of these techniques do not make their way into my overall style; it’s probably going to be the same thing for you. Every now and then, however, you find something that you like enough to bring into your toolkit. Using a bronze tube for creative effect is one of the keepers in my toolkit.
[Related Reading: Profoto B10 and the Ring of Fire]
A Quick Note on Post-Production
In post, I took the images into Lightroom and basically cooled them down. I ended up turning most the colors into a neon purple vibe that kind of reminded me of being in the dark, being in space.
I hope you enjoyed the article/video and it helps you realize that you can create no matter what, even inside your own home, especially when you have control over the lighting. For more creative photography inspiration, check out our Creative Photography 101 workshop, which explores several creative techniques using only a smartphone to capture and edit the images!
Be sure to catch our next episode of Mastering Your Craft on Adorama’s YouTube channel next week! If you want to catch up on all the episodes, make sure you check out our playlist!