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Tech Tips, Pro Shooters' Forum

I often use just a grid for my main light. it gives an amazing catch light in the eyes, itís easy to set up, and doesnít take up any space on the set. If you are very close to the background, it can appear that you are using two lights.
© Richard Newman

Photography is about light, simple as that. Nowadays, all we seem to read about are digital options, but the fact remains, without great light, we have an average pictureóno matter how many megapixels they throw our way.

Iíve never been one to use a lot of lights. Iím far more concerned with the quality of the light and how my subject looks when Iím done. I teach a lot of seminars on portrait lighting techniques. During these programs, I talk to a lot of photographers, and their number one question is: how many lights do I need to make portraits?

My general answer is as few as possible, for the following reasons: (a) Itís easier to carry and set up; (b) I hate multiple catch lights in the eyes; (c) I think the subject and I are both more comfortable, so I get a better picture and expression.

One thing that must be said here is that a one-light kit needs some help. That help comes in the form of different light modifiers or light shapers. The ones I use, on a regular basis:

Silver Umbrella: on men this umbrella yields character; on women itís called a re-shoot.

White umbrella: nice smooth light; when used as a shoot-through, it makes some great catch lights, or highlights in the eyes.

Medium softbox: with a lip or recessed front detachable panel. The larger the light source, the smoother the light. Think how beautiful the light is on one of those really smoggy days in L.A. I choose a medium because I usually work with limited space and I can easily cover two to four people with this box. I use the Ilumina box because itís even to 1/10 of a stop over the entire surface of the box.

15Ē beauty dish: The light from this shaper appears to wrap around the subject and give a very dimensional look to the images.

Grid reflector: and a set of grids. If I have to use two lights, Iíll use the grid to fill a shadow area, but I also use it as a main light with Rosco diffusion to soften it up a little. Makes a great Rock Ďní Roll portrait.

Medium Strip softbox: with recessed lip and removable internal baffles. I love using this box in a horizontal orientation, instead of the traditional way.

Larger beauty dish: if conditions and transportation warrants. This larger dish gives more dimension and ďwrap-around qualityĒ to the final image. It takes up a lot of space when Iím working on location, but the final look, with the added diffusion baffles, is well worth it.

Reflector disk: along with a stand and a bracket. At least 42Ē and the ability to have several different covers to achieve different looks.

All of these toys are great, but you need a foundation, in this case, it's the light unit itself. Recently Iíve been using the new Calumet Travelite with the battery option. I think Iíve died and gone to heaven. Great light, great accessories, and Iím not tied to the wall.

Even the 375 unit is a little more power than I need sometimes. I love to shoot my lenses wide open or at the widest aperture that still allows me to keep the picture in focus.

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