Fstoppers Lighting Diagrams - Head Shot

Fstoppers Lighting Diagrams - Head Shot

The other day Phlearn came up with a way to emulate Martin Schoeller's portrait lighting. I have been wanting to lock down Schoeller's technique for years now, so when I saw Phlearn's post, I was stoked. And they did a fantastic job. I even learned their cool Photoshop technique of adding natural looking highlights and shadows. The problem was that in order for me to try out their lighting technique, I needed two strip soft boxes for my strobes, which I didn't have. So I went about using this technique using only a speedlite and a v-flat.

Nick Fancher | Columbus, Ohio photographer

Nick Fancher | Columbus, Ohio photographer

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Nick Fancher | Columbus, Ohio photographer

The v-flat I used for this shot was around 5 feet tall, with a 4x4” hole cut in middle of the seam for my camera lens. I had my speedlite on a stand, about two feet higher than my subject, aimed over her shoulder. I zoomed the flash head in to 105mm. I had the model sit 6-12 inches away from the lens, in order to get the maximum amount of bounce light off the white board. The lens I was using was a Canon 35mm f/1.4L, which allowed me to be close enough to pick up the catch light, while also getting a bit of fall-off in focus with the wide aperture.

This was my first attempt at this technique. Though I am happy with the result, it doesn't look like a Schoeller. For my second attempt, I will try adding a second light to get more catch light. I'll also try flagging the strobes to restrict the lighting to just the model's face.

This lesson as well as 25 other lighting diagrams are available in my new e-book, RGLR, The Run & Gun Lighting Resource for $10.

Nick Fancher | Columbus, Ohio photographer

Nick Fancher | Columbus, Ohio photographer

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28 Comments

That is insanely sharp for 1.4

wheres a cheap place to get foam like that for the v-flat?

I'v looked everywhere. It is my big bane. Several years ago Home Depot carried them but I havent been able to find a single place that sells em in 8 foot sheets anymore. Scott Kelby has a blog post with some links but none of them are "cheap" http://scottkelby.com/2010/the-scoop-on-v-flats/

Har Rai's picture

I have seen them at Columbia Art and Drafting in Portland, OR. Don't recall the exact price, but it was reasonable from what I remember.

 I've seen smaller size foamboard at Hobby Lobby. Since this article is covering headshots, and from the images, that size might do the trick for this kind of work.

Andrew Griswold's picture

There are quite a few places. Hobby Lobby sells them in large sheets of various sizes and prices but around 3 bucks for a 20x30 and then a 60x90 I think goes for around 11-12 bucks. Micheals may have them in the framing sections. I always go to a place called United Arts and Education, usually the cheapest for me and they have tons of colors for different effects in this case. Just depends on where you live. 

Ì use styrofoam boards from home depot, you can get them in 4'x8' or 2'x4' for cheap.  One side is white, the other has an aluminum reflective sheet so it gives you more options.

I assume many art stores have it, like DICK BLICK or other stores. Here in Las Vegas Desert Art Supply has 4 x 8 foot sheets, either white both sides, black one side, white the other or all black for $34 a sheet. I would imagine most towns have similar outlets. Buying these online comes with an INSANE shipping cost, so that is generally unreasonable for most. 

Home Depot here in Vegas has 4 x 8 foot foam insulation that is 2 inches thick, it is very light, FIRM and can be painted any color you want, white both sides, one side black, the other white or black both sides. 

You can see variables of this rigid insulation panels here   http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1vZbaxx/h_d2/Navigation?catalogId=100...

They have 1 inch thick for $9.63 or 1.5 inches thick for $14.45, again... if you cannot find the FOAM CORE in large sizes, this may work, just paint it whatever color you want.

Flat and no catch lights, very meh.

no catch light?!!!!! actually the catch light is very obvious ... and very ugly -_-

Love the idea. One thing i would maybe want to change it the balance of the hair light to the exposure on her face. Do you think if you backed up the flash from the subject and the v-flat and cranked up the ISO a bit it would achieve this?

I completely agree. The attention is drawn towards the brightest area. The hair light should be less intensive.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Yea, though I like that sharp little splash of light on the hair I would have lighted to see a little more brightness in the face to make the focus go away from that top left corner and back to the model. Obviously we dont know what your end goal was Nick but either way a really nice setup and I cant wait to buy your first virtual book! Really look up to you for your simple and effective lighting techniques. 

I really like it. Great lighting!

I was right about how it was lit from your FB post :)

I was right also, but i've actually used similar set ups like this in the past.

I like it! But what to do about the catchlights?

neither phlearn «did a fantastic job», nor you. i mean, this technique is a great way to light you subject indeed, but if you intent was to reproduce schöller's light, you need to take a closer look to his pictures. 
why is fstopper struggling to do that? :D

love it!

Andrew Griswold's picture

Really nice Nick! Can't wait to pick up your virtual book download this week. 

Lowes Hardware has a styrofoam 4x8 sheet for $11...just paint it white on one side and black on the other....paint it any color to use as a backdrop.
http://www.lowes.com/pd_15355-46086-389697_0__?productId=3365568&Ntt...

great!  :)

David Andres's picture

this is what Don Guiannatti calls "Beach Lightning" (sawn in CreativeLive)

Martin Shoeller`s light is not very hard to recreate. But to make it look like Schoeller`s photo you need to use 8x10 camera, its the only way to get that focus feel... 
talking about light. the light on this one is "flat", its not a bad thing if this is what you like, but Schoeller`s photos are great, because the give you depth not only of focus, but of light also(sorry, my english is poor, but i hope you understand)... you can achieve it it via photoshop, or just just by cutting the lights as you wrote already... 

I've been able to replicate the focus by getting really close with a 50mm lens then comping together multiple shots. However you are completely right that the lighting is not difficult to replicate.

 Really excellent work on your site Josh! 

Thanks, much appreciated.