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Old September 17th, 2007, 04:10 PM   #1
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Lighting the human body

Hi,

I'm trying to figure out good (or interesting) ways to light the full human figure, head to toe. I like to light male faces with a strong, harsh rim and a soft key, with little or no fill. Females with a fill that's just slightly dimmer than the key. I've tried this same method for lighting full figures, and it doesn't turn out nearly as well. I'd like to make it pretty high contrast, emphasize muscularity with shadows, but I can't find the right setup.

Any help?
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Old September 18th, 2007, 10:18 AM   #2
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One solution is to place open faced or fresnel lights a few feet back, and then, close to the subject, put two very tall sheets of black foamcore (or dark fabric scrims) with a narrow "slot" open for the light. this will give you a narrow wash of hard light... with little room for the subject to move.

If you can find some grid material, you can use it on a large softbox with just the grid, and no facing fabric; this will give you something a little softer but more directional.

Fresnels overhead with the lamps backed off to "spot" can give you a nice rim-light as well.

In the past, I've spray painted strips of corrugated black and made very large, long "blind" style louvers and stuck them on a 2x4 frame... not very long-lived, but a cool look.
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Old September 18th, 2007, 11:15 PM   #3
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Harris, are you possible having problems with spill and reflections from your room washing out your contrast? A small subject with lights up close will have a very strong contrast. When you back those same lights away so they light your whole body, they are much weaker once they hit the subject. That will make any reflected light that is hitting your talent seem stronger.
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Old September 19th, 2007, 12:42 PM   #4
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I played around with my setup, and actually... reflection might be the culprit. I didn't consider it because my key is pretty weak, and I have my rim really narrowed, but for a shot this wide, I'm probably getting a lot more reflection than I anticipated. I'll try a different location.

Michael, how high do you think I would need those overheads for a rim?
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Old September 19th, 2007, 11:31 PM   #5
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You might also want to try negative fill (black "reflector") where you are having too much reflection killing your contrast. Also, put your strongest lights on the rim/backlight.
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Old September 20th, 2007, 01:11 AM   #6
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to show texture - try using a side light as KEY ( the harder the light quality the more texture you'll see ) ... are you using a dark or light background ?
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Old September 22nd, 2007, 02:46 PM   #7
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As for negative fill, how much black board would I need?

The background will range from very dark to completely black. I have my key angled at about 60 degrees horizontally. Does that qualify as a side light or do I need it closer to 90?

Thanks a bunch. This is helping a lot.
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Old September 22nd, 2007, 03:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harris Porter View Post
Michael, how high do you think I would need those overheads for a rim?
Well, there's so many variable to that answer... I'd start with "out of the frame" though!

The overall answer to your problems is "play, test, have fun, learn". Chances are you'll find a way to the look you want that, in many ways, will be your own; the best way to get there is get a good-sized dark space and a willing figure, and play with every kind of light & scrim you can get your hands on for a day with no deadlines or clients. Chances are also good that you'll find some cool looks that won't work for this need but will be useful later.

Light's wierd; consider it a "media" like oil paint or clay, one with limitations and one that you'll never "control" fully; approaching stuff like this with a sense of "partnership" - for me certainly - is a great path to success with the media. All the scrims, lights, stands, etc you have are just "brushes" - and watch how many master painters work with high-dollar brushes, yet also add some killer effect by dragging a toothpick or a nail across the paint. A great cinematographer could do amazing stuff with work lights, bedsheets and foamcore if they needed to. That all sounds trite as hell (look ma, I'm "painting with light!") but approaching it philosophically before technically can be a wonderful approach.
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