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High Key lighting setup

Aaron Gauger , Feb 27, 2007; 04:10 p.m.

I'm looking to do some high key portraits. From what I have read on Photo.net this seems like a reasonable setup but thought I would solicit feedback before purchasing the actual equipment.

  • Background is white vinyl 12 feet wide.
  • Background is lit with 2 Alien Bees B800 flash units with a 32"x40" softboxes 2 or 3 stops brighter than key/hair lights.
  • Key light is a Alien Bees B400 flash unit with a 32"x40" softbox.
  • Fill will be provided via a reflector.
  • Hair light will be an Alien Bees B400 flash unit and use a snoot or barn doors for spill control. Output will be set to the same intensity as key light.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.


Garry Edwards , Feb 27, 2007; 04:22 p.m.

Apart from the likelyhood of light spill on to the subject from the background lights, I think you'll struggle to get a high key effect with the key light positioned where it is.

Or do you mean a blitzed-out white background shot rather than a high key one?

Aaron Gauger , Feb 27, 2007; 04:31 p.m.

Hmmmm... The idea was to get the background pure white. This would enable to place subjects into websites with white backgrounds w/o borders. The key light can be moved anywhere really. ~Aaron

Garry Edwards , Feb 27, 2007; 04:40 p.m.

Right - that isn't high key, so doesn't need high key lighting.

For what you want, your setup should work - but I do feel that the lights intended to light the background may be a bit too close to the subject and can't see a need for this. And you'll need plenty of distance between subject and background, to allow the reflected background light to fall off sufficiently

Sean Duckett , Feb 27, 2007; 05:36 p.m.

i find that that 2-30 stops really bright. i usually go one stop above the key. to get an even lighting across the back drop i find that (2) v-flats made from foamcore is the easiest ant the best. place the stobes on both sides of the background paper pointing away from the paper @ a 45 degree angle in tho the v- flats. if you have the room, i like to keep the stobes about 3" awaey from paper and 3' away from the v-flats.

i then place the subject atleast 6-8 feet from the back drop and making sure that they are in front of the v-flats so that the no stray light bounces on them.

hope this helps.

Brooks Short - Tampa, Florida , Feb 27, 2007; 05:58 p.m.

As Garry said, you'll be better off with more distance between the subject and the background, maybe an additional 5 ft or more.

If you do move the subject 5 ft. forward from the bkgd to where the camera is now located in your drawing, then the position of your bkgd lights should be OK but their current location will allow spill light to hit the subject.

I'd also position large 6' flags or flats to block the off-axis light bouncing from the bkd into the lens. The idea is to let the camera see only the light which is coming from the bkgd that is directly behind the subject and not any of the bkgd light coming from the sides.

I've changed your setup illustration to reflect the greater distance from the subject to the background and the flags which control the background light. I hope you can see what I'm talking about.

Using large 6' flags or flats like this to contol the light bouncing from the bkgd is really helpful for minimizing spill on the subject and seperately controlling the bkgd light exposure without creating flare.

White Bkgd Setup

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