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The Power of Light
by Ross Benton


Photographing outdoors in the abnormal environment has become the latest trend in wedding and portrait photography. We have always taken our clients to the gardens and parks in town, but now more than ever we are hitting the streets and leaving our traditional spots.
As we all know lighting changes in every new location. We are always in search of “Sweet Light” which is nice soft directional open shade light that fills in the eyes and sculpts the face and body with beautiful dimension. In many occasions the lighting on our subjects may not appear as perfect as we envisioned when scouting a location. This is when we need to be prepared with a small and powerful set of lighting tools.

1. Video Light
2. Silk Scrim
3. Small Soft Box Strobe

A powerful combination for any portrait session or event, these set of tools will have you covered for all occasions.

The Video Light:
A small 50w light with dimmer and a set of gels to change the color temperature of the light to complement the color of the environmental light.
After building the composition of the image, have the assistant fill in the eyes with a little video light from about 45º off camera angle matching the exposure. This adds a nice catch light in the eyes and opens up the eye sockets. When your shot is under an overhang the eye sockets will photograph dark. A little light is needed in the eyes to get them explode out of the image.
To take your subject(s) and video lights into that perfect sweet light situation where the eyes are full and rich with soft light, have the assistant build in an accent light with the video lights. Have the assistant about 120º off camera angle and stop down the light half to one full stop under the exposure to give the effect of a dimensional accent light across the hair and cheeks. This will add depth and drama, and put your image over the top.
Have an amazing background but no light to work with? Have the assistant with video lights become the main light by adding light evenly to the subject at one stop over the exposure of the background.

The Silk Scrim:
A Chimera 4 foot scrim kit includes the frame, scrim, dull black cloth, shiny white cloth and a carrying case. The scrim kit doubles as a reflector kit and the scrim.
Have you built the composition of the image only to find splotchy light all around? Adding a scrim between the splotchy light source and the subject knocks out the splotches while allowing the much-needed directional light to transmit.
If you have an amazing background but no open shade in its path, place the subject in the harsh light with the proper composition to the background. Have the assistant hold the scrim between the light source and the subject, tilting the scrim to develop the best light pattern. This works great for one or two but when the group gets big, it’s hard to scrim out the harsh light on everyone.
Scrims come in many different sizes. Check out the different options like the six-foot or ten-foot scrim.

Soft Box Strobe:
A LiteShaper strip attached to a Photogenic 360B powered by a quantum battery and triggered by pocket wizards mounted atop a large light stand works well.
Like the video light, I will use the Soft Box to add catch lights, create accent lighting and build in a main light when no light is available. Great for when the video lights aren’t powerful enough.
The strobe is valuable for adding special effects. At dusk, build the image composition in front of the sunset or on a busy city street with streetlights in the background. Remove the soft box and place the light ten feet back and three feet high behind the subject aiming the light at the head, neck and shoulders. Meter the light at one and a half stops over the exposure.
When all you have is the sun and a soft box strobe, build your composition placing the subjects so the sun becomes a hair light about 60º off camera angle. Bring in the strobe at a 45º off camera angle and match the exposures. Note: 600Ws at 16 feet = Sunny 16. Example: My light 360Ws at 9 feet equals the sun. Sunny strobe lighting gives an edgy harsh look, but does not look well on all subjects. This is very hard with a wedding dress.

The power of adding a touch of light where needed allows us to add more dimension to images than those shooting with just the camera or worse…shooting with an on-camera flash.

Ross Benton is one of today's most poignant, compelling wedding photographers. Ross has the uncanny ability to glimpse a fleeting moment and to beautifully suspend it with the mere depression of his shutter. With a casual, approachable personality, Ross is able to engage his subjects and coax them into a calm, relaxed mood necessary for creating natural fine-art portraiture and emotional photojournalistic images. Additionally, he possesses a fantastic eye for lighting and composition and an innate ability to create mood, drama and emotion, which is beautifully expressed in both his images and his albums. To learn more about Ross, please visit his website at www.rossbentonphotography.com

Click here to download a printable version of The Power of Light.

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