Making of - Shooting Florence

Written by Manuel Faessler
Hi folks!

As I get constantly asked how I've done this or that shot I'll start with writing a short blog-post about it in the future (starting today). This will relieve me of having to explain the same thing „over and over" again and I'll get a little collection of the settings I did as well. Actually I've done this once before, if any of you guys have missed it, here is the blog.

This time I'll write about the shooting I've done with Florence. The shooting was planed as a low-key-black-and-white-shooting and I've prepared a couple of setups that were a little bit more complicated than usual (and hoped that they'd work out as planned). Out of this shooting I'll explain two setups allong with all settings and toughts.

Before I start my explainations I've to ask you to excuse my non-existant drawing skills ... I've made the sketches that follow only for you to understand my explainations better ... I think I'll have to get one of these fancy setup-drawing-programms soon ... ;-)

Set 1 – Bidirectional lighting

Pictures and Setup-Sketches Set 1234

The basic idea behind this setting was, to get the light ONLY where I wanted it. I wanted to play with light-edges and shapes without showing too much ... to play a little bit with the viewer's fantasy but to get a well composed low-key nonetheless. The whole thing in black and white to reduce everything to the most significant things ... just as I love it. I really like this „reduced style" where you won't get distracted by colors or too much information ... I could watch pictures shot like this for hours without getting bored ... ;-).

As you can see in the layout, I've built this setup on a black paper background, which I've pulled all over the floor even behind the photographers position, just to eliminate every possible reflection. Addidionally I've set up two screens (in my case large EPS-plates which are white and have one side painted black – about 2m high, 1m wide mounted on a wooden base) on each side with the black side facing the models position. Between those two screens I've positioned a flash with a striplight (30x120 cm, without the front diffusor, without grid – upright) attached to it. Exactly between the flashes I've put a wooden box which I've covered with a black fabric for the model to sit/lie on. As you can see in the second sketch I've pointed the striplights slightly downwards (maybe 10°) just to light the box a little bit. The two additional screens right in front of the photographer were set up as a „security measurement" ... just to eliminate every reflection that might come from the room behind the photographer (I think those two were unnecessary).

The gaps between the screens on the sides were even a little bit narrower than the striplights were wide (I'd say about 20cm) to creat a really narrow „beam" of light. The right flash (from the photographers point of view) was set about half a stop less than the left one, just to create a drop of light despite the very symetrical setup – or to work with a „main flash" if you want.

The camera-settings were nothing really spectacular, ISO, 1/160s (of course – it was a studio-shooting), aperture f9 (to eliminate all ambient light and to get a big enough depth of field) on my Canon 5DIII and my favourite Sigma 85mm f1.4 EX DG.

The main challenge while shooting is to guide the model EXACTLY (as I see it, working with the modeling light is an absolute must – it's the only way to get a clue how the flashlight will look), as the light-beam is very narrow and depending on the models' pose will look completely different. Additionally it is very probable that the model will throw shadows on herself because of the pose ... the posing possibilties are very limited with this kind of light – but I think Florence has done a great job despite the complicated setting!!

Set 2 – Backlight

Pictures and Setup-Sketches Set 22

The basic idea behind this set was to creat a backlight-setup, but to additionally light the model from the front as well, but only lightly. Principially I wanted to „fake" the light as it would be if the model would stand in front of a big window and would only be illuminated by the light falling trough it ... but as a low-key shot in front of a black background.

As you can see in the layout I've used a black paper-background again (again pulled as far as the photographers position). The screens were set up as a „L" behind the model on each side with the white sides facing the inner side of the „L". In addtion to that I've set up two additional screens right in front of the photographer with the white sides facing the model (acting as reflectors). As you can see in the layout the set is built much narrower than the one before. This is to ensure that the distances for the light to travel are as short as possible (as the light-intensity is reduced with the distance it as to travel).

The flashes (equiped with 30x120 striplights and front-diffusor but without grid) were positioned on each side pointing into the „L" in a way that the reflected light that hits the model is indirect and very soft (as I've tried to show in the sketch, the screens which are parallel to the background are protuding slightly). The to screens (acting as reflectors) in front of the photographer reflect some light on the model, even indirecter and softer.

The camera settings were nothing special neighter, again ISO100, 1/160s (still shooting in a studio, remember?), aperture f9 (again because I wanted to eliminate ambient light and the depth of field) and again on my Canon 5DIII (because nobody wanted to equip me with a Phase One ...) and my favourite Sigma 85mm f1.4 EX DG.

In this set the model is a little bit more free with her position and posing (despite the narrow set) because of the more evenly lit setting. The main challenge here are the poses, because thebalance of the light edges and the amount of light that hits the models front is essential. I have to confess that I've really messed up a lot of shots because that balance hasn't worked out ... the light-edges were to strong or in the wrong place, the lighting on the front side to weak or to strong, ...

Based on this setup and with the expieriences I've made I've a new setup in mind which I want to try on one of my next shootings. I want to get the light a little bit „harder" and more „controllable" and to eliminate the downsides of this setup ... you can look forward to it, as I surely will post it here ... ;-)

If you have some additional questions for my, feel free to ask me. You can just comment here, write me an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or send me a message on facebook. I'll do my best to answer all your questions.

If you want me to write about a specific topic in the future please let me know. I'll be happy to write a little post about it.

And as allways: if you like this post (or not), please let me know ... spread the word, press „like", etc. I really appreciate your feedback!!!


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