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DPChallenge Forums >> Photography Discussion >> diagnosing the lighting in images
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01/21/2015 01:49:35 PM · #1
One of my favorite things to do with images is to determine how they were lit. This is possibly the best exercise I've ever done to improve my knowledge and imagination when it comes to studio lights. I've gotten pretty good at it, and can usually tell how many heads were used, where they were placed, at what height/angle, and often, what modifiers they used.

I recently saw this spectacular image and for the life of me I cannot figure out how they lit it. I tried finding a larger version of this but have not succeeded. It may be too small for you guys to see the detail.

Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1140062.jpg

My first thought was that it was a composite. But the reflection in the window is too real.

There are at least 3 lights on her: one camera left, lighting her back; one (special) upper right to light her face, shoulder, and possibly the moving cloth; and at least one more lighting under her chin. It's possible there are more.

Based on the ceiling height, the angle the light had to be at, and especially the placement of the camera left light (notice her shadow on the floor), WHERE are these lights??? It would appear the left one was hung outside the window!

Would love to hear your thoughts on this! For those in the Los Angeles area, it appears on the back cover of Los Angeles Magazine.
01/21/2015 01:59:19 PM · #2
light painted?

01/21/2015 02:01:41 PM · #3
It looks to me that there is a recess where that pillar goes into the ceiling, with a tight-beam spot pointing almost straight down lighting both sides of the dress, the baseboard to her left, the top and base of the pillar, and the floor in front of her.

Message edited by author 2015-01-21 14:02:12.
01/21/2015 02:05:50 PM · #4
One light, right in front of her, maybe not even diffused, as her dress would diffuse the spill.

Obviously, there has been a good bit of processing done here, so they almost certainly cloned out any remnant of the light.
01/21/2015 02:54:47 PM · #5
Originally posted by Cory:

One light, right in front of her, maybe not even diffused, as her dress would diffuse the spill.

Obviously, there has been a good bit of processing done here, so they almost certainly cloned out any remnant of the light.


It looks to me like there was a second light, above and to model's left. Could also be ambient, hard to tell. Definitely a big difference in color temperature between the second light (behind the model, much warmer) and the first (in front, much cooler).
01/21/2015 03:17:14 PM · #6
Originally posted by kirbic:

Originally posted by Cory:

One light, right in front of her, maybe not even diffused, as her dress would diffuse the spill.

Obviously, there has been a good bit of processing done here, so they almost certainly cloned out any remnant of the light.


It looks to me like there was a second light, above and to model's left. Could also be ambient, hard to tell. Definitely a big difference in color temperature between the second light (behind the model, much warmer) and the first (in front, much cooler).


Color temp could be due to bouncing off the non-white dress.
01/21/2015 03:37:57 PM · #7
Originally posted by Cory:

Originally posted by kirbic:

Originally posted by Cory:

One light, right in front of her, maybe not even diffused, as her dress would diffuse the spill.

Obviously, there has been a good bit of processing done here, so they almost certainly cloned out any remnant of the light.


It looks to me like there was a second light, above and to model's left. Could also be ambient, hard to tell. Definitely a big difference in color temperature between the second light (behind the model, much warmer) and the first (in front, much cooler).


Color temp could be due to bouncing off the non-white dress.


I don't think that's the case, here's why... look at the shadow falling on her back from the dress, note the direction of the light. This light is creating the skin tone on her left shoulder; compare to the skin tone on the highlight on the right shoulder. Completely different color temperature.

Message edited by author 2015-01-21 15:38:45.
01/21/2015 04:55:44 PM · #8
Where is the light under her chin coming from? It's way too bright for a bounce
01/21/2015 05:32:19 PM · #9
A lot can be done when you shoot from a tripod, move lights around and keep the subject still during several exposures, and stack & mask them after the fact. That'd be my guess.
01/21/2015 06:28:21 PM · #10
Originally posted by tanguera:

Where is the light under her chin coming from? It's way too bright for a bounce


I think you may have misunderstood.

I was proposing the idea that the light may have been near her feet, in front of her, pointed generally up her front.

Of course, as MadMan2k noted, there's a fine chance this is a composite, where you simply won't be able to figure out the lighting.
01/21/2015 07:02:37 PM · #11
Originally posted by tanguera:

Where is the light under her chin coming from? It's way too bright for a bounce

Uh, in Advanced editing it is possible to selectively brighten an area ...
01/21/2015 07:48:57 PM · #12
I had a feeling from the beginning that this was a composite, but didn't consider that the composited part was the lighting setups. A light in front of her dress would otherwise be visible (as it is translucent). A light shining from the ceiling right would be in the shot. In addition, the face of the reflection in the window is also lit, but from the opposite side! And then there are all the windows to consider... Paul, sure, her chin could have been lit up in post, but I don't think it was.

Regardless, I found this image to be a magnificent example of creative lighting.
01/21/2015 10:50:48 PM · #13
I agree with that, it is awesome!
01/27/2015 12:55:53 PM · #14
This article might be handy -- it shows a bunch of lighting setups with digrams and an example of how the effect looks.

10 Different Lighting Effects With One Softbox
01/27/2015 03:11:59 PM · #15
Thanks, Paul. Yes, quite instructive, but those are really basic lighting setups.

I found the magazine and took a photo of the back page. It's larger, so you can see more detail, but it also has light reflections on the paper, which are obviously not there in the photo ;)

Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1140498.jpg
01/27/2015 03:53:11 PM · #16
Yeah, I'd say the backlit dress part (and the leg shadows) strongly suggests it to be a composite, with someone holding the light standing to the right of the model.

That's how I'd start off if I was to attempt to recreate it, anyways.
01/27/2015 04:15:25 PM · #17
There may be a hint in her dress. If you look under the 'e' of the third corner it looks like they forgot to put a crease back in. It looks suspiciously round.
01/27/2015 04:31:55 PM · #18
Originally posted by kawesttex:

There may be a hint in her dress. If you look under the 'e' of the third corner it looks like they forgot to put a crease back in. It looks suspiciously round.


Excellent catch.
01/27/2015 04:55:23 PM · #19
Originally posted by Cory:

Originally posted by kawesttex:

There may be a hint in her dress. If you look under the 'e' of the third corner it looks like they forgot to put a crease back in. It looks suspiciously round.


Excellent catch.


And it appears that the light reflected off the window is the same height at the splooge I pointed out.
01/27/2015 05:38:14 PM · #20
Great observations. The question about THAT particular light is, WHERE was it??? Her left foot appears to be almost touching the ledge, and the right foot is only a few inches from it. That same light, whatever it was, likely also lit the window side of her face, and under her chin.
01/27/2015 06:06:48 PM · #21
Originally posted by tanguera:

Great observations. The question about THAT particular light is, WHERE was it??? Her left foot appears to be almost touching the ledge, and the right foot is only a few inches from it. That same light, whatever it was, likely also lit the window side of her face, and under her chin.


To me it looks like it was clamped to the lower window frame, about knee high, and pointing towards her. There is no direct light reflection on the window so it is pointed at her.
01/27/2015 09:39:40 PM · #22
I recognize this picture. I could have sworn I saw a whole article on how this was achieved. What was the magazine name and published date? Do a search for this under the topic of lighting. In the meantime, I'll check my book marks for where this was explained. At minimum, it was something similar.

ETA: I looked in all my bookmarks and couldn't find it. A quick search didn't come up with anything.....

Message edited by author 2015-01-27 21:50:54.
01/27/2015 10:00:22 PM · #23
Originally posted by PGerst:

I recognize this picture. I could have sworn I saw a whole article on how this was achieved. What was the magazine name and published date? Do a search for this under the topic of lighting. In the meantime, I'll check my book marks for where this was explained. At minimum, it was something similar.

ETA: I looked in all my bookmarks and couldn't find it. A quick search didn't come up with anything.....


This image appears on the back cover of the current issue of Los Angeles Magazine, which I first saw at my chiro's office. I did a search but couldn't find anything but the online thumbnail I first posted. The second was from a followup visit to the chiro, and I took the picture with my phone.

I've actually contacted the ad agency for the hotel to see if they'll put me in touch with the photographer. I'll keep you all posted :)
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