logo

Artificial multi-point lighting

If there was one valuable thing about photography that I learned in college, it was the science behind lighting.  Understanding the inverse square law and how multiple lights can affect an image proved to be invaluable to me.

While I was at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I had an editor give me the idea of shooting a food set with multi-point lighting. The basic multi-point setup includes three lights. One each to the left and right and one from behind. The problem is I only have one light – my Canon 550EX Speedlight.

While I was realizing how impossible this was with my gear, my editor opened my eyes. Why not set the camera on a tripod and shoot a long exposure. During that time, I can walk around with my flash off of the camera and fire it manually multiple times from multiple angles.

Voila. Max’s quick and easy multi-point lighting was born.

The one problem with it is that it is very hard to replicate an image. You can never get the light exactly where it was before. This is one of those situations where you shoot a lot with a general idea and hope for the best.

The first time I attempted and accomplished this technique was exactly one year ago on location at a Brazilian restaurant in the Central West End of St. Louis called Coco Louco Brasil.

Monday February 16, 2009 Coco Louco Brasil Foreground: Espeto Misto - kabob with pricanah (brazilian steak), smoked sausage, shrimp, filet mignon wrapped in bacon, chicken wrapped in bacon, onions Background: Tostada de Camarão - shrimp sauteed in Bobo sauce served on toasted garlic bread. Max Gersh | Post-Dispatch

Monday February 16, 2009 Coco Louco Brasil Foreground: Espeto Misto - kabob with pricanah (brazilian steak), smoked sausage, shrimp, filet mignon wrapped in bacon, chicken wrapped in bacon, onions Background: Tostada de Camarão - shrimp sauteed in Bobo sauce served on toasted garlic bread. Max Gersh | Post-Dispatch ©2009

For that shot, the camera was set for a four second exposure at f/16 and ISO 100. If I remember accurately, I fired the flash three to four times.

Coincidentally, I used the same technique today.

I was given the last minute assignment to shoot a group of local high school wrestlers that have advanced to the state championships. I wanted to isolate them in the image. I turned off all of the lights in the room and fired the flash twice – once from each side.

New Castle wrestlers (left to right) Connor Mullins, Brenden Campbell, Alex Catron and Cody Fellers will compete Friday and possibly Saturday in the Indiana High School Athletic Association state championships. (C-T photo Max Gersh) ©2010

New Castle wrestlers (left to right) Connor Mullins, Brenden Campbell, Alex Catron and Cody Fellers will compete Friday and possibly Saturday in the Indiana High School Athletic Association state championships. (C-T photo Max Gersh) ©2010

This time, the camera was set to a two second exposure at f/8 and ISO 400. I also was using the Gary Fong PowerSnoot on my flash.

With one light and forward thinking, any image is possible.

Senate debate through video and photographs
Cell phones are everywhere
  • Share

3 Responses

  1. The old is new again. There’s a great book of photographs of locomotives photographed at night using flashbulbs and an open shutter. The iris shutter clipped the flashbulb output – it was set to capture the light at its peak burn. The open shutter included the light at ignition and as it
    trailed off – a half-stop or so additional exposure. We set the solenoid timing on the speed
    graphic by using a piece of printing paper in a frame which spun the paper, and looked at the pattern of exposure when the frame was spun and lens fired at different shutter speeds.
    We set the solenoid for the peak exposure at 1/200.
    using multiple light setup is essentially individual exposures from each light, only simultaneously. But you knew that. I just like to lecture.
    I’m frustrated and baffled by a class full of students who do not seem to want to work or give a
    care. And I’m not sure how to inspire them. Hope all is well with you. – Bob

    • Now there is a story I haven’t heard! I never would have thought about the intensity cycle of a flashbulb.

      With some things, it helps to have a preconceived idea of what your image is going to look like. Once you have the answer, you can solve the problem. Just like algebra (but I was never great with math).

      I imagine it is hard to invigorate the minds of students who either don’t care or who have little hope as they are about to try to enter a struggling industry. But that does remind me of a story.

      My first job was working at a KFC in Louisville. One of my managers constantly said he didn’t get photography, or art at all for that matter. I asked him what he did like. He told me sports. Especially football. He said he read all the major sports magazines.

      When he said that, I pointed out the fact that those magazines are filled with art. Just a type that appeals to a different kind of person. While I don’t have any feelings one way or another for a Picasso, I love all photojournalism (and most photography). While he had little feelings for most photography, he connected with gritty sports action images.

      We all have to find what particular thing appeals to us and run with it as hard as we can.

      Maybe your students know that they enjoy taking pictures but have yet to find a subject that they enjoy to photograph.

  2. […] The sports department has kept me busy recently. On top of regular feature stories here and there, the paper is running articles on the players of the year from each sport. I’ve shot so many sports portraits that I tried to coin the phrase “sportrait.” (Don’t forget my underwater portrait of the two swimmers or the group shot of wrestlers.) […]

Leave a reply