Lesson Of The Month
Using LitePanels On Location For Fashion Shots


The lighting in most of the outdoor model shots you see in catalogs, magazine ads, and even movies is not always entirely natural. Because sunlight can be very high in contrast, it can be more of a detriment to the looks of your subject than an asset. However, if you know a few ways to modify the light of the sun with diffusers and reflectors, you can reduce the contrast and create a beautifully natural look for your subjects.

Here, we employed the use of several LitePanels to improve the lighting conditions in this open grassy field. And even though there was a slight haze in the sky that day, you will see how important the use of these light modifiers proved to be.

The Right Location
Driving out to our intended location the morning of the shoot, I noticed a field off to the right strewn with hay bales and thought it might be an interesting place to work. The farmer who owned the field happened to be nearby and I asked him if we could shoot in it, to which he replied in a thick Maine accent, "Them hay bales ain't gonna be 'round much longah, so you might as well get on in theya and shoot away. Knock y'self out!" (Sorry if this accent doesn't translate well in writing!)

Anyhow, I thanked him and went to unpack our camera and lighting gear. My assistant, Ana, and I walked around the field until we found a good spot. Soon thereafter our model, Paige, showed up and I had her stand in a spot where I could make out some hay bales behind her.

I mounted an Olympus E-20N digital camera to a lightweight tripod vertically and angled it slightly to throw the horizon line off. I then set the exposure mode to Manual, the focusing mode to MF, the ISO to its lowest setting (80), the resolution to SHQ, and the white balance to 5500K to match the color temperature of the sun.
I set the aperture to f/2.4 so that the background would be slightly out of focus, set the shutter speed to 1/500 sec to accommodate for exposure, and took shot #1.

The result shot shows that even though the sky was somewhat hazy and diffused, the sun still caused a significant amount of contrast across Paige's face. While this level of contrast is not as bad as it would have been in full sun, there were still some things we could do to improve the lighting.


LitePanel #1
First, we went about setting up a 77x77" LitePanel frame. We attached two Main & T Clamps onto two LiteStands and mounted the sides of the LitePanel frame to the clamps. Once the frame was supported by the LiteStands, we angled it about 30Þ to allow for maximum coverage, tightened down the Main & T Clamps to prevent the frame from rotating, and used the LiteStands to elevate the frame to the right height (#2).


While Ana made sure the LitePanel diffused Paige from head to toe, I slowed the shutter speed to 1/320 sec to accommodate for a slightly lower light level. Once everything was in position, I took another shot (#3).

The result shows a much more diffused result. The light falls gradually across Paige's face and the overall tone is much more even. Notice how similar the tonal values of her arms are compared to those of the first result shot.


LitePanel #2
Reviewing the shot, I realized I wanted to add a "rim" light to Paige's right side to create a little more separation between her and the background. So Ana set up a 39x72" LitePanel frame with crossbar, attached a soft gold/white fabric to it, and positioned the frame to bounce sunlight into the right side of Paige.
Once the LitePanel was in position, I asked Paige to try a few different poses. Oftentimes, it is more flattering for a model if she faces her body away from the camera instead of head-on, and then turns her head toward the camera. I re-checked focus and took another shot (#4).

Notice how the second LitePanel has created a very nice rim light that articulates Paige's outline and creates a more defined sense of shape. It also creates a great hairlight. Her poses, too, are more dynamic than before, as they suggest movement.


Finally, I wanted to add a third LitePanel to brighten up the right side of Paige's face, but first we needed to secure the second LitePanel into position. Ana took another Main & T Clamp and attached it to the collar of a LiteStand, and then attached the other end of the clamp to the top bar of the LitePanel. She then adjusted the height of the LiteStand to make sure the reflective angle was right and then went to set up the third LitePanel frame (#5).


LitePanel #3
Once the second LitePanel was secured, Ana then set up a 39x39" LitePanel frame, attached a soft gold/white fabric and crossbar, and stood midway between the camera and the second LitePanel. She then angled the LitePanel so that the soft gold side would bounce sunlight into the shadowed side of Paige's face.
Once everything was in position, I asked Paige for some more poses, and without any changes to the camera settings, I took another shot (#6).

The result shows a bright, warm light that fills in the shadows on the right side of Paige's face nicely. As you can see, the LitePanels help to render dimensional, natural-looking lighting without appearing as though the scene is artificially lit.

Technical Equipment
Camera/Media: Olympus E-20N digital camera; lithium polymer battery pack; Olympus 512MB CompactFlash card; tripod
Lighting: Photoflex 77x77" LitePanel frame and crossbar; 77x77" white translucent fabric; 39x72" LitePanel frame and crossbar; 39x72" soft gold/white fabric; 39x39" LitePanel frame and crossbar; 39x39" soft gold/white fabric; 3 Main & T Clamps; 3 LS-2322 LiteStands

If you would like to continue your digital step by step education lessons on editing, printing, and e-mailing your photos it will be on the private section of the Web Photo School. To enroll for WPS just go to www.shutterbug.net and click on WPS Free Lessons.