A Model Portfolio Made Easy
Lighting Basics Using BKAs LancerLight Series AC DC Lights

A Model Portfolio, Made Easy

Photos © 2002, Ingrid S. Krampe, All Rights Reserved

When Cassandra Hunter, an aspiring model, came to me to commission a variety of location and studio images for her portfolio, it seemed like a good opportunity to review some basic lighting principles, as well as BKA's (Brandess-Kalt-Aetna) LancerLight Series AC/DC Lights.

I shot the session digitally with the FinePix S1 Pro, Fuji's first generation 3.4 million pixel sensor array Super CCD, which has a maximum 6.1 million pixel output, and variable ISO ratings from 320-1600.

On Location
For the location part of the session, I chose the front porch of the Crawford W. Long Museum in downtown Jefferson, Georgia. The reasons were simple: I needed something close to the studio in order to do all of the work in a single session. I had recently completed some work for the museum, so it would be easy to get permission from the board to use the space. And most importantly, the front porch of the museum faces south/southeast. At 4:30 in the afternoon (in February), the length of the porch running east/southeast to west/northwest would (weather permitting) be bathed in glorious warm directional light, which would look awesome on Cassandra's light cocoa skin. Without any additional effort, the porch also provided some interesting contrasts--a formal looking black and white setting with a wonderfully rustic, chipped paint, turquoise-blue bench.

Although the weather held up fine, Cassandra (with makeup artist in tow) showed up almost an hour late, significantly reducing our window of opportunity. To maximize the location so late in the day, I positioned Cassandra along the interior wall and worked fast, using the silver side of a 36" Photoflex LiteDisc reflector to direct some of the dwindling light onto her face as the sun began to slide down and toward the back of the building (#1).

I saved the full-lengths for last, using the reflector to create drama by emphasizing the face as the rest of the porch slid into shadow. Some light burning was executed on the final prints to add to this effect (#2). On location, all of the images were shot at a dismal maximum aperture of f/5.6 with shutter speeds as slow as 1/30 sec. Although I only had one rather slow Nikon Nikkor 35-80mm f/5.6 lens that worked with the Fuji S1, the size of the Super CCD in relationship to the optics provided a more appropriate 52-120mm range. I need to add here that I was grateful that the optimum comparative ISO value of the Fuji S1 is 320.

The Lighting Setup
I based the studio session on a standard four-light setup, including a main light, a fill light, a hair or accent light, and a background light. For the main light, I used an Excalibur SPC1600 AC/DC light with a standard reflector positioned at a 45Þ angle, camera left. I used the same model for fill, positioned directly behind and above the camera, fitted with a 37" Octagonal EZ-Softbox (SP-SP-SOFT370). Other than the extremely easy setup of the SP-SOFT370 (it opens like an umbrella), this softbox comes with two layers of touch fastener-attached baffles to adjust light quality and intensity. The hairlight, a SPC920 AC/DC fitted with a SPSnoot 920, was positioned behind the subject camera right to add accent and dimensionality as needed. An SPC147 AC/DC with a SPBarn 100 functioned as a background light, low to the ground and behind the subject. All of the AC/DC series are monolights (do not require a heavy power pack) and were easy to set up. Not all of them had modeling lights or adjustable modeling lights. (For more information, go to the "Equipment List" or go to www.bkaphoto.com.)

Although I did not use these lights on location, they are portable and could have been used in any number of configurations on location with either Quantum Turbo or Lumedyne High Voltage Cycler Battery Packs.


Short Lighting
Short lighting (narrow lighting) is often used to narrow a broad face. In this scenario, the main light is placed on the side of the face that is turned away from the camera. However, rather than positioning Cassandra to face camera left and into the designated main light, I turned off the main light and moved the fill 45Þ to the right.

By doing this, the SP-SOFT370 functioned as both the main light and the fill, softening all of the shadow area on the front of her face, save the soft loop shadow from Cassandra's nose. Its close proximity to the subject provided texture for her hair without spilling onto the far right side of her cheek, which remained in shadow. The catchlights ended up just a bit more centered than I would have liked, but overall it was a quick, easy solution to accentuate a beautiful oval face. If her skin had been paler, I would have opted for more shadows and facial modeling, but in this case I put a significant amount of emphasis on the eyes and mouth (#3). In fact, throughout the session I found that in most instances a close ratio between the main and fill light provided the most flattering results.

All of the images in the studio were exposed between f/8 and f/11 with the exception of the "Easy Set Lighting" shots, in which the aperture was maxed-out at f/5.6 for some selective focus effects.


While sidelighting is generally used to profile facial features, it tends to be tough on skin because it accentuates all sorts of blemishes and undesirables. In the old days it was also referred to as hatchet lighting, because, if placed properly at the same height as the subject, it exposed half of the face in complete darkness.

In the studio, I chose to modify the sidelighting--still using the previously designated fill (SP-SOFT370) as the main light, positioned high and to the right of the subject. I simply asked her to turn her body toward the camera and lean forward. The high angle of the light was enough to light both eyes and keep the left side of her face in shadow. I absolutely loved the impact of Cassandra's eyes and mouth in this image, but was at odds about the shadow it placed in her midsection (#4).


Hollywood (Butterfly) Lighting
I prefer Hollywood lighting for most glamour-style portraits, because of the way it contours the center of the face and mouth. To do this, I returned my fill light to its starting position and then turned the original main light (with standard reflector) back on and placed it at a camera angle directly in front of and slightly above the subject.

Notice how the light creates a small symmetrical shadow (butterfly) below the nose and lip. The high position of the main light also put shadow on her neck, minimizing some of the problems there, although I had to be careful not to place the light so high that it would create undesirable "bags" under her eyes. You'll notice that I turned the accent light back on to add accent and depth to the image (#5).


Broad Lighting
Broad lighting is probably my second favorite lighting for model photography. In this scenario, the main light is placed on the side of the face that is facing the camera. I had to remove the background light for the full-length portraits, but kept the accent light on, although I should have controlled it a bit better to keep some of the spillage from her left shoulder. Without the background light, I also had to contend with some shadow on the background (#6).

In portraiture, the most important light in any setup is the main light, because it is designed to imitate the sun. It should be the only light to place shadows on the set. All other lights are designed to fill (soften) shadows caused by the main light or to add accents. If I had a bigger studio, I probably would have opted to move Cassandra forward away from the background, but shooting her full-length in my space limited the choices. As photographers, we learn to work with the limitations of equipment, space, and subject matter and try to select the best solution in every scenario. I did not want to shorten the lens to a less flattering position, and looking at the final image, the soft shadow may just have added a certain amount of dimensionality.


Easy Set Lighting
For the final leg of the session, I decided to have some fun with Cassandra and allowed her to move about the set freely without the need to move the lights. Especially with inexperienced models, it is amazing how much more you can get out of a session if an uninterrupted spontaneous flow can be achieved.

I used only the 37" Octagonal EZ-Softbox for this segment of the session. By simply backing it up I provided even light distribution over the entire set. Because the very soft diffused light was a little flat, I removed the outside baffle to add a little punch to the images. The results were a variety of pleasing "personality" portraits (#7).

Note: The images in this article were in varying degrees enhanced in Photoshop 6.0.

Equipment List
Camera: Fuji FinePix S1 Pro
Lens: f/5.6 35-80mm Nikon Nikkor
Main Light: BKA LancerLight Excalibur SPC1600 AC/DC light with a (SP-SP-SOFT370) 37" Octagonal EZ-Softbox
a. Adjustable (Full, 1/2, 1/4) flash and modeling
b. Guide Number 110 (ISO 100)
c. Flash output 160 ws
Fill Light: BKA LancerLight Excalibur SPC1600 AC/DC light with a standard reflector
a. Adjustable (Full, 1/2, 1/4) flash and modeling
b. Guide Number 110 (ISO 100)
c. Flash output 160 ws
Hairlight: LancerLight SPC920 AC/DC with a snoot (SPSnoot 920)
a. Adjustable (Full, 1/2, 1/4) flash
b. Nonadjustable modeling lamp
c. Guide Number 92 (ISO 100)
d. Flash output 100 ws
Back Light: LancerLight SPC147 AC/DC with barn doors (SPBarn 100)
a. Adjustable (Full, 1/2, 1/4) flash
b. No modeling light
c. Guide Number 140 (ISO 100)
d. Flash output 100 ws
Reflector: 36" Photoflex LiteDisc
Background System: Bogen AutoPole
Computer: Apple G4 Titanium laptop, 500MHz
Portable Storage: IBM 1GB hard drive