Create Dramatic Overhead Studio Lighting: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey

Create Dramatic Overhead Studio Lighting: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey


In this video I create dramatic overhead lighting in a small home studio Hello, I’m Gavin Hoey and you’re watching AdoramaTV brought you by Adorama the camera store that’s got everything for us photographers! And today you join me in my small home studio. I’m going to be doing a dramatic overhead lights shoot. We’ve got a fantastic model. We’re going to have a brilliant beam of light coming down onto him, except I’m in a small studio space and that means there’s going to be some compromises. The first one is just the sheer height of it – it’s not much higher than I can reach here, that means I can’t get that background like really high up in the air. It will mean that the shaft of light coming down isn’t going to have hard edges unless you’ve got some sort of focusing system for your lights, which I don’t have but what I do have is well, a room with lots of black curtains so I can control the light a little bit, and I get more control. If i use things like grids, now grids are great for pushing light in one direction and I’ve got a small one here which will fit onto the Streaklight we’ll be using. And a much larger eggcrate grid for my soft box, so that’s what we’re going to do. Let’s get a model in, let’s get some light set and let’s get shooting. So today I’ve been joined in the studio by Anton who’s gonna be the model for the shoo, but not only is he modelling, he is also a magician! No, he really is! So we’re gonna do some magician shots for this as well, which is going to look great with this lighting. Now this is going to be a multiple light setup, but we’ll get the multiple lights in a minute. In fact if you are doing multiple light shoot the best thing to do is to break it down into pieces, So the first piece is going to be the overhead light, the one that’s going to give this shaft of light coming down. I’d like quite a tight beam of light and to achieve it I’ve got a few different modifiers I can fit to my Adorama Streetlight 360. Now at the moment it has just the standard reflector, I’ve metered this out, it’s all ready to go, let’s take a shot like this, see how it looks. OK Anton, are you ready? OK here we go, and when I take that we get some interesting lighting, don’t worry it will get better as the shoot goes on but we’re looking at the shape of that light as you can see, it’s a fairly wide spread which is OK, but I’d like a tighter beam of light. So to get a tighter beam of light, I’ve swapped to the snoot, now this is the snoot specifically designed for the Streetlight 360, and it really will give a much tighter beam of light, but at the same time it will take away some light as well. How much? Well that’s what we’re going to find out, let’s take a meter reading. It’s actually three stops less than it was before and I can remote control this three stops. Ican add that in here, let’s test that. Brilliant, perfect! We”re back to our target aperture. Let’s take a picture and see how that looks, and are you ready? OK, as you can see that is a much much tighter beam of light to the point where it’s actually missing part of the chair, it’s just too tight. So this time, I swapped back to the standard reflector, but I’ve added a grid and the grid purpose is to focus the light a little bit more than the standard reflector, and hopefully they should give us something in between the two to get the effect of the shape of light that I need. But when you change the modifier you need to re-meter, so let’s just take a quick meter reading. Yeah, that is, that is very much too bright OK, we reduce it down, don’t forget I’m trying to hit my target aperture the same as I’ve dialed into my camera. There we go, let’s take that picture Anton are you ready? Ok here we go and that’s a really great beam of light it’s about the right size and shape to light both sides of the chair, but as you can see we’ve got very bad lighting on Anton, and that’s what we’re going to fix next So to light the shadows in this picture, we’re going to add a second light. A fill light is this one right here – this is the Wescott Rapidbox Duo. It’s a nice little soft box and it should put some light into the shadow parts, so we can actually see Anton’s face. Now, I’ve metered this out already, I’ve switched the background light off, so we only see the effect of this light. Let’s take a shot are you ready Anton, here we go…. and of course it does what soft boxes do, and gives us a nice even flood of light, which is really nice, normally, but it doesn’t really work, because you’ve got to remember, I’ve now light that background, and that’s got to have that shaft of light in it, so I’m just adding the grid, that’s an optional extra on this soft box but it’s one of those things that’s really worthwhile having, that’s just going to help to focus the light a little bit, stop it hitting the background quite so much, but it’s also going to take away some of the light so let’s just do a little meter reading just from the front here OK, yes, it’s taking away a stop of light, So I can add in a stop of light from the remote control. Let’s take a test shot, see how that looks? Anton are you ready? Here we go. And now that background has gone completely black, well at least, very nearly black. The grid has really worked rather well, but do I actually need that much light from the fill light. Remember this is only going to light the shadows a little bit, so in fact I’m just going to turn that light down a little bit, so I get a less intense light. Here we go, and although that looks really underexposed. When I mix that with the background light, that should look really good, and give a nice combination of background light and fill-light. However there is a slight downside with this lighting scenario. If Anton was wearing a hat as well – well he’s a magician these things do happen, the light is still going to come from above, but whenever you add a hat with a brim, you’re likely to cast a shadow because the lights coming from above, and that’s going to cause us problems. Let’s have a little look, and that looks great until you look at the face where you can see that part of it is now in shadow. Thanks to the brim of a hat, and although that might be exactly the look you’re going for. I’d like to try and put some light back into those shadows. And that means another light modifier. So, for the extra light I could use a small flash, but it’s even easier just to get something like this, just a reflector, and just bounce a little bit of this light, back up and into the shadows underneath the hat, fill in that way. It should be a subtle effect, but it should work. Let’s take the same shot with the reflector in position Anton here we go. Fantastic, and when you look up close, you can see how there’s just a little bit more light in both eyes. That works really nicely just to fill in the shadows. So that is the lighting for this shoot complete, two lights, one reflector, one amazing magician Let’s take some pictures – Anton are you ready? It’s always a good idea to review the images as you’re going along, and I could see really quickly that there were some compromises I was making because I’m in a small studio, but I also knew that those compromises I could easily fix with a bit of post-production. So let’s have a look at one of the pictures and see what I did. Now, I’ve already done a bit of fine-tuning with this image on the exposure and the contrast, let’s look at the colour. The colour, I love this red chair. That’s what really got this shoot going, and I’d like a color to complement that, or at least go opposite that, so it’s sort of a bluey feel for the background and the rest of the shot really would work rather well. Am I will achieve that here in Adobe camera raw, by going for the temperature slider, and reducing the temperature down probably just a little bit. Maybe, that’s a bit too much, lets bring it back up, somewhere in the middle perhaps. Yeah, there we go that looks pretty good, so a slightly bluish feel to the shot. Now the bottom of the picture i would have liked a nice curving shadow to make it look like the whole thing was lit just by this background shaft of light! Of course it wasn’t, which is why we have this flat floor so I can achieve that by changing to the radial tool up at the top here, and with the radial tool I need to make sure that my effect is on the outside, which it is and then I’m going to decrease the exposure by maybe a stop and a half and we’ll drag out a little kind of radial effect, just along the bottom, something like that with a bit of a curve. Yeah, that looks pretty good, the only problem is, it’s not really where I’d like it to be it’s a bit sort of soft and fuzzy if I go back down to the bottom, I can change the feathering for that filter, and if I drag the feathering down, you can see I have a really hard line. But of course, we can’t get a hard edge with this light, so slightly softer edge is I think the way to go. The only problem is – it affects everything, both top and bottom, everything outside of that green circle. So I need to swap over to the brush version of this tool, make sure I’m set to the minus brush, and then minus that away, paint that away, so it doesn’t have any effect up here at all. I can remove the effect from any areas I like. Ok let’s open up that image into photoshop because it’s always a bit more work to do as well. Particularly in a small studio. Things like cloning out light stands – yeah that always happens but there’s also the shaft of light. Now I was limited by the ceiling height which is about eight feet at the highest point in my studio. I would have liked a bit more, but fortunately I can do that with a bit of post-production. So here it is, there’s the limiting factor. I can’t see past the top of that, I can actually see the top of the softbox that was closer. But what I can do is just stretch it a little bit. I get the rectangular marquee tool, and then just drag out a rough-and-ready rectangle something like that, and I can use free transform, which is found under edit and then down to free transform. I come to the middle handle at the top and I can just drag up and as I drag up – you see I stretch it ever so slightly, not enough to distort anything too weirdly, but enough to get that up and out the way. Press Enter or click on the tick, select and de-select, and with a little bit of fine-tuning and cloning there it is, my final image is complete. Well that was a really great fun shoot I enjoyed it, and we got some fantastic pictures of the end of it as well. However, if you want to see more videos from myself, and the other amazing presenters right here on AdoramaTV you know what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to click on the Subscribe button I’m Gavin Hoey, thanks for watching


100 thoughts on “Create Dramatic Overhead Studio Lighting: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey

  1. Another time, thanks Gavin. Watching at your videos everything seems possible. I am learning a lot from you!! You are the best! Cheers from Italy

  2. Gavin is one of my favorite photographer because he shows how to do a lot of different type of photography in a small studio!!! Not everyone has a lots of money for a hugs studio. Thanks Gavin!!!!

  3. what percentage of your work is with the Olympus OMD ?
    is it your favorite camera ? if so then why ? what other cameras do you use ?

  4. Love your work Gavin, in most of your videos you say about how small your home studio is, what is the actual size of it if you don't mind me asking…

  5. Hi Gavin! I have really enjoyed your entire series of videos. Question about your camera body – I noticed you changed from the Canon D70 to the Olympus OM M5 Mark II. Does the environmental seal make a huge difference for you versus the weight and MPs?? Thank you!

  6. Great video as always.

    In the past you were using a full frame and an APSC BUT for the last year or so you started to use an Olympus MFT body …. so do you find it better than Full Frame?

  7. was watching your videos all night long (tomorrow having first studio photoshoot). it helped me so much! i really thank you a lot for such and informative and fun videos, hope to see more!!! thank you

  8. Hi Gavin I  loved this video, I think what you could have tried if you had one would be to add some smoke from a smoke machine. Other than that this is an awesome image, you have got me thinking now of what I can do. Thanks for the great videos please keep these videos coming.

  9. Nice Job! I have several of the 360 WS Streak lights they are great because they are pretty well made, light to carry around and I can change the power independently on each one from the transmitter.

  10. I love your energy. Thanks so much, I am learning so much from you. I however don't have a studio and live in the apartment. I did not buy any backdrops yet and am wondering if you have any suggestions for home-made backdrops, e.g. white sheet (but then how to position it etc.). Thanks in advance, it is greatly appreciated 🙂

  11. Hello Gavin. Without a doubt, another extraordinary video. Congratulations
    I see almost everyone who posts but I have a question to ask. When I shoot in my studio, I turn off all lights other than the flashes, to avoid light contamination. In your demonstrations, I notice that, in general, you use flashes but do not turn off the ambient lights.
    Do you do white balance beforehand?

  12. Hoey is a beast. I need to do a shoot like this. The magician dude looks kinda mean, like he will make your soul disappear into the depths of hell.

  13. Hi Gavin really enjoy ur tutorials, may I ask which PC monitor are you using for ur photo and video editing?

  14. i learned the valuable lighting structure from this video, which i'd always wanted to know for the dramatic effect, thanks to Gavin.
    And Anton seems to surely know how to pose~ & what to show, which made the photos looked even more dramatic & mysterious. Great results.

  15. I really appreciate that you guy's are doing these lessons so passionately and so full of detail all for free. The difference that it's made with my own shots or skill level is huge! 10yrs ago you would of thought you could only get this kind of knowledge from a photography course at a school. So thank you very much.

  16. Gosto muito da forma que o Gavin apresenta os vídeos e de toda sua criatividade. Thanks Gavin and Adorama.

  17. My goodness, those worked out GREAT! I have never seen anyone being as good with lighting as you. Really, really great!
    But what I love most about your videos is you, being a very down-to-earth guy, not boasting, not sassy like sooo many other photographers on Youtube.

  18. Till today I didn't get any channel like this one, No other channels on YouTube will teach you like this,, from my point of view 😅 don't know of others

  19. These videos are amazing! I love how you Hoey always takes his time to demonstrate what every single light with every setup (like before and after diffusers) does to the scene. Really great work!

  20. Great video again,, Gavin! Well and easy explained AND it’s nice to see, that you are not one of these guys, who using absolutely overpriced Apple-shit for post production!!! I love your pictures!
    Greetings from Germany

  21. Great video, very creative, I wanted to ask where can I get that grey textured backdrop!!?

    I noticed it’s not of the list in the description.

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