Guest Blogger David Turner Turns on the Lighting Tips

Today's guest blogger is my friend, David Turner - one of the awesome instructors at the Hallmark Institute of Photography - where I have given several seminars.

Stay tuned for guest bloggers from time to time. If you are a pro and would like to be a guest blogger, shoot me an email with you idea and a link to you site.

Take it away David!

I recently photographed NFL Safety George Wilson (Buffalo Bills). We started the shoot at his hotel in NYC with a headshot. The lighting always starts with one light. I think of one light like the sun and the most beautiful time of day is sunrise or sunset so I put the light "low in the sky."

So now it’s time to find the sweet spot of the light, a strip light in as close as you can without being in the frame, then adjust up or down or side to side, feathering or sculpting. The key light is always a game of inches and needs constant attention. When the subject’s chin goes up, the light goes up, if he turns to the side, the light goes with him. If the subject turns away from the light it’s worth it for me to stop the shoot and move the light to the other side. 

So now that the front of the picture is good we can balance it with the ambient or set up a second light for the background. In this case the focus of the background light is the back of his neck, creating separation on the brown canvas. Now that the lighting is set, I can concentrate on my real job, directing and getting my subject’s expression to match the mood of the lighting.

The next shot was George leaning in a doorway. Same procedure as before, start with the key light and move it in as close as possible and start sculpting him by bringing the light around to the side creating shadows on his abs and now lowered a little to make it sexy. The front layer is good now. Turn off all the lights in the bathroom and use a blue gel on the background light to give it a night time feel.

This shot in the hallway leading into his room was lit with three strip lights that look like one. This is called shaping the light. It curves around his body and acts as a kicker which you can see on the wall behind him.

We jumped into the Location Van and the first stop was the Guggenheim.  Balancing the strobe with the ambient is the key here. The back layer was in the sun and the front layer needed to match F16 at 1/250th . So with a profoto Acute B2 Air with a silver beauty dish on a painters pole we brought the dish in as close as possible until we saw the sweet spot hit his face then feathered it down to his chest then brought the power up. Not bad for 1 light.
If you would like to see all the shots from this session please visit

If you would like private instruction, I am teaching this summer at the Maine Media Workshop June 28th to July 2nd. Register for this workshop by Wednesday May 25th.

And at ICP in NYC July 24 and 25.

David Turner
Hallmark Institute of Photography
PO Box 308, At the Airport
Turners Falls, MA 01376
413-863-4038 x18