3 Strobes and a Bed Sheet


So my cousin stopped by our hotel while my wife and I are drinking winding our way through the Napa Valley.  She was saying she needed a few nice shots of herself, and being ever-ready to shoot, and with the most amazing support staff a guy could ask for-- his wife-- I thought I’d give it a shot.





Well, I only have a few items at my disposal.  I have a 50mm f/1.4 lens, which is a good start (I’m taking mostly scenery shots on our trip, so I didn’t pack my 70-200mm, which I’d prefer for this setup), my other lens is a 17-35mm, which is out of the question for head shots.  


I do have strobes, good, because it’s late at night, so I’m going to have to light it.  But you know strobes-- blasty and direct without modifiers, so we’re going to have to improvise.  


Bring on the bed sheet!  A bed sheet is large, white and semi transparent.  So any small light source (like a strobe) pointed at it will become the size of the sheet as the light penetrates it.  Boo-Yah!  Instant wall of light.


There’s a colorful curtain in my room, so that’s my first background.  




I had the strobes tied together in my Frankenstein setup (see the high-speed sync blog) so I thought I’d start there. Problem is-- the room is cramped as hell.  So we pull the sheet off the bed-- drape it between door jams (just out of frame left) my wife holding the Frankenstein about a foot off the sheet, shoot through to spread the light and get a few decent frames.  The above being the keeper.  


I tried some white wall shots-- but not so good.  So we move outside to a bench, yes, the bed sheet came along!




I’m working entirely in CLS here-- Remote mode.  My f-stop is f/5.6 throughout the entire shoot, focusing always on the near eye.  f/5.6 provides a nice drop off in depth of field beyond the face, without being to shallow.  Indoors I shot at 1/80, outdoor I jumped to 1/250.  Pop up flash is deployed, only to send the CLS signals to the remote strobes.  Flash mode is Commander, with the pop up set to “--”, so it doesn’t affect my image. 






Now I pull the strobes apart, use the ball bungies that had them tied together to strap 2 of the strobes (SB-800s) to the back of the bench, firing into the greenery behind.  I changed the SB-800s to group B, keeping the key (SB-900) behind the sheet on group A.  Using all CLS here.



I tried up and left first, resulting in these shots (above and below).





I’m liking where this is heading, but change the light over to her left (my right) which is a little more flattering.





Just a couple more frames and we hit the hot tub with a bottle of wine.  



The lesson here is ANYTHING can modify light.  The sheet provided a nice modifier to deliver a large soft light from just a single strobe. 


Okay, so the staff at the hotel thought we were nuts, but, hey, it worked!

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