Dramatic Studio Lighting | Burst Shoot

A few months back we had the privilege to shoot a commercial gig for BurstClub.com that happens to be owned by our dear friends Nathan and Jenni Oates. These guys were amazing to work with and we all had a blast on the shoot! The images are for their new promo material and for their 4 DVD set. The images needed to be very slick and styled, so we had to change up our shooting style to get the job done!


This shoot was a lot different then what we normally do for wedding images where our brides want that soft, pretty light that makes their skin look painted on. This shoot needed much more of an edge to it with the lighting, but also keeping some of that Zach and Jody style with the soft buttery look. So the first thing we did to achieve that look was to not use our typical 24×32 Wesctott soft-box that we use on all of our lit wedding portraits, and opted instead to use a 22 inch silver beauty dish from Paul C. Buff.


The real benefit and difference between using a soft-box (which is basically like having a big soft window), is with a beauty dish, you still get that soft buttery light when it is used in close, but you have much more dramatic shadows and highlights. Because of the design, it shoots out a narrow, 45 degree beam of light that allows the light to be shaped and placed much more specifically then with a soft-box. The cool thing about the silver vs buying a white one, is that the silver will give that super narrow specular light, but then you can add a white diffusion panel (included) to gives it a much softer and wider (150 degree) beam of light if need be. So you basically get two light modifiers in one.


Here is the effect of using the silver beauty dish. You can see that the light is indeed soft, but it creates those deep contrasty shadows and hot slightly specular highlights . Here is the lighting set-up for this shot.

You can see the beauty dish to camera right which was flown about 1.5 feet above eye level for that long body shadow effect. It was just outside of the camera angle to get it close for softness and for fast light fall off (light falls off, or gets dark quicker the closer it is to your subject). There was a 20 degree grid on both of the background strobes. The one on the top left was at a 45 degree angle pointing back towards the subjects shoulders to give that separation to him, and the other was pointing at the weight set (shown with the pretty red flowers in the diagram). Both of those lights were metered to one stop LESS than the main light which was at f/9. All images shot with the 85L 1.2 on the Canon 5D3.

iPhone behind the scenes shot

Here we added some smoke to the shots to get some cool texture in the image.

The trick with putting two people in the shot with one main light that is very directional, is to make sure the that light does not cast a harsh shadow on the person furthest away from it. So we slightly staggered them, then moved the camera angle slightly to compensate. You can see that the single light from camera right hits them both really nicely, and so does the single grid light to camera left as it hits the bridge of her nose and hits his arms and neck.


For this shot, we set up a 4 light system with two 20 degree grids on Einstien strobes kicking in from the back at 45 degree angles (about 7 feet hight), 1 beauty dish to camera right on Nathan, and one gridded 24×32 Westcott soft-box to camera left. The main lights were metered to f/11, then the background lights started at f/8 (one stop below the main lights) but then had to be powered up to taste because the smoke sucked up some of their power.


This was a time consuming and tricky shot to get since we needed the backdrop set up, the smoke to be just right and 4 lights to be metered. We had 3 assistants on this shoot to help and we could not have done it without them! Once everything was metered and ready to go, we used the smoke machine to get it fogged up, then fired off 4 or 5 images before starting again. I also used my 3 stop ND filter to get that shallow depth of field look on these shots. So the final settings were ISO 100, f/4, 1/200 of a second. Below is the diagram of the set up.

Shooting in the studio can seem a bit scary if you have not done it much, but once you have a few tools to work with you can do a lot of different styles of shots! This shoot went great and we can’t wait to see the cover of the DVD!

iPhone behind the scenes

iPhone behind the scenes



We hope you enjoyed this weeks Tips and Tricks and leave a comment below letting us know what you want us to cover next!