Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bending the Light to the Right

This is what my pottery shooting setup looks like. Pretty darned crude. You have a simple grey paper backdrop. Held aloft by two tall stands and a crossbar. The main lightsource is coming from a cheap Strobelite strobe popped into a medium softbox, held over the subject on a boom. Simple.

Any light that can be scooped up and pushed under the bottom edge of pot is done so with foamcore reflectors or cardboard covered in tin-foil. Cheapo solutions.

When there is simply not enough directional light to create the mood that I want, or to highlight a particular aspect of a form, I bring in my strobe with a snoot on it. Inside the snoot is a honeycomb gridspot. This helps collimate the light (not sure what that means? parallel rays of light, less splashing of light) into a night tight beam. The problem here is that the snoot holds heat against the strobe, so I can't make use of the modelling light. Kind of have to just sight it, and test. Figuring out power settings or ratio is also sort of by eye. I am sure there's a way of doing it with a light meter, but I haven't figured that out yet.

Anyone have any great tutorials on using a Sekonic light meter?

One thing you'll notice is that the snoot isn't actually pointing at the subject. Instead, I bounced the snooted strobe off the tinfoil reflector in hopes of pushing just a touch of light under the belly of this vase. I think this is one of those areas as in cooking, when you add just enough to taste.

I dont think this could be more ragtag. Some folks have asked me if there are products they can buy that will do the same sort of thing as my DIY kit... yeah, sure. Flag and gobo kits can be found on or B&H or They sure as heck aren't cheap though.

The one thing that I am surprised by is how much I learned from David Hobby at his FlashBus workshop. He made the comment that light is additive. Simple enough right? For me, that has come to mean: Establish the darkest darks with ambient light.... then bring in just enough light to establish midtones.... then add other lights or reflectors for depth and contour... for final shaping you can pop in some tiny highlights, rim lights, hairlights, etc.... and that's it. Now I just need to figure out how to measure these things, so that setting it up each time is less trial and error.

Does this help? Does it make sense? Other questions? Does anyone want more details?


  1. I always thought it was magic.

  2. Thanks Gary. If you find youself in need of images for a show or website, give me a scream. It'd be an honor and a pleasure.