New Lighting Samples

by William Lulow

I decided to do some long overdue lighting sample upgrades. With the help of a friend January,  who was kind enough to do the modeling,  we set about duplicating some images I had made over 30 years ago. As someone who teaches lighting all the time, I guess it was time. Even though the principles don’t change, new images are always welcome. I’ll begin today with the HOLLYWOOD LIGHT.

Basically you want to place the light pretty much at the camera position and elevate it high enough so that a “butterfly” type shadow is produced under the subject’s nose. This lighting gets its name from the way the old film studio photographers used to light movie stars back in the days before electronic flash units became available. It’s purpose was to light the face fully and at the same time producing shadows on each side that tended to make the face stand out all the more:


You can tell about the placement of the light by looking at the “catchlights” in the subject’s eyes. This lighting is supposed to light the face and pretty much nothing else.

As you go through some studio lighting exercises, it’s important to note that every light has a specific job and no light should try to do more than that. If you think about studio light this way, it will greatly simplify almost any lighting arrangement. In addition, it will ensure that you don’t get any unwanted effects from setting up too many lights at once.

Lighting arrangements should be built up slowly, adding one light at a time. This image was made with a single strobe unit aimed directly at the subject. To illustrate the difference between a direct Hollywood Light and one that was bounced into a reflective umbrella, we made another image with the light in exactly the same position only this time we used the umbrella:


You can tell right away that an umbrella was used because the “catchlights” in the eyes are larger, the shadow under the nose is softer and the whole lighting effect is softer. It leads us to one of the fundamental rules of lighting for portraits: the larger the light source in comparison to the subject, the softer the lighting effect will be. You will need to keep this in mind as you continue to add lights to your studio setup. Notice also, how the skin is much more evenly lit and not as washed out as the first picture. That’s because the light is REFLECTED. It has to travel first to the umbrella and then bounce off it and travel to the subject. The size of the umbrella and the fact that the light travels about twice the distance as with a direct light accounts for the softer effect as well.