It is powerful to be able to create tightly controlled slices of light in your photographs. That level of control creates drama, directs the eye, and can allow you to make creative compositions that would not otherwise be possible.
Yes, there are specialty modifiers that allow you to create slices of light (i.e. the Westcott Optical Spot), but you can also create a dramatic and theatrical lighting effect using nothing more than a bare bulb and 2 V-flats. In this video, I’ll show you just how to do that for striking results!
Let’s explore some of the key concepts behind bringing this image and technique to life!
Quality of Light:
In order to create the dramatic slices of light seen in this shoot, you’ll need to select a hard light source. A hard light source can be achieved (and exaggerated) in a few ways. Keep this essential rule of lighting in mind; the smaller the light source relative to your subject, the harder the light. In other words, you can (a) select a smaller light or modifier and/or (b) move the light further away from your subject and thus make it relatively smaller.
In this shoot, I selected a bare bulb (hard, direct, small light source) and moved it many feet away from my subject. In fact, the further away from the subject I can move it in the space, the ‘better’ and harder the light for this technique!
To create the ‘slice’ effect in this image, you’ll need to block off some of the light using flags. Flags are really anything that can be placed in between the light and the subject/background for the purposes of controlling/blocking light.
In this fashion concept, I wanted the light to be blocked full length on the scene, therefore I used two V-Flats with a narrow opening between them. This narrow space is what allowed that ‘slice’ of light to appear. The wider the opening, of course, the wider the slice of light.
The angle of Light:
As I began to play around with light and shadow in this concept, I realized that I wanted to purposefully cast the subject’s shadow on the background. This isn’t a necessary part of the concept, but I liked this approach because it was a twist on how I had utilized the slice of light in the past.
By using the subject’s shadow on the background, It helped to reinforce her shape and create interesting elements within the slice of light itself (rather than just being a blank highlight on the background). When the light was placed at a ‘normal’ angle (aka slightly higher than the subject and pointed down), it created a smaller and more compressed shadow behind the subject. Her shape was not as elongated or pleasing.
For that reason, I decided to break a key rule of lighting! I flipped the light upside down, with the light near the floor, and lit her from below! The result is that her shadow became very tall, exaggerated, and a compelling element of interest in the shot. In most images, I kept her face in profile or with her chin slightly downward to help avoid ‘monster’ light on her face (weird up-shadows from the nose).
You can use a slice of light against any tone of the background, but in this image, I wanted to actually see the slice cut through the scene. For this reason, it was necessary to select a background with a lighter tone. I chose the Savage Universal Super White, and as a result, with a high contrast black and white conversion I could make the highlight on the background appear almost pure white!
I grabbed the Canon R5 and the Canon RF 24-105mm to create these shots. While most of my compositions were full length, I also cropped in (105mm) for a tighter headshot that created striking sculpted light on my subject for a beauty shot. In other words, this lighting technique can be versatile!
Canon RF 24-105mm 4.0
Savage Universal Super White
V-Flat World V-Flat
Avenger D600 Arm
Thanks for a thorough description of this interesting technique.