Over the years, I realized how to achieve Photographic Lighting that would make my images stand out from all the mediocre photos I've seen on a daily basis. Anyone can take a photo with flash on camera or a studio light with today's digital cameras. Background shown is MC1024
If you look up the definition of Photography in the dictionary you will find the Webster's definition of Photography is: "To paint with Light" which means you have the opportunity to create some great images if you understand light.
When Monet or Rembrandt painted, they did not paint with one brush and only one color, they chose the brush, color and type of stroke to match the effect they were trying to achieve. If you look closely at the images I've selected, you will notice the model is being lighted with one or two lights from the front and if you look closely you will see one side of the body is being lit from the rear to create what is known as rim lighting. (See the left side of the models arm and body and you will see a slightly brighter edge light.
I try to incorporate this second light whenever possible as it separates the subject from the background and makes your photo more dimensional. I like to refer to creating more 3-dimensional images. You need to keep your subject about 5-6 feet from the background allowing you to have a large soft box or white umbrella in front of your model and a second light at 45º behind the subject. If the main light is near your left shoulder when shooting, then the standard 7" reflector with a honeycomb grid attached to the reflector to light the back of the model. The light from the back should be set one F:stop lower than the main light. That is all you have to do to get some of the best portraiture you will ever see out of your camera. (Background shown below is scenic style MSS6027)
Look closely at the photos and see the light on the edge of the model. This effect can only be achieved with a second light. The Rim Light, and you will need the 40º grid on the light to keep the light from coming into your camera lens and creating lens flare, (Lens flare is where the light reflects off the front element of your lens and makes for bad photos.) Maybe you have seen this when shooting outside and the sun hits your lens when shooting into the sun. (Black Diamond Cloth shown AB500)
You will need two lights to accomplish all the lighting illustrated. I prefer the SoCal lights as they are inexpensive and very reliable. I would buy the model 200ws or the 400ws model's for the main light and another 200ws model for the rim light. They come with a 7" reflector and the only other thing you will need is the large umbrella for the main light and a set of grids for the rim light. The grids come in a set of 4 and are progressively marked 10º, 20º, 30º and 40º each creating as larger circle of light, the 40º grid works best for lighting a body either full length or for a head and shoulder shot.
All the backgrounds are available from Backdrop Outlet and if you go online you can find them for sale or rent or request one of their catalogs. They have an endless supply of ideas, props and backgrounds. Shown below is FANTASY CLOTH very inexpensive and drapes nicely.
The one key element with using a main light and rim light is the feeling of separation between the subject and the background. Easy to accomplish and takes you into the world of professional lighting.
One of my favorite backgrounds are the fantasy cloth backgrounds, they are very inexpensive and perfect for travel as they can fold down to fit into your camera bag and are available in a multitude of colors. Here is link for colors available. Fantasy cloth all colors
Try the techniques I've outlined and you will open new doors to your creativity and your photography will be elevated to a new level. If you have problems with setting up the lights and achieving the rim light effect, email me and I'm always happy to help you advance in your photography.