Fantasy Photoshoot (Studio)

Yesterday I was able to assist with a studio photoshoot. Not related to my OCA course at all, but a great learning opportunity and my first ever time in a studio. The subjects of the shoot were two characters from a fantasy themed computer game, with the images being used to help for the publicity.

I learned a lot about lighting (unsurprisingly), both how to set it up and how it’s used. I don’t have an external flash and only rarely use the flash on my camera, so it’s not an area I’m familiar with. I was surprised to hear that we would be shooting against a white background and that due to using flashes, the background wouldn’t be exposed and would appear black. However, due to the higher than expected ambient light, we found that to get a completely dark background we needed to improvise using some black blankets. This caused a few problems with the taller model, but otherwise worked well.

Before the shoot I read this article about different lighting patterns commonly used in a studio. This was helpful when I was told we’d be using both short and broad lighting during the day.

This was the lighting set up used:

A. The Undead Empress

Setup for the Undead Empress

Lighting setup for the Undead Empress

Three speedlights were used: one on the left with a gel to provide rim light, the main one on top right with a softbox, acting as a diffuser to feather the light, and one bottom right with a snoot to provide more direct light. A reflector and large fan were also used.

B. The Druid

Lighting setup for The Druid

Lighting setup for The Druid

Speedlights were used to the left and right of the subject. The one on the right had a softbox and the one on the left used a beauty dish with a honeycomb (to help direct the light). A reflector was used in front of the subject to help eliminate shadows. Later on, a speedlight was placed into a wooden box on the subject’s knee, to create a glowing effect.

The models (with ambient light):

The Druid

The Druid

Undead Empress

Undead Empress

It was a long day and surprisingly hard work. The lights took a long time to set up, not least because of a fairly vague brief and unusual subjects. For future shoots I would hope that the initial set up is a bit quicker, so we are able to spend more time interacting with the models, making sure they are comfortable, and experimenting with the characters they are playing.

With regards to the photos I took documenting the day, the light was very strange. I found I needed to underexpose by a full-stop, and that I needed to use a high ISO and large aperture due to low light levels (higher than an average studio apparently, but much lower than outside). I used aperture priority mode on my camera, varying the aperture slightly depending on what I was shooting, and let the camera choose the exposure. However, with large walls of white or black, I found the exposure varied. Although I had highlight warning enabled, I didn’t look at the histogram or the shutter speed, and so some pictures came out better than others. With hindsight, as the lighting was even throughout the studio (with the exception of the flashes, which I didn’t use), I should have used a manual setting and employed a grey card to get a correct exposure and white balance.

In future I hope to help out on a few more shoots, with the intention of learning how to use an external flash with my camera and set up lighting from scratch. I’m looking forward to seeing the processed images and will link to them here when they’re available.

EDIT: Some processed photos are now viewable here.



  1. […] and a load of kit to some locations in and around Manchester and take some photos. However, a photography keen friend by the name of Lucy put me in touch with a professional photographer (Ste Manns of Quattrophoto) who was interested […]

  2. […] of the runner, I asked someone to model for me and planned a (mini-)shoot! This, combined with the studio shoot I assisted on has helped reduce my fear of photographing people. I intend to continue finding the […]

  3. […] Restricting where the light falls, by using a snoot, gobo or grid, is a very important way of controlling light. It is also a simple way of creating a very dramatic lighting effect. I’ve previously seen snoots used when I’ve helped out in a studio. […]

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