While many photographers opt for the soft-light look, it's easy to get in a situation where every shoot a larger modifier is brought out to create beautiful flowing soft light. However, it's important to remember there are other tools in our bag. When the job requires a bolt rather than a nail, it's wise to bring a wrench rather than a hammer. Much like actual tools, photographic tools also serve different purposes. This particular job required drama, and where's there's drama there is hard light and shadow.
The set up is quite simple and very portable. Using two speedlights and two Rogue 3-in-1 Flash Grids, we can quickly set up a dramatic lighting situation that highlights both the subject's facial features and separates them from the environment.
The first light will be modified with a Rogue 3-in-1 Flash Grid. Using a 45° (the thinner of the grid pieces) Grid we create a wider, but direction, beam of light to illuminate the mask of the subject's face. By placing this about a foot and half above the subject's eye line we can have a catchlight in each eye, dramatic fall off on the cheeks and under the chine, while still having them looking directly in the camera. Now that we've created dimension on the face, let's move on to creating more of this depth throughout the image.
The second light will be modified the exact same way (Rogue 3-in-1 Flash Grid with 45° grid insert) except that it will be pointed directly at the back ground at about 5 feet away. This speedlight is going to illuminate the background and leave us with a feathered edge, giving us a vignette on our dark background. In addition to illuminating the background and giving us a nice effect, this also separates the subject's face from the rest of the image. If not for this light, the top of our model's head and shoulders would blend back in to the background.
With only a camera, a few lights, and a few modifiers that all pack into a backpack, we've created a dramatic portrait that would be great for models, athletes, or advertising pieces to add to our portfolio. Try this technique out at home, in the studio, or on-location for an edgy portrait that will differentiate your style from others!
If you liked the black and white in the resulting image below, make sure to check out the Lightroom Presets available from Jeff Rojas!
Camera Settings: 85mm Lens @ 85MM, ISO 100, 1/125, f/11