Bigano's Corner flash led lights lighting Lights Portrait studio studio photography Tips & Tricks

A take-anywhere one light make-shift studio

A make-shift studio, using either flash or LED lights, makes for a terrific, take anyplace answer to photograph actors backstage. Listed here are some examples chances are you’ll need to verify.

I’ve photographed my share of theatrical plays and historic reenactments each outdoors and indoors, however in recent times I’ve chosen to work backstage, when attainable, with a simple to arrange make-shift studio, utilizing either flash or LED lights. Listed here are some subject notes you could find fascinating in your own experiences.

Wanting back to the last 30 years or so, I uncover that I’ve photographed, professionally or for pure pleasure, every thing from historic reenactments, or basic theatre to classical music productions. The truth is, I photographed a few of the most popular classical music performers again in the 1980s, typically underneath very stringent guidelines, this at a time when the mechanical noise of movie cameras would trigger disruption, and flash was not allowed during performances.

Typically, I’m wondering how performers cope, lately, with the public that snaps away with the cameras from their smartphones, their tiny neon flashes or lights (for video) destroying any sense of the ambiance. I do know I endure with it, a lot, actually, that I ended photographing the public performances on the Archaeological Museum of São Miguel de Odrinhas, an establishment with whom I’ve labored for some years, photographing all the things from exhibit artifacts to the annual Classical Theater pageant there, in addition to other cultural occasions.

Friday 13th and Night time of the Witches

Historic reenactments centred on the Roman period and the 17th century, both related to the museum’s reveals and History, have been a number of the first occasions photographed, greater than a decade ago. More lately, because the Museum went on to have fun Halloween – or the European custom behind it – and all the Friday 13th occurring annually, I extended my protection of their performances,  which means I received the prospect to photograph even more events throughout the year.

For some years now, I’ve photographed the museum’s Night time of the Witches, which in this case serves to attach the roots of Halloween with the objects exhibited on the museum, and rituals of demise in the Iberian Peninsula since Prehistoric occasions by means of the Roman interval.  That’s a subject that pursuits me, so I accepted to take part in the venture and photograph them all dressed up for the present.

Properly conscious of the lost battle it is to attempt to photograph in the course of the occasion, the place the general public will use their tiny flashes and lights to get snaps, I’ve organized with the museum to set up a small studio to photograph the actors, that are in reality the individuals working on the museum, reworked, after a day’s work, within the characters creating each event. These backstage periods have turn out to be an exciting experience that not only tells the story behind each session but in addition tells a continued story of the “actors” evolving in the creation of characters, and the movement of time in the life of a museum and the persons who contribute to make it what it’s. In that sense, this can be a very rewarding expertise for all concerned, by which I am grateful I’ve had the prospect to take part.

The backstage moveable studio

Photographing in a controlled set has additionally allowed for 2 things: on the technical facet related to images, to explore using several types of light, each LED and flash, at totally different occasions; on the theatrical aspect, to attempt new things, together with the evolution of the part-time non-professional actors that make it attainable to create these events. It’s been a incredible journey, consider me.


The subject of lighting deserves some consideration, and a few paragraphs, as I consider readers right here at Manfrotto Faculty of Xcellence might use the knowledge for their very own checks. Independently of using flash or LED panels, I all the time start to examine my lighting use a stepladder as a check subject, which I place where the actors might be standing for the session. The session is held at the museum’s library, the place we’ve area to keep the studio up for a couple of hours, and is possible to regulate the prevailing lighting, in order not to intrude with the LED panels or flash. For the session, a lot of the library lights are turned off.

The make-shift studio, which consists of principally one, typically two LED panels or a flash, and ultimately, a reflector may be carried anyplace. It consists of two light stands – I exploit the Manfrotto 5001B Nano Black Light Stand, that are compact and lightweight, and great help for either LED panels, flash, or a large reflector. When it comes to LED panels my regular light in the intervening time is the Manfrotto LED Light LYKOS Bicolour, supplemented with a LED Light SPECTRA2, or other SPECTRA panels, if needed.


Making an attempt to work with a restricted amount of light is a part of the problem, and because I’m principally photographing small groups or particular person photographs, although I will typically do a family portrait, it really works nicely sufficient for me. There are some constraints whenever you don’t have a lot light – or don’t need to use it, to maintain things easy, as is the case – but I can reside with that, also because these periods are, typically, shared with individuals I take backstage with me, to point out them how they will get some good pictures with a number of lights.

LED panels for groups of photographers

For a current session on the museum and because I had a gaggle of some six individuals, I mounted two blocks of small moveable LED panels, and challenged members to photograph with those. In truth, I gave them more than I’ve used myself in some events, as I’ve worked with a single light and, typically, a reflector. Working with LED panels has some advantages, primarily  that you simply see your topic all the time, as with continuous studio lights, however because the variety of LED panels is just not what a daily studio would use, you’ve to think about elevating your ISO and utilizing broad apertures and sluggish shutter speeds.

Should you ask your topics to move, since you need to show some motion in your pictures, you could discover that photographs can be blurred, lack definition and, for those who raised ISO, show some noise, relying on how nicely your digital camera offers with less than the perfect quantity of light. Still, it’s attainable to return out with good pictures, should you understand the challenges you face and work round them.


A few of the pictures revealed here have been shot with LED panels or one LED panel, with a reflector introduced on the other aspect. They affirm my statement and level to a solution that you may need to attempt your self. The photographers I software with me for a current session beloved the experience, which was utterly new to them.

Another benefit of LED panels that ought to be talked about is that with them totally different photographers can photograph the same topic simultaneously, whereas with small moveable strobes in a make-shift studio, sharing your lighting just isn’t an choice. For Halloween, though, I made a decision to make use of flash, as I was going to have the studio all for myself.

Flash as an choice, in case you’re working alone

Flash introduces some problems, as you don’t see your topic as clearly as with LED panels – or your digital camera’s AF doesn’t… – however this may be partially solved with a small light (a LED panel works) pointing at your subject, to assist with focus, because once you press the shutter solely the flash light will probably be registered. Actually, with flash it’s potential to work at most sync velocity and with apertures that offer you some additional depth of area.


When utilizing flash – with a radio set off –  I are likely to set the sensor sensitivity up to 400 ISO, which still provides me noiseless pictures, and allows me to lower the flash output, for quicker recycling, which is necessary, and to get extra flashes out of every cost. Flash additionally allows for more management of the relation between the topic and background, although a lot of the occasions it truly is a pitch black background what I am aiming for.

Flash might fail, typically, one thing that never occurs to LED panels if every thing is working properly, so there are advantages and drawbacks to every system, as I mentioned earlier. From my expertise, both methods work properly, once you perceive their limitations and advantages. I take pleasure in working with both, and with the ability to decide one or the other as I would like and still get results that make individuals joyful, makes the thought of this make-shift studio, which inserts in a small bag, an excellent answer that you may need to attempt your self. My pictures reveal what could be achieved, and this can be a continued exploration of what could be created with a simple set up and some endurance.


A last word on group portraits

For this article I additionally picked two pictures that depict the “family portrait” concept, although they outcome from totally different approaches. One is the classical shot, with the whole group photographed with a single flash on the left, whereas the other, used as a opening image for the article, is a composite picture from one thing I’m exploring and which deserves an evidence.

The second group image is created by photographing members alone or in small groups – as for logistic causes it’s onerous to get them unexpectedly for the “family portrait” – and making a composite in Affinity Photograph.  The picture used here is a check picture and factors to a path I need to go in future periods. It also introduces one thing you could already see in different photographs revealed here and that I would like discover: interplay between totally different actors. This new step displays the evolution of the work finished with the group, revealing that for the same topic it is attainable to discover new approaches for a physique of work. Most of it created with a single light supply in a make-shift studio.