An Superb Two-Mild Setup, Defined

clamshell lighting: a comprehensive guide

Lighting could make or break a portrait. In my expertise, it’s usually what turns an unusual snapshot right into a professional-looking picture. Clamshell lighting is a way that’s easy but highly effective, and it might take your images to the following degree.

However what’s clamshell lighting? And how are you going to grasp clamshell lighting setups for beautiful outcomes?

On this article, I clarify the ins and outs of this easy – but extremely highly effective – two-light portrait setup. From experimenting with completely different modifiers to taking part in with mild positions and past, I’ll discover all the main points that can assist you grasp this excellent lighting approach. By the point you’re completed studying, you’ll know easy methods to create clamshell-lit portraits like a professional (regardless of your lighting gear!).

So should you’re able to grow to be a clamshell portrait grasp, then let’s dive proper in, beginning with the fundamentals:

What’s clamshell lighting?

Clamshell lighting is a straightforward, two-light configuration: You place each lights going through your topic at a 45-degree angle, one angled up, one angled down. Notice that your key mild (i.e., your main, brighter mild) ought to level 45 levels downward, whereas your fill mild ought to level 45 levels upward. Your digital camera ought to sit between the 2 lights, going through your topic.

When seen from the facet, the 2 lights resemble an open clamshell (creativeness could also be required!):

clamshell guide and tips lighting diagram

A clamshell setup gives stunning, comfortable mild with faint shadows and superb catchlights. Clamshell lighting works nicely on just about everybody; I’d say that it’s flattering for women and men of all ages, so it’s an excellent setup to have in your again pocket.

Notice that clamshell lighting is rather like butterfly lighting, besides that you just add the fill mild beneath the topic (which eliminates any heavy shadows brought on by the important thing mild). So should you’re already doing a butterfly setup, you may all the time add in a clamshell have a look at the top for some variation!

clamshell lighting guide and tips

create a clamshell lighting setup: step-by-step course of

Making a clamshell lighting setup is straightforward, and so long as you may have two working lights, you’re virtually assured to tug it off. Right here’s what you do:

Step 1: Choose your lights and modifiers

clamshell lighting guide and tips

Clamshell lighting requires two mild sources, and these will be strobes or steady, modified or unmodified.

Personally, I’d suggest you employ modifiers – these will assist soften the sunshine for a extra flattering impact – and grabbing a pair of equally sized softboxes is a superb place to begin.

That mentioned, should you don’t have modifiers otherwise you choose a more durable look, then work with an unmodified mild! In case you actually embrace the impact and sculpt it as wanted, you could get an excellent outcome. Plus, it’s your photoshoot!

Step 2: Place your key mild

Seize your key mild (i.e., your most important mild supply). The aim is to position it in entrance of your topic and barely above; angle it down so it factors straight on the topic’s nostril.

If you would like a softer impact that options quick mild falloff, carry the sunshine in near the topic’s face. If you would like a more durable impact that lights the topic extra broadly, transfer the sunshine farther away.

Subsequent, meter on your desired aperture (we’ll use a hypothetical f/11) and take a take a look at shot.

If every little thing is ready up accurately, it is best to produce a decently lit picture with deep shadows beneath your topic’s nostril and chin. (If the picture is simply too dim, be happy to brighten your mild, and if the picture is overexposed, do the reverse.)

clamshell lighting guide and tips

Step 3: Add your fill mild

Now it’s time so as to add within the second mild; take your fill mild and place it straight beneath your key mild, pointed upward towards your topic at 45 levels.

clamshell lighting guide and tips behind the scenes

Regulate the sunshine’s brightness till it sits two stops beneath the important thing mild. (In case you needed to shoot at f/11, you possibly can meter your fill mild for an f/5.6 outcome.) Then take a second take a look at shot.

If the impact is simply too sturdy and your fill mild is obliterating the shadows, flip down the sunshine energy. If the sunshine isn’t doing sufficient, flip it up. The primary factor to look out for is the fill mild overpowering the important thing mild, as that will lead to a very unflattering picture that’s lit from beneath.

clamshell lighting guide and tips behind the scenes

Step 4: Seize your clamshell picture!

At this level, it is best to have two lights sharing the identical vertical area, and the sunshine on high must be roughly two stops brighter than the sunshine on the underside.

Stand behind the lights and shoot via the hole. Notice: If there isn’t a lot of a niche to work with, increase and/or decrease each of your lights till you may have sufficient room to shoot within the center. To be secure, you could wish to take one other meter studying.

In fact, when you’ve grabbed a shot or two, test your digital camera’s LCD for publicity points and different issues. And you probably have the aptitude, I like to recommend tethering your digital camera to your laptop computer; that approach, you may evaluate your photos immediately on the large display.

And that’s all there may be to it! Clamshell lighting is very easy to do, and with a little bit of apply, you’ll be capable of get the two-light setup operating in a few minutes.

clamshell lighting guide and tips behind the scenes
Try this clamshell setup, seen from the facet. Notice that there are three softboxes within the picture, however solely two – those in entrance of the mannequin – are energetic.

Clamshell vs butterfly lighting

Butterfly lighting and clamshell lighting are sometimes mentioned collectively, however they’re two very distinct lighting patterns.

A primary butterfly lighting setup makes use of only one mild, positioned above and angled down towards the topic. Since there’s no fill mild, the shadows on the nostril and chin stay heavy, giving extra dramatic and intense outcomes. It’s an impact that may be notably well-suited for style images.

Clamshell lighting photography
Discover the sturdy shadows beneath the topic’s nostril; that’s a results of butterfly lighting.

Now, let’s evaluate this to clamshell lighting. Clamshell lighting includes putting a second mild beneath the topic, softening the shadows. This produces a gentler, extra soothing impact, so it’s usually seen in standard headshot images or purposes with far much less drama.

Professional tip: In case you’re unsure in regards to the last look you need, you may all the time begin with butterfly lighting. Experiment with the shadows and angles, then merely add a fill mild to attain the clamshell look should you need one thing softer. This fashion, you may mess around with two completely different lighting kinds with little or no effort. It’s a handy and inventive strategy to portrait lighting.

Clamshell vs Rembrandt lighting

One other basic lighting approach to contemplate? Rembrandt lighting. The Rembrandt sample includes putting a light-weight off to the facet of the topic – usually round 45 levels – to create a transparent triangle of sunshine on the topic’s cheek.

Clamshell lighting photography
Rembrandt lighting produces a triangle beneath the topic’s eye.

As a result of it covers a lot of the face in shadows, Rembrandt lighting is understood for its darkish and moody qualities. It’s a favourite amongst these in search of a dramatic, theatrical fashion of their photos.

So how does clamshell lighting stack up towards Rembrandt? Clamshell lighting is the higher alternative if you would like a extra cheerful, detailed shot. By positioning lights each above and beneath your topic, you may illuminate the face extra evenly and scale back harsh shadows. This brings out extra of the facial particulars and offers the picture a livelier, extra approachable feeling.

In brief, if drama and moodiness are your targets, Rembrandt lighting would be the strategy to go. However for a extra uplifting and detailed portrait, clamshell lighting matches the invoice. Understanding the nuances of those lighting methods will let you select the correct fashion for every distinctive portrait session. Experiment with each, and see what you suppose!

Clamshell images setup: a number of fast suggestions

You understand how to seize a primary clamshell picture. However how are you going to take your pictures even additional? Listed below are a number of of my high suggestions that can assist you out:

1. Experiment with completely different modifiers

If you’re first beginning out with clamshell lighting, softboxes will be your greatest pals. They supply a mild contact that’s excellent for freshmen. However as you get extra snug, you would possibly end up eager to discover different choices. This is a wonderful concept.

Have a pair of strip packing containers you wish to use? Go for it. Need to use a magnificence dish as your key mild and an umbrella as fill? Positive. How a few snoot and a small softbox? Completely. Use what you may have at hand. Fairly quickly, you’ll be capable of improvise like a professional.

clamshell lighting guide and tips

Magnificence dishes, for example, create a more durable look that may add drama to a portrait. Their centered mild can intensify textures and particulars. Then again, umbrellas can actually soften up the shadows. By throwing round a whole lot of mild, they make every little thing really feel extra subtle and ethereal.

By testing out completely different modifiers, you’ll find out how they have an effect on your photos. So don’t be afraid to attempt one thing new. Simply bear in mind to maintain the essence of clamshell lighting in thoughts: that lovely, flattering glow that makes portraits shine.

2. Strive repositioning your lights

Mild place issues in clamshell lighting, and even an adjustment of some inches can dramatically change the ultimate picture.

Transfer the lights nearer to your topic, and the shadows will soften and grow to be extra gradated for a mild and delicate look.

Transfer the lights farther out of your topic, and the shadows will harden and grow to be sharper. This may add a way of depth and drama to the picture.

clamshell lighting guide and tips

Nevertheless it’s not nearly distance. You’ll be able to transfer your key mild larger to create longer shadows or decrease to create shorter shadows. You are able to do the identical with the fill mild.

Simply be cautious to not go overboard. The 45-degree positions that I mentioned in my preliminary step-by-step part are designed to look flattering. Taking part in with the positioning is nice, however don’t lose sight of your authentic targets!

3. Add extra lights

When you’ve arrange your clamshell lighting good, you would possibly suppose you’re performed. However there’s extra you are able to do to reinforce the scene and create putting photos.

As an example, you may add rim lights behind your topic, both on one facet or each, to create a fragile sliver of sunshine across the head. This impact will assist your topic pop off the background and make the picture extra dynamic.

A hair mild can add depth to your {photograph}. Positioned above and behind the topic, it shines subtly on the hair to separate it from the background.

Don’t hesitate to experiment with background lights, as nicely. Putting a light-weight behind the topic (that’s pointed on the backdrop) can create a good looking cone of sunshine that provides additional depth. It’s what number of photographers mix a well-lit topic with a well-lit background!

clamshell lighting guide and tips

Backside line: By including these extra lights, you give your self extra inventive freedom and open up a world of potentialities in your clamshell lighting setups.

4. Convert to black and white

Clamshell lighting produces fantastic photos that may look beautiful in each shade and black and white. Changing your shot to black and white will emphasize the interaction of shadows and highlights whereas doubtlessly including a layer of three-dimensionality to the photograph.

In case you shoot in RAW, and I extremely suggest you do, you may have the flexibleness to {photograph} utilizing your digital camera’s Monochrome mode and nonetheless convert again to paint if wanted. Or you can begin in shade and convert to black and white in a while.

clamshell lighting guide and tips

The black-and-white conversion could make the options of the face stand out in a novel approach. It would carry out textures, emphasize contrasts, and even create a temper that shade doesn’t seize. Experimenting with this conversion means that you can discover a spread of visible expressions inside a single lighting setup, which is all the time a good suggestion!

5. Watch the catchlights

Catchlight is that magical spot of sunshine within the topic’s eyes, one which’s created by a mirrored image from the sunshine supply. It brings life to the eyes; with out a catchlight, the eyes – and all the portrait – can seem flat and lifeless.

Due to this fact, it’s necessary that you just all the time be certain that your clamshell photographs embody catchlights! If a catchlight isn’t current, you could have to ask your topic to angle their head, or you could have to make slight changes to your lights. Be sure to evaluate every take a look at shot in your digital camera’s LCD to make sure that the catchlight is simply as you need it.

Notice that with clamshell lighting, because it includes two lights fairly than one, you would possibly discover a double catchlight. It is a characteristic some photographers love, whereas others are much less enthusiastic.

clamshell lighting guide and tips

In case you’re not a fan of the underside catchlight, don’t fret! It could actually all the time be cloned out throughout post-processing.

Clamshell lighting examples

Now let’s check out some clamshell examples. You need to use them as inspiration, although don’t restrict your self – these are only a handful of the numerous clamshell setups you may create!

First, we’ve a pleasant black and white portrait. Discover the comfortable shadows on my topic’s cheeks:

clamshell lighting guide and tips

Subsequent, we’ve a brighter, extra upbeat clamshell picture with a well-lit background:

clamshell lighting guide and tips

Then one other black and white with a barely darker background:

clamshell lighting guide and tips

To tug this last shot off, I added a 3rd mild, pointed towards the background. Notice that you may experiment with completely different head turns:

clamshell lighting guide and tips

Clamshell lighting: last phrases

In case you’ve made it this far, it is best to perceive the facility of a primary clamshell lighting setup.

In fact, you may all the time take your clamshell setups to the following degree with extra lights and modifiers, however even the fundamentals are assured to get good outcomes.

So head into your studio and check out some clamshell lighting out for your self!

Now over to you:

What topics do you intend to shoot utilizing a two-light clamshell setup? Share your ideas within the feedback beneath!