Lighting Styles and Setups from "Kevin Kubota's Lighting Notebook": Kid In A Candystore and More

The following is excerpted from “Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook: 101 Lighting Styles and Setups for Digital Photographers” (Wiley). Look for three more informative excerpts in the November issue of Professional Photographer magazine.


Kid In A Candystore


The final image was processed in Lightroom with my Vintage 2 preset, from the Vintage Delish collection. I like the added warmth in the shadows, which feels like chocolate!

One of the best ways to get children to cooperate on a photo shoot is with good, old-fashioned bribes. Candy works really well, so why not do the entire session in a candy store and save a trip! The image I had in my mind was of this little girl sitting on the counter licking a giant lollipop. When we got there, however, the lollipops they had were not actually very giant. I knew I needed a wideangle lens to exaggerate the perspective and make the lollipop look larger than life.

The RayFlash ringlight attachment is an innovative photo tool. It fits to the front of any camera speedlight and encircles the lens. Unlike most other ringlight setups, the RayFlash is completely portable, allowing you to move about and try different angles. It also allows for normal TTL flash operation, so you don’t have to worry about adjusting the light manually. Normally, the RayFlash is used with semiwide to normal perspective lenses, but I decided to use it with a 10.5mm fisheye lens, which has such a wide angle of view that it actually shows the edges of the ringlight. I loved the effect as it felt like looking through a portal to a fantasy world of delectable treats.

A portable speedlight was placed behind the subject to add an edge light and separation from the background. A PowerSnoot from Gary Fong was used to constrain the light to a narrow beam. I balanced my flash exposure with the existing light in the shop using TTL mode on the oncamera flash and manually for the backlight. The second speedlight was triggered by the built-in optical slave, which works fairly well when in close proximity and indoors.

After taking a few images of our little lady delightfully devouring the lollipop, the candy smeared all over her face and an even better image came to light than I originally imagined. Can you say “sugar rush”?


I asked Mom to stand very close and keep an eye on her daughter in case she started to scoot off the edge of the counter. Fortunately, she wasn’t going anywhere—as long as the lollipop lasted.


The original image from the camera


Exposure Info:
10.5mm lens setting
f/4.0 at 1/160 sec. ISO 500
Exposure comp. +/– 0

Tools Used:
Nikon D300s 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye Nikkor lens
RayFlash ringlight from Rogue Imaging
Nikon SB800 Speedlight
Gary Fong PowerSnoot

Go to the jump for two more tutorials!

Picnic Party

This adorable family had one thing in common—they could levitate oranges. Just kidding. We set up this picnic scene to give them some fun props to play with, and to stylize the shot beyond the typical family portrait. The oranges instantly became playthings for the kids, and I wasn’t going to mess with a happy youngster by taking them away. Many parents instinctively try to remove anything from their children’s hands, fearing it will ruin the photograph. I urge them to let the kids be themselves and let me worry about capturing nice expressions. Fortunately, these parents were relaxed and playful as well, making for a series of great moments.


Both of these images were processed in Lightroom with my Vintage Delish presets and then passed to Photoshop for texture with Bor-Tex.



I used a wide-angle lens to create a dynamic and intimate perspective. I wanted viewers to feel they were right there, sitting on the picnic blanket with the family. The lighting comes from diffused and reflected sunlight. I asked my assistants to hold a doubled-up diffusion panel in front of the sun. This created a wonderfully soft and flattering light, allowing the kids and parents to move around freely without adversely affecting the lighting patterns.

A large silver reflector was used behind them to harness the sun in to a beautiful edge light. Mom’s hair receives a nice Hollywood glow, and dad gets the crisp edge normally reserved for a quadruple-bladed shaving razor.

Light stands could have been used instead of assistants to hold the panels, but even a slight wind would be a factor with such a large scrim, and the assistant can adjust the reflector as the subjects move about.


Being this close to my subjects allowed for fun perspectives and allowed me to interact with them much more intimately.



The original image

Exposure Info:
19mm lens setting
f/5.0 at 1/800 sec. ISO 200
Exposure comp. +1/3

Tools Used:
Nikon D3s
17–35 f/2.8 zoom Nikkor Lens
Calumet 77” double panel with diffusion fabric
Calumet 39 × 72” silver reflector panel



Up, Up, And Away


The final images were processed in Lightroom with my Snap Dragon preset, and the top of the trees was removed in Photoshop.

We were looking for a large grassy field to do a family portrait session, and one of my assistants said she had a friend with the perfect backyard. We asked whether we could shoot there, and they kindly obliged. While walking around the property, waiting for our family of four to arrive for their photo session, we noticed two giant trampolines behind the house. I immediately had the idea to photograph the family jumping on the trampoline together, which we could do after the calmer portraits out in the field. Hair tends to get a bit messy when airborne. We brought balloons for the kids to play with out in the field, and when I told the kids that I wanted them to jump on the trampoline later and hold the balloons, the young boy quickly replied, “Just like in the movie, UP!,” and I knew we were all on the same page.

I wanted the sky to be dramatic and blue behind them, with cotton-ball clouds, but it wasn’t really cooperating. It was mostly overcast, with some blue patches showing through in spots. I had to position myself so that when the kids jumped, I could get as much of the blue as possible. The existing light was not strong enough, as a main light, to freeze them midair—nor directional enough to be interesting. We added our own pseudo-sun with an extra-small Photoflex OctoDome. A single Nikon SB900 Speedlight fired through it, wirelessly triggered with the PocketWizard radio slave system. I controlled the flash power remotely from the ground, with the AC3 accessory for the PocketWizard, until I had a nice balance between sky and light on the people.

The key here was getting the flash high enough so that when they were at the peak of their jump, the light still came from slightly above them, casting natural-looking shadows. A tall, heavy-duty light stand was essential here.


It was tempting to shoot a frame each time the kids jumped up, but that would overtax the speedlight, since it was nearly at full power. If you are not careful, you can overheat your flash with rapid fire, and it will shut down until it cools, which could be longer than you have to wait.


The original image from camera

A performance battery pack, either attached to the speedlight, or a monolight, would recycle faster, allowing me to shoot a frame with each jump.

Exposure Info:
17mm lens setting
f/5 at 1/200 sec. ISO 200
Exposure comp. +/– 0

Tools Used:
Nikon D3s
17–35mm f/2.8 zoom Nikkor lens
Nikon SB900 Speedlight
Photoflex Extra Small OctoDome nxt
PocketWizard TT1/TT5 transmitter and receiver
PocketWizard AC3 zone controller



This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 3, 2011 2:00 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Get This Show on the Road: Location Gear Roundup.

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