An Wonderful Two-Mild Setup, Defined

clamshell lighting: a comprehensive guide

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

However what’s clamshell lighting? And how will you 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 totally different modifiers to taking part in with mild positions and past, I’ll discover all the main points that can assist you grasp this glorious lighting approach. By the point you’re completed studying, you’ll know easy methods to create clamshell-lit portraits like a professional (irrespective of your lighting gear!).

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

What’s clamshell lighting?

Clamshell lighting is an easy, two-light configuration: You place each lights dealing with your topic at a 45-degree angle, one angled up, one angled down. Word that your key mild (i.e., your major, 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, dealing with 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 offers stunning, gentle mild with faint shadows and wonderful 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 important setup to have in your again pocket.

Word that clamshell lighting is rather like butterfly lighting, besides that you simply 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 possibly can all the time add in a clamshell take a look at the top for some variation!

clamshell lighting guide and tips

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

Making a clamshell lighting setup is easy, and so long as you’ve gotten two working lights, you’re virtually assured to drag 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 could be strobes or steady, modified or unmodified.

Personally, I’d advocate 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 start line.

That stated, should you don’t have modifiers otherwise you choose a more durable look, then work with an unmodified mild! If you happen to actually embrace the impact and sculpt it as wanted, you could get an important consequence. Plus, it’s your photoshoot!

Step 2: Place your key mild

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

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

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

If all the things is ready up accurately, you need 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 instantly beneath your key mild, pointed upward towards your topic at 45 levels.

clamshell lighting guide and tips behind the scenes

Modify the sunshine’s brightness till it sits two stops beneath the important thing mild. (If you happen to needed to shoot at f/11, you would meter your fill mild for an f/5.6 consequence.) Then take a second take a look at shot.

If the impact is simply too robust 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 might end in 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, you need to have two lights sharing the identical vertical area, and the sunshine on high ought to be roughly two stops brighter than the sunshine on the underside.

Stand behind the lights and shoot by means of the hole. Word: If there isn’t a lot of a niche to work with, elevate and/or decrease each of your lights till you’ve gotten sufficient room to shoot within the center. To be protected, you could wish to take one other meter studying.

In fact, when you’ve grabbed a shot or two, examine your digital camera’s LCD for publicity points and different issues. And you probably have the potential, I like to recommend tethering your digital camera to your laptop computer; that method, you possibly can assessment your photographs immediately on the large display screen.

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

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

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 significantly well-suited for vogue pictures.

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

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

Professional tip: If you happen to’re unsure in regards to the last look you need, you possibly can all the time begin with butterfly lighting. Experiment with the shadows and angles, then merely add a fill mild to realize the clamshell look should you need one thing softer. This fashion, you possibly can mess around with two totally different lighting types with little or no effort. It’s a handy and artistic method to portrait lighting.

Clamshell vs Rembrandt lighting

One other basic lighting approach to think about? Rembrandt lighting. The Rembrandt sample entails inserting a lightweight off to the facet of the topic – typically 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 thought for its darkish and moody qualities. It’s a favourite amongst these looking for a dramatic, theatrical model of their photographs.

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

In brief, if drama and moodiness are your targets, Rembrandt lighting often is the option to go. However for a extra uplifting and detailed portrait, clamshell lighting matches the invoice. Understanding the nuances of those lighting strategies will assist you to select the appropriate model for every distinctive portrait session. Experiment with each, and see what you assume!

Clamshell pictures setup: a number of fast ideas

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

1. Experiment with totally different modifiers

Once you’re first beginning out with clamshell lighting, softboxes could be your greatest associates. They supply a delicate contact that’s excellent for rookies. However as you get extra comfy, you would possibly end up eager to discover different choices. This is a wonderful thought.

Have a pair of strip bins you wish to use? Go for it. Wish to use a magnificence dish as your key mild and an umbrella as fill? Certain. How a few snoot and a small softbox? Completely. Use what you’ve gotten at hand. Fairly quickly, you’ll be capable to 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 targeted mild can intensify textures and particulars. However, umbrellas can actually soften up the shadows. By throwing round a number of mild, they make all the things really feel extra subtle and ethereal.

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

2. Attempt 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 change into extra gradated for a delicate and delicate look.

Transfer the lights farther out of your topic, and the shadows will harden and change into sharper. This will 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 increased 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. Enjoying 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 assume you’re finished. However there’s extra you are able to do to boost the scene and create placing photographs.

As an illustration, you possibly can 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 lightweight behind the topic (that’s pointed on the backdrop) can create a gorgeous cone of sunshine that provides further 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 photographs that may look beautiful in each colour and black and white. Changing your shot to black and white will emphasize the interaction of shadows and highlights whereas probably including a layer of three-dimensionality to the photograph.

If you happen to shoot in RAW, and I extremely advocate you do, you’ve gotten the flexibleness to {photograph} utilizing your digital camera’s Monochrome mode and nonetheless convert again to paint if wanted. Or you can begin in colour and convert to black and white afterward.

clamshell lighting guide and tips

The black-and-white conversion could make the options of the face stand out in a novel method. It’d convey out textures, emphasize contrasts, and even create a temper that colour doesn’t seize. Experimenting with this conversion permits you to 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 the whole portrait – can seem flat and lifeless.

Subsequently, it’s essential that you simply all the time be certain your clamshell pictures 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. Make certain to assessment every take a look at shot in your digital camera’s LCD to make sure that the catchlight is simply as you need it.

Word that with clamshell lighting, because it entails two lights reasonably than one, you would possibly discover a double catchlight. This can be a characteristic some photographers love, whereas others are much less enthusiastic.

clamshell lighting guide and tips

If you happen to’re not a fan of the underside catchlight, don’t fret! It will possibly all the time be cloned out throughout post-processing.

Clamshell lighting examples

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

First, we’ve a pleasant black and white portrait. Discover the gentle 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 drag this last shot off, I added a 3rd mild, pointed towards the background. Word that you may experiment with totally different head turns:

clamshell lighting guide and tips

Clamshell lighting: last phrases

If you happen to’ve made it this far, you need to perceive the facility of a primary clamshell lighting setup.

In fact, you possibly can 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!