Making of…”Beheaded”

Today I want to share with you my light setup for this shot. Whenever I start with an idea for a shot in my head, I also think about the correct way of lighting. Do I have the possibility to light the scene in such a correct way so that I can convey the emotion that I want to show? With this shot I wanted to put the head, the dead body and the massive sword in focus. So I tried to give them some weight not only with the way of composition, but also with the help of the lighting, so that each segment has its own importance. Seperating an object with the help of light is something that I consicer quite important and a technique that is also hard to master, since it also requires lots of fiddeling around.

First let’s take a look at an overview of all the lights I used in this shot.

From top to bottom: as a background light I used a normal table lamp that is being softened by a DIY diffuser. With proper framing and positioning of the two dio walls I tried to achieve a strong pillar of light that pulls the eye into the middle of the frame and thus point it to the loose head. That flashlight (which in fact is the Metal Gear Solid 5 Flash Light that I got along with my preorder of the game ;)) with the red gel solely focuses on the corpse. Its only purpose is to seperate the body from background.

Moving downwards we have a reading lamp which serves as a rim light for the Pyramid Head. You can see its effect in a photo below. Again, a dedicated light to help seperating the figure from the background. Finally, the iPhone with the orange gel is the fill light. It gives the whole photo its overall look and dictates the mood. In this case a dirty gritty yellowish tint.

Here you can see how the rim and fill light work. It’s important to give each object in your scene a purpose. Putting extra effort in your lighting can have so much impact on the end result.

You can see a fog machine in the upper left corner. I actually did use it, but ended up choosing a shot where you can only make out a glimpse of fog. Otherwise it would have distracted the eye too much. In a future post I will elaborate on how to evaluate your shots and make the final decision on which one to chose. In this case, as stated before, a little to no fog was the best choice. On a different note, you can make out the iPhone with the red gel and its effect perfectly. By the way, I actually intended to put the headless corpse on its belly. But since its neck doesn’t have any joints it looked kind of off. So I decided against it and turned it around on its back. In the end it was the better choice, since the background light lit the stump perfectly.

Last but not least the camera setting that I used. With scenes like this I can’t have a shallow depth of field and thus chose a very high aperture (f/18). Closing the lens means less light, so I had to compensate for this by chosing a longer exposure (2 seconds). A steady tripod is key to shots like this.

So there you have it. That is how I setup the shot. Please let me know in the comments what you think about those kind of behind the scenes posts. If you like it I’ll continue sharing my work process.

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