Paul Ellis, Lighting Workshop: Jill Greenberg

On the lighting courses I run I noticed that quite a few students are intrigued by Jill Greenberg’s lighting style, particularly for her set of images known as End Times. These were controversial photographs as they pictured small screaming children, they had just had a lollipop taken away from them, mother and father being just out of shot and that they depict what she says reminded her of the “helplessness and anger I feel about our current political and social situation.” Made back in 2006 they represent her frustration with the Bush administration.

Jill Greenberg’s lighting is interesting and it has sort of become her signature and so I decided to try emulate her lighting. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a small child so I asked Lucy, our volunteer, to pose for me.

Looking at the End Times images we need to deconstruct the lighting. The first thing I noticed was the strong highlights down the side of the faces. I decided to use a pair of strip lights.

These are hideously expensive, costing several thousand pounds each. Flashtubes are usually small and circular but strip lights, as the name suggests, contain long thin flashtubes with a white Perspex cover and a pair of barn doors. This enables the photographer to place a thin strip of light down the side of an object or person in a very controlled manner (it is possible to use strip soft boxes and to flag lights with polyboards). Striplights are usually effect lights and this means that they need to be over-exposed. The next obvious thing is that the background has been lit to create a vignette (I didn’t have a blue background to hand), so I need to work out the best way to do this, probably simply with a honeycomb slotted into a 60 degree light shaper.

Left to right: Light shaper with honeycomb | Snoot | Ringflash

Next I used a snoot on a boom arm directly above Lucy’s head to create a highlight (at the same exposure reading as the striplights). Lastly I used a Ringflash as my key light (main light) and it is the F-Stop that I measured from this light source that went onto my camera.

So to re-cap, my key light is a Ringflash measured at F8 (and this is put onto the camera). I measured the striplights and snoot all at F11. I took the photograph at 100 iso, 1/125, F8).

On reflection I don’t think the Key light is one Ringflash. This is because in other images I noticed two catchlights (reflections in the eyes) which suggests that there are two lights illuminating the front of the face and as these catchlights are low in the eyes meaning that the two lights are either side of the lens and slightly lower.

Here’s a diagram of the lighting set-up I used and the final outcome…(click to enlarge)

Studio Lighting Workshop Studio Lighting Workshop

Paul Ellis, Photofusion

Paul’s lighting workshops include: