Today I was playing around in the studio with my different lighting systems. From soft boxes to ring flash to continuous light (CFL). One of the setups that I like to use for beauty headshots is using a beauty dish on-axis above the model and a reflector (or soft box) from below to create a clamshell of light. The direct on-axis light helps to smooth out any skin imperfections but because it is coming from above the subject it typically creates shadows in the eyes and under the chin. The purpose of the reflector is to fill those shadows in by bouncing part of the light back up into the shadow areas. The use of a ring-flash accomplishes a similar look because it lights all around from an on-axis viewpoint.
Since I really enjoy using continuous lights vs. flash, I decided to recreate a cross between a ring-flash and a clamshell light setup to use for headshots. The master of the headshot, Peter Hurley, uses a continuous lighting system called Kino Flo and arranges four of their strip lights in a frame around the subject. For a fraction of the price I created a frame that I can shoot through and mounted a strip of lights above and below. By using a frame, I could also add strips of lights on either side to form a complete four-sided ring of light.
To make things easy, I used readily available hardware items and only had to construct a simple frame. I bought an 8ft strip of 2 1/2" wide 11/16" thick moulding MDF board and cut it into four 2ft. sections. I then used wood screws to create a frame. To the frame, I mounted a low cost outlet strip above and another one below.
To start with and do some testing I bought a 4-pack of Daylight balanced, 100W equivalent flourescent bulbs. These are the kind that are used to replace the normal incandescent lamp bulbs. To plug the lights into the outlet strip I used some low cost outlet-to-socket adapters that have a standard electrical plug on one end and a lamp socket on the other end.
Here are some self-portrait samples taken with this setup.
Exposure info: 85mm @ f3.5, 1/160 sec, ISO 320.
The black & white version:
Since there are reflections from the lights in my glasses, I shot another without eyeglasses:
A black and white version:
I didn't spend too much time on this since it was simply an experiment but I like the results and plan on using it in my actual shoots.
Improvements I might make would be to use longer outlet strips so I can put more bulbs on each frame side. I would also mount additional outlet strips with bulbs along the sides. By using outlet strips you can control which banks of lights are on and achieve different lighting effects. By using the socket-to-outlet adapters it is easy to plug in more lights or remove lights. I might also attach some hardware so that I can easily attach the frame to a light stand. Although using a couple of clamps and some bungee cords made it pretty easy to hang from a boom.
I purchased all of the items at the local Home Depot for a total cost less than $35.