S& - DAY ONE - The Studio


01 Backdrop
Most backdrops come in the form of a roll of paper. They're available in a variety of sizes and colors. You'll need support stands and a pole to keep the backdrop in place. If you don't have one, try a large sheet or piece of fabric. Black velvet is a great choice, it has light-absorbing qualities and gives a nice rich black.

02 Main light
Use this with a diffuser, like a softbox. A softbox softens the light so the shadows are less harsh, and gives window-shaped catchlights in the eyes. The angle, height and distance of the main light are vital to getting the look you want. The power of the flash is controlled using buttons on the flash head.

03 Camera
You'll need to connect your camera to the studio lights. This can be done through a sync cable (if your SLR has a PC socket) or with wireless triggers. In a controlled environment like a studio you're best off switching to Manual mode.

04 Hair light
The second light is positioned behind the model with a snoot attached. The snoot concentrates the light, and here we've got it pointing at the hair. Not only does this light the hair, it creates a separation from the background.

05 Reflector
A reflector is used to bounce light back from the main light into the shaded side of the subject's face. This ensures the shadow is still there to define the shape of the face but isn't too dark. See the opposite page for more on reflectors.

06 Model
If you don't have a friend or family member you want to photograph you can often find willing models via networking websites such as Model Mayhem andPurple Port.

07 Tripod

Tripods are used to keep cameras in place during a shoot. They are typically used in both portrait and product shoots when the model or product is still. Great to use when shooting multiple products on the same background, for example, athletic shoes.





Light Stands: These are adjustable stands that hold Studio Strobes and other lighting accessories in the studio. They are height-adjustable and can hold varying weights depending on price and quality. They are air-filled, which means if you loosen one of the height knobs your expensive light won't come crashing down. It works like a shock on a car.


Tripod: Is a three-legged stand that holds your camera in place and protects it from falling or tipping over. Also called the "photographers helper" since it acts as a second set of hands while you're taking pictures. Tripods are great for setting up a studio shoot that will have the same background, but with varying objects or people, for example: senior portraits, or shooting a catalog of shoes.

Studio Strobes and Power Packs: A strobe is a fancy word describing a really power flash, like the one on your camera. They are large very powerful free standing flash units. The more light you have, the more flexibility you have setting up your exposure (aperture and shutter speed) so you can take really fast and really bright pictures. They are measured in watt-seconds, for example, our studio flashes are 300-watt seconds meaning they can make a flash of 300 watts every second. An average household lamp bulb is 40-60 watts. The more light you have also means the larger the object you can photograph, like a group of people. For example, if you have 4-300 watt strobes, you can take one picture that will generate 200 watts, which can light a large room full of people like at a wedding.


There are two kinds of lights; Monolights and Power packs. Monolights mean that the strobe has it's own power supply built into the lights like the ones we use for our portrait setups. These work great, but you have to go to each light and make the adjustments individually, which can be annoying if you're shooting something with six lights. Power packs take care of this issue because they are essentially power stations that you plug all of the lights into. These power packs can take anywhere from 2 to 4 lights and can be adjusted from the pack like the setup we have with the light table and large softbox.


Soft Boxes and Accessories: Translucent screen used to diffuse light. creates a softer light with less contrast, similar to the quality of light on a cloudy day. They are boxes that go over the strobes to soften the light. They come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, depending on the type of photography you are doing. Softboxes are also made for on-camera flashes and can give you the look of studio lighting on location.


Continuous Lighting: Continuous lighting is a fancy work for light that is left on the whole time during a shoot. Once used primarily in video, continuous lighting is more widely used with the invention of CFL and LED bulbs. This type of lighting can be left on while not generating too much heat and can now be used with dimmers.


Light Meter: Instrument to measure light that is independent of the camera itself. Almost all cameras (beginner and advanced) and Smartphones have therir own built-in light meter. The light meter automatically makes the expsoure for you giving you the recommended aperture and shutter settings. Professionals prefer to use hand-held meters because they are far more accurate and can be used in a variety of situations both in and outdoors.


Backdrops: This is the term used for the material being used for the background of your image. It can be a painted wall or using colored paper or muslin, which is a type of dyed fabric with different patterns and textures.


Wireless Transmitters: This little device is what connects your camera to your studio strobes. Using radio frequency, it transmits a signal from the studio light to the camera to take the picture and for the light to go off. Also called radio slaves, these transmitters can be either wired or wireless and have a range of 4 to 200 feet. They run on multiple channels, which if you have multiple setups like we do, you can adjust them so multiple sets can work at the same time without setting off each other's lights.






S7 - DAY THREE - Working with Studio Equipment - Studio Lighting

Our studio uses two types of lighting equipment, Monolights, and pack run lights. It is important to learn both types of lighting not only to be able to work in our studio, but other studios as a future professional. The other important part of this section is to know how to make the strobes go off. There are a few ways to do this that include slave made, wired triggering, and wireless. Our studio uses only wireless transmitters, but it is important to know all three in case you do not have a wireless transmitter. Below are tutorials on how to setup up your strobe lights and how to use them along with connecting your camera to use them.


We currently use the Flashpoint and Promaster series Monolights. These are like many common Monolights out there today. If you can learn to use these lights, you should be able to learn other types of Monolights. As mentioned before, these lights have the power pack built into the light itself and require no power pack although you still have to plug each Monolight into the wall or buy an external battery for location/outdoor work. Here is a review of the light and basic operations.

Our Large Shooting table station uses a Speedotron brand power pack that powers three lights. These lights do not generate their own power and must be plugged into the power pack, which then plugs into the wall. This type of lighting is great for table top shooting especially when the light is high up and above the subject because you can make power adjustments to the pack instead of climbing up on a ladder and doing it manually. Here's a brief tutorial on how they work.

Our studio currently uses wireless transmitters that use radio frequencies. Each Monolight and Power pack is connected to one with a receiver. The transmitter is attached to the camera you are taking your pictures with. Each transmitter has a number that matches the stations' receivers. Each set is on its own "channel" since multiple sets are working at the same time. As long as the transmitters aren't on the same channel,they wont set off another stations' lights. For example, Transmitter on Set 1 is set to "A1" while set 2 is "B2". Since the transmitters are 4 channels, there are 4 combinations you can use.


S7 - DAY FOUR - Working with Studio Equipment - Light Meters 

For as long as people have been taking photos, there has been a need to determine how bright a scene is. Any method of recording light can only work in a relatively narrow band without over or under exposing the image. To find the correct exposure that will record the image without over or under exposing it too much, photographers need to know how bright the scene is. An extremely talented photographer may be able to guess a near-enough exposure, but a light meter is a far more accurate and convenient way to do it.

Light meters in cameras react to how intense the light is as seen from the camera. SLRs measure the light (called metering) through the lens – TTL. They collect light that has actually passed through the camera’s lens and measure its intensity. There are problems when the scene has parts that are much brighter or darker than others, for example shadows on a sunny day. This can trick the light meter into measuring the intensity of the light incorrectly, depending on which part of the scene was illuminating the sensor.

BUILT-IN METERS: Every modern camera and Smartphone has a built-in light meter to take the proper exposure of your image. It is fully automatic and can also be set manually in more advanced amateur and professional cameras. There are a varitey of modes that can be used depending on your subject matter. here is a brief overview of the built-in meters used in SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras like Canon and Nikon. Modern SLR cameras use multi-point light meters, meaning that several light meters are actually scattered around the projected scene, each measuring the light intensity at that point. Very sophistocated cameras may have dozens of metering points. How much the measured intensity of the light at each point influences the final meter reading depends on the metering mode selected by the photographer.

REFLECTIVE AND INCIDENT METERING: Many professional photographers use a hand-held light meter to properly expose their photographs. These types of meters are the most accurate and can measure the two main types of lighting; Reflective and Incident. In order to accurately record any scene, whether it’s a person’s face, a piece of jewelry, or a landscape, you have to measure the amount of light that exists in a scene. There are two basic methods for measuring light: You can either take a reflected reading by measuring the light reflecting off of your subject, or you can take an incident reading by measuring the light as it falls on the subject.


Both types of metering can produce precise exposures if you know how to interpret the data that your meter supplies. Handheld reflected light meters (including built-in camera meters) read the intensity of light reflecting off the subject. Because they measure the light after it hits the subject, however, they are affected by the reflectance of the subject’s surfaces. And because most reflected readings are taken from the camera position, they generally take in a wide area that can include many different reflective surfaces or colors that can bias the meter reading. If you’re photographing a person walking on a sandy beach on a bright day, for instance, the light reflecting off of the sand will overwhelm the reading and result in an underexposed image of the person. 

A reflected meter will provide different readings for, say, a white cat and a black cat—but it will provide an exposure that records both as the same middle gray. Similarly, a pristine fresh-fallen snow and a black coal field will be recorded as the same color: medium gray. A reflected meter will also record a red apple and a green apple as the same tone—even though in reality they reflect vastly different amounts of light. You can improve the accuracy of your reflected readings by placing an 18% neutral gray test card in front of the important subject areas, but that’s not always practical.







Classroom Zoom Hours - 1PM to 1:30 PM - Monday - Thursday

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Students must be prepared to make a major commitment. It is our assumption that students entering the program are here to lay a foundation for a career in a design field and will be required to meet rigorous and stringent standards. Strong communication skills, both verbal and written, are required as is the ability to read and analyze. Serious students will find that the program will provide them with an excellent opportunity to develop the skills necessary to succeed in the job market or advance in education. _Most of the students graduating from the program _continue their education.


Steve Bross

Commercial Art Instructor


Central Montco Technical High School

821 Plymouth Road

Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462


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