Chris Patey says he learned from Art Streiber how to make portraits of large groups that appear lit by big, beautiful window light from the side. The technique, he says, is to “push” light from several sources so the overall effect is even, consistent light across the entire group of subjects.
Patey places the light sources to one side of the camera (and above it), directing them across the set, perpendicular to the axis of the camera lens. That sends light across the front of the subjects, spilling onto their faces as it spreads, rather than hitting them directly. “I’m feathering the light off the subjects,” he explains.
To get consistent lighting on all the subjects across the frame, the set-up usually requires two or more light sources, arranged in steps. “It’s like a staircase on its side,” extending from one end of the group toward the camera, Patey explains. The primary light is furthest from the camera, positioned to one side of the group and several feet in front of the plane of subjects. Because that light falls off, Patey positions additional lights progressively closer to the camera and the center of the frame. Each throws feathered light further down the row of subjects. Place flags between the light sources as needed to control spill and eliminate hot spots, he advises.
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