06 Jul Lighting 103: Avoiding Cross Contamination

Source: Strobist.com

Abstract: When complementary-gelled lights are falling on the same plane, they can easily rob each other of color. So it is important to make sure your lights are hitting different areas, with minimal overlap.

Above is a two-speedlight portrait against a white wall. White walls are the natural enemy of a gel, and practically live to wash out your color. Especially when using two flashes with dense, complementary gels. Knowing how to keep your multi-colored lights operating on different planes will help you retain more saturated color.

Let’s walk through the portrait above to get a better look at how our two lights are working separately—and together—in a variety of ways.
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Earlier this year I did a “fishbowl” shoot at Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai. The idea was to brainstorm and experiment with different speedlight-based lighting techniques, realtime, in front of a group of people.

What we produced were not developed portraits. It was more like speed dating, but with lighting techniques. (In fact I think I only made a half dozen frames of the shoot above, and that included exposure tests for the lights.)

The point of the photo above is two-fold. One, that you can get fully saturated colors that really pop if you keep the complementary colors from layering atop each other. And two, you can get strong color against a white wall, and even with complementary colors at play in close proximity.

To understand all of the things going on in the different zones of this photo, let’s walk through

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