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Bare bulbs and white walls


During 2012 I have been shooting a lot of photos like this for my clients, the best way to describe the style would be as stock photo-ish. But with an important variation, my clients wants to feature their own staff and preferably shoot them in their own environment. Which can be tricky sometimes.

With so much (often really good) stock photos in use everywhere, that style has become some sort of standard for many. And that is easy to understand, the style is bright, clean and simple to use. You can put in almost any layout, in a magazine or on a web site, and it will fit just right in.

So creating photos in this style, but using people from my client’s organisations and working in their offices has been the brief for many assignments. The photo above comes from a hospital and by pure luck, it was recently renovated. It had large windows, and white walls, so my contribution to the light was mostly to make it brighter.


Before I put up my two Profoto D1 250 Air, the light in this small room came from the windows and from above. Not the best directions as my models were facing me standing inside the room.

If I would have tried shooting the photos with no additional lights, I guess they would have looked a lot gloomier. The light from above was nice and clean, but the direction was not optimal.

Instead of complicating things with a softbox or a reflector of some kind, I used two lights with bare bulbs. Experimenting with the ratio between them both and the height and angles resulted in a very soft light but still with some contrast.

The sunlight outside shining in from the windows made the background bright and almost blown out in some areas. Which was fine by me. If this would have been done later in the day or in the winter, it might not have been so fun.

Working with only reflected light from the white walls can be tricky, but there are more advantages. Especially when working in a small room as the lighting on the person closest to the camera doesn’t differ so much from what hits the other person (or model, we can call them).

If I would have used, for example, my trusty 5-foot softbox Octa, the light would have been relatively so much closer to the model playing the patient and caused all kinds of overexposure. Trying to get some fill light in between the two would also have been hard with so little space to work in.

Now, almost everything was fill light, in some way.

This could only have been done this way with white walls and good light outside the windows. The only thing I had to add was a little brightness, and the simplest way was just to use the walls as reflectors and make sure the two lights worked well together. And they did, I think.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Lanthus Clark January 7, 2013, 15:04

    It’s been said before but it still holds true: A photographer is a problem solver.

    Good problem solving Stefan!

  • Stefan Tell January 8, 2013, 02:09

    True, it is a lot like that. But sometimes you are helped a lot with great people and nice environments, just having to be there with your camera (and sometimes the complete opposite).

  • Josh February 7, 2014, 04:58

    Great help! Just realized I’m walking into this exact situation tomorrow and I think this will solve the problem. Thank you!

  • Stefan Tell February 24, 2014, 00:58

    Glad I could be of help, let me know how it did turn out.

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