Light The Way
by Steve Kozak
M. Photog., CR.
PPA Certified

“Bend me. Shape me anyway you want me. As long as you love me, it’s alright.”

The lyrics to this 1968 hit by the American Breed speak to the singer’s approach to love, but he could just as well be singing about my approach to light!

I am a minimalist when it comes to photographic equipment. I do have all of the tools I need to do the job, but I prefer using my creativity for lighting to create images that require little else than a knowledge of the craft.


For example, you might be surprised to know that both of these images below were created using the same white, seamless paper background.

Two completely different looks from the same white background is easy if you just understand the basics of lighting. I can even turn the white paper completely black!

If you want your white paper to appear white, it must be two stops brighter than your subject. For example, if your subject measures F8, the background must read F16 to appear white.

If you want the white background to be dark, you simply have to keep light away from the background. This is where using softboxes is very helpful, as they do a great job in directing the light without a lot of spill.

I will often add spill intentionally to give the background a “modeled” effect to create areas of highlight and shadow.

In the example at left, I used two Larson softboxes to create the image. You can see the set up in the image at the top of the page. I used the light at right to light the model, and I used the box overhead as a hair light, but I also tilted it so that it would spill onto the white paper to give it areas of highlight and shadow.




The image at right was created with the same white paper, but I added a colored gel to bring out some of the hues of her dress. Gels can really add to the variety of backgrounds that you can create for a very small investment.

Every image on this page was taken with the same white, seamless paper background, but these lighting techniques can apply to any background of any color.