LIGHTING THEME: Cross lighting

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by j.kivekas, Feb 24, 2007.

  1. Cross lighting: the model is lighted from the one direction and the background from the opposite direction. Optimally one should get a dark edge of the model against light background and a light edge against dark background.
    This lighting theme can be found from many old paintings by Rembrandt (ex.1) and Caravaggio (ex.2). In early photography at least Nadar used the technique (ex.3). One of the best applications on photos I've seen is a photo by a Finnish portrait photographer Jussi Aalto (ex.4) who used it on his portrait book cover.
    Cross lighting is typically done with two diffusors but it can even be done with one. With two the set up is pretty obvious - just opposite sides, one for the model, the other for the background. Barndoors, honeycomb can be used with the bg light to define the gradient. If only one diffusor is available a curtain or something is needed to act as barndoors to create the gradient at the background. It can be pretty iterative to optimize angles and distances. I know that Jussi Aalto can do it easily with one light. I am not skilled so I tend to do it with two. You will find three examples of mine my attached here.
  2. Juha,

    Juxtaposing a brighter area of the background behind the darker side of the subject, model or object, is a very useful lighting technique. In fact I did cover that in a previous Lighting Theme called "Using Goobos".

    Your photos shown above are excellent examples of that technique. Thanks for posting them.

    If you are interested in posting some new Lighting Themes please contact Garry Edwards or myself and we'd be happy to discuss them with you. Being the moderators of this forum we like to preview the information presented in any Lighting Theme.

    It's not necesarily required but it is often very effective to present a theme by iluustrating a step by step creation of the elements of the lighting used and discuss the modifiers used and the reasoning for the choices made. Take a look at some of the earlier Lighting Themes and you'll see what I mean.

    "Cross Lighting", as you call it, is a very effective technique and could be expored in more detail using different lighting tools, if you're interested.
  3. "Being the moderators of this forum we like to preview the information presented in any Lighting Theme."<p>
    Sorry, I did not know this although at first I thought I should enquire about posting from Mr. Edwards but then I read the forum description and simply posted - in fact could you point where the demand for preview is stated in the PN? If indeed there is such a regulation I would like my posting removed at the first possible instance.<p>
    Referring to the posting about gobos: To use background light patterns is an everyday trick in commercial photography. Relative to that the "cross lighting" is actually very very old technique and yet very poorly covered in photo litterature. The key point is to have both light against dark and dark against light and to have natural switch between these two.
  4. Juha,

    The original post about contributing to the lighting themes has apparently been deleted. It used to be archived in the Administration Section of the Lighting Forum.

    In that original posting we did and still do encourage people other than Garry and myself to contribute lighting themes but we asked that they pass them by us first just so we could be sure of the accuracy and value of the information presented in that theme.

    And at the time that these themes were being produced on a weekly and then monthly basis, we wanted to be able to schedule the themes so there wouldn't be more than one running at the same time to encourage participation in the current theme.

    Your recent posting has excellent information and excellent examples of lighting technique, so the quality of the information and technique is not an issue.

    The point of the original lighting themes was to illustrate a lighting technique using step by step photos and descriptions and then to encourage other people to try that particular technique.

    If you'd like to present a lighting theme with that kind of depth of information then we'd be delighted to have it posted.

    For example, it might be nice to illustrate different means of creating a splash of light on the background using softboxes, grids, fresnel spots, gobos and flags and discuss the differing qualities of the light when those modifiers are used. I think that would be very interesting for most viewers here. In other words the mechanics of "cross lighting" would be worth demonstrating.

    If you'd be interested in doing that sort of Lighting Theme, or any other like it, please let us know.
  5. Well, I wrote pretty much all I know about the technique and hoped I would find others who could fill in. I find the tech gimmicks pretty straightforward, but yes you're right, it may not be so for everyone. In any case I'd like to emphasize the historical perspective to this technique. It really comes from painting technique.<p>
    You can remove this thread if that's required, no hard feelings. On the other hand you could fill in and continue it. Obviously this communication between me and you could be cleaned away since it gives nothing to others. Do what ever is required.<p>
    Reg. Juha K.
  6. Juha,

    This thread is a good one, no need to remove it.

    Let's do this....what lighting modifier did you use to create the background glow in the blue background shot of the woman? Ws the background itself blue, or did you use a gel?

    How far was ithe light from the background and did you use or do anything special with the light, other than aim the light towards one side of the background?

    Was the light on the left(dark) side of the background and aimed across to the light side or was it on the light side of the background?

    Did you use strobe or continuous light?

    How much distnce between the subject and the background?

    I think many people would like to be able to create the kind of background light you have used in your sample photos and this type of information would be of great interest to them.
  7. The young girl and the man are shot with the same set up. The main strobo/umbrella is just outside the frame, perhaps 1.2 meters (4 feet) max away from the face. The backgound is shot bounced from a white reflector from just above floor level, no umbrella, no diffusor, just a cone and a cardboard box as barndoors. The bg strobo is very close to the bg wall. The problem here was that the room was very small and I had hard time getting the light level low enough. The background was about 1.5 meters (5 feet) behind the chair. Both of these photos are further postprocessed to achieve a stronger cross light effect.<p>
    The lady with blue background: The mainlight is maybe 1.5 meters (5 feet) from the face. The mainlight had a 80 cm * 80 cm diffusor with 1 stop neutral gradient and bastard amber gel. The neutral was there so that I could open the aperture more. The background, some 3 meters (10 feet) further away from the model, was lighted with another strobo/diffusor with 2 stops gradient gel (I have only one 1 and one 2 stops neutral gels). I moved the bg diffusor closer and closer to the wall until I got the light level appr. correct at the light end. The bg diffusor ponted pretty much perpendicular to the wall. Once I got the light level at the light end correct I moved the light sideways to get a suitable gradient contrast (2..3 stops difference). Finally I adjusted the bg strobo again to get the 1:1 with the main. Additionally there is also a snoot hair light from left for which I unfortunately had no neutral gel. This photo has very little postprocessing in it.<p>
    In my experience the light ratios should go so that the main on the model and the bg lighter end is about 1:1. The bg can be even a bit more lighted but not much. Then the bg gradient with all strobos should be at least 2 stops loss towards the the dark end, preferably more. It's really about how much one wants to have contrast.
  8. Juha,

    That's what I'm talking about!

    Very useful information about your lighting technique. It shows what can be done with a good bit of ingenuity and the minumum of equipment. Using a cardboard box for barndoors is an excellent improvisation.

    Anyone else have an interesting way to light a background in this "cross lighting" method ? If you do, post some photos.
  9. Further more, I've subsequently crafted a 30 deg honeybomb for my mainlight diffusor out of cardboard strips (yes, it took a lot more time than I thought it would). The purpose of this big hc is the control the spill of the main to the bg. The spill is a problem if the bg is very close to the model.
    I've got 500Ws Elinchromes and they tend to be too powerfull for small rooms and strong gradients. Therefore I apply the neutral grads. It feels stupid first to create a powerfull flash and then kill it with gels but that the way it is. I suppose you could do this with hotlights and even with modeling lights with ISO400 or so. With hotlights I could see something in common with George Hurrell's technique (ex.6).With the 500Ws I always use ISO50.
    I'll be back once I've tried to achieve this with EX550 + 2*EX420 - given I am blessed with some luck.
  10. What I find interesting here is that you've used minimal equipment in a small studio space.

    My own approach to lighting is very minimalist - never use two lights when one will do - but I can't help having a fully-equipped commercial studio and Brooks is in a similar position, so posts by people who can turn out good work with less in the way of facilities are especially valuable.

    I know that the lighting themes had a very high readership (even if they didn't always have a very high participation rate) and that people found them helpful, and still do. We've tried to encourage themes from other members (although with limited success), and future contributions will be very welcome.

    I feel that our exsisting range of themes and lighting projects have probably covered most of the basic techniques but if anyone has any suggestions for new themes, or would like to present one, please let us know.

    We're here to help, and we want this forum to be much more than just a place where people can ask which type of flashgun they should buy...
  11. Still a word of the way Jussi Aalto does the "cross lighting". He only uses one big diffusor. He sets it for the model and then uses a door sized black shader to create the gradient to the bg from the spilled light fo the main. In this one-light-case it is advantageous if the bg is relatively close to the model. Sounds simple but I have not succeeded in duplicating Jussi's style even with several attempts. I find it easier to construct the bg gradient with a light of its own. But basically the one light version should suit small studio even better - given the light power can be decreased enough.
  12. Juha,

    Try positioning the bkgd closer to the subject and then at an angle to the camera. If your single light was on camera left, position the background so it angles away from the left side of the camera. That should help create a falloff on the far side of the background while causing the closer part of the background to be brighter. You might need a fairly severe angle on the background, at least more than you might think.
  13. Looks like side lighting or top-side lighting to me. I use it every day for models tests.
  14. "Juxtaposing a brighter area of the background behind the darker side of the subject, model or object, is a very useful lighting technique."
    ... and not to put too fine a point on it, it's called Chiaroscuro, not "cross lighting", which is a two strobe technique currently popular with editorial photographers with a bag of small lights (or one strobe in opposition to direct sun).
    Chiaro (light) scuro (dark) is the juxtaposing of light and dark of the subject with the opposite tone in your background, as Brooks says. And it's an entirely different concept. Cross lighting is about lighting the subject on whatever background, and Chiaroscuro is about lighting the subject in a specific co-ordination with the lighting of its background... t
  15. Great. Now we have a correct name for it. No need for "" anymore. May be the admins can change the name in the thread title too so no more mix ups.<p>

    CHIAROSCURO, even sounds right :) Great article link too.
  16. Igor, may be you could share us some of your work? You seem to have an empty portfolio.<p>
    Tom, your example, could you reveal a bit about the dimensions? The lighting in it is simply perfect. Did you use a curtain for the gradient?
  17. Sure thing. <p>The background is a roll of corrugated packing paper, kind of like corrugated cardboard that only has one side, so the corrugation is exposed. It is curved behind her and starts out at an oblique angle to the window and curves back to catch the (indirect) sunlight from that window so that it throws a shadow on itself... a variation on Brook's advice to angle it away from the light source which yields a less radical effect. <p>There was a large white panel about 8-10 feet to camera right, creating a soft and low fill on her shadowed cheek. Tripod and beautiful subject who can hold a pose for 1/8th second or so (no curtain or scrims required, just a room with windows on only one side, and photographer who likes a little drama in a portrait :^)... t
  18. and she is maybe 3-5 feet off the background... t
  19. crosslighting 2 ways
  20. This is an example of true cross lighting: the lights are placed on opposite sides of the
    subject and are at
    close to 90 degrees from the axis line from the camera to the subject.

    Lighting: 2 Dyna-Light 2040 heads (each connected to its own pack) , each with a grid
    spot modifier to focus the light and barn doors (fashioned from Rosco Blackwrap) were
    used to further restrict the spill of light . The camera was pretty much surrounded by a
    wall of black velvet to eliminate reflections in the glass wall immediately behind him.

    The background - which was a control room on the other side of the small glass walled
    room Dr. Lay, my
    assistant, his assistants and myself were in - was lit with a single head and pack set up,
    This head was gelled, positioned low and aimed down into a gold metallic "show card".

    The video display images
    were recorded during the longish (30seconds) exposure. A total of one Polaroid and 6
    sheets were exposed once Dr. Lay was in position.

    Camera; 4x5 Sinar C. Lens Calumet 90mm f/4.5 Caltar II at f/22. Film: Fuji RDP
  21. This is my chiaroscuro ;) I like Steven M. photos from around 2000 done with this technique for Italian Vogue.
  22. Igor, great photo. Probably the first time I see ciaroscuro (... I got to whisper this word to my girl friends ear;) in long version. Was this done with just one flash? You should definitely put up a portfolio here at PN.<p>
    Ellis, I am not sure I understood. If you think of the letter "T", the camera was at the foot and flashes at the tips of the arms of the T. The subject was at the junction? How does it differ from ring lighting (stupid question =o)? A great shot this one too.
  23. ". If you think of the letter "T", the camera was at the foot and flashes at the tips of the arms of the T. The subject was at the junction?" yes,exactly. "How does it differ from ring lighting" The way a ring light is traditionally used is that , if you think of a donut, the flashtube is the donut itself and the lens is looking through the hole i nthe donut : the light direction is parallel to the lens axis, not perpendicular to it
  24. Ok. Thanks Ellis.
  25. Stupid me. Of course I know what ring flash is. I meant rim lighting. Sorry for getting words mixed.<p>So here we go again: how does it differ from rim lighting?
  26. Rim lighting is similar to cross lighting , except that generally it looks like there is only
    one light source being used and it is placed at a much larger subject-to-camera axis line.
    One type of rim light is the so-called "hair light".

    Using your earlier analogy, if you had two "rim" lights, the diagram would be more like a
    "Y" than a "T"

    Rim lighting is usually an accent light (photographically speaking one can break down
    lighting a subject into three types: main (AKA "key"), fill, and accent.

    The key light sets the "mood" and strongest aesthetic effect.

    Fill light reduces contrast and usually (but not always) comes from the direction of the
    camera or from the angle opposite the key light. It is usually no greater than 1/2 the
    brightness of the key light.

    Accent lights are like fresh ground pepper on a hot off of the grill steak. They add a critical
    of flavor or sizzle to the shot and often make the difference between an okay shot and one
    stands out. Rim lighting as an accent light is generally used to set off the subject
    distinctly from the background with a brighter edge. Accent and fill lights can also ,
    though not very frequently, be used as a shot's key lighting effect.
  27. Here are a couple of examples of rim lighting where the rim light was the main or only lighting used.

    And in this product shot, rim lighting was used as an effect light

    I must have hundreds of other examples, but computer problems make them difficult to find...
  28. Garry I'd call all of those examples of side or cross lighting, but there's a certain point where
    the language gets fuzzy describing what my eyes vs. your eyes see. Shades of grey I guess.

    Any way this is a classic thread with excellent examples of well made light.
  29. Ellis, as you say, shades of grey...

    There comes at point at which side lighting can become rim lighting or rimlighting can become backlighting. Not easy to define in terms that everyone can agree on. But one thing we can definately agree on - this is a good thread.
  30. There is another thread in the lighting equipemnt about the the "Dutch light". I wonder how close does this actually get. Teh books tell that Caravaggio was a major forebild for Rembrandt. I dare to quote wikipedia here "Among the prominent characteristics of his work are his use of chiaroscuro, the theatrical employment of light and shadow derived from Caravaggio but adapted for very personal means; his dramatic and lively presentation of subjects, devoid of the rigid formality that his contemporaries often displayed; and a deeply felt compassion for mankind, irrespective of wealth and age.". Come to think of it some of the works by Rembrandt and perhaps Rubens are like light painted, because the light isn't perfectly real. The ciaroscuro is very evident and often there are almost like rays of light visible.
    Ellis, thanks for the clarifications on rim lighting.
  31. Notice the emphasis i ntheabove passage is not about technique but on personal vision
    utilizing these techniques.

    The only thing real about a photograph or a painting is the thing itself, everything else,
    the the spatial and emotional relationships of the things depicted to each other,
    perspective, color, lighting, gesture, etc. are nothing but constructs by the creator of that
    image. Photographs can (and mostly are) reality based. but the finished work is only a
    deliberately created abstraction of what the photographer or painter saw.

    if you really want to learn about how photographers can direct light, buy and study
    "Citizen Kane", and virtually all of Martin Scorcese's films.
  32. You mean the Orson Welles movie, last word "Rosebud" - the sledge. If I recall right it is B&W movie. Doesn't it acctually remind the Hurrell photo style. I've noticed that some movies are really pieces of art in regard with lighting but I find it hard stop a view in my mind in order to study the lighting in detail. Yes, I have to look into that. I guess because they use hotligts in the movies they are more often fresnells rather than diffusors.
    I am really after the ciaroscuro because of Jussi Aalto (done a couple of his workshops) and Rembrandt. I'd love to be able to create the sort of feeling Rembrand had in his paintings. His portraits appear to have ciaroscuro, warm light/colors and vignetting very often.
  33. Another beautifully lit Welles movie (with, I think, a more entertaining story line) is A Touch Of Evil in which Charlton Heston plays (in quite a credibility stretch, but admirable well) a virtuous and naive Mexican police detective (not a typo) against Orson Welles' corrupt American police detective with Janet Leigh as Heston's blond American wife (whooooa!). It is an amazing piece of work, be sure to get the Directors cut, only recently released... t
  34. Look at Irving Penn's early portrait work, all basic chiaroscuro conceptually and done in available light studios all over the world. It's an easy effect to achieve by window light... t (also check out Vermeer)
  35. Irving Penn happens to be the forebild to Jussi Aalto and I've come to know Penns work quite well. Restudied some of his work, and yes, there is chiaroscuro here and there. He also has a lot of portraits with medium bg, that is, in between the hilite and dark of the subject.
    Vermeer - ok, I checked his work at a>. The window is very often present (visible) in his works. Compared to Rembrandt these appear in my eyes "one or two stops more open":) and there is frequently presence of yellow/lime light. Comparing Rembrandt and Vermeer - I guess you can see the evolution of the "dutch light" trend of that time (1600-1700). Great stuff!
  36. Grrr.. I wish it possible to rectify the errors in the postings. Should've been:"Vermeer - ok, I checked his work at Olga's gallery...."

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