Planning studio lighting effects. Hat shoot with honeycombes

You might think that photographing a few hats was a simple problem.

To get the results shown here two very separate lighting systems were involved. The studio was divided into background light and lighting to show the qualities of the hats.
Lighting kits for studio work usually come with a few different ways of controlling the spread of the light ( umbrellas, soft boxes, snoots etc.) To get the best out of each subject its important that the light shading is carefully matched to the qualities of the objects being photographed. In this particular case all of the hats had a wide range of surface textures plus¬† the model’s hair and complexion. Rather than opting for large umbrellas or solftboxes that render a smoothing effect on the lighted subject I chose to use a range of honeycomb filters fitted over the lights on the model.

A honeycomb grid looks exactly like it sounds: is a filter made with hexagonal tubes placed over the flash unit. The tubes or cells are available in a number of different sizes that control the spread of the light. Honeycombs were originally marketed as an economical substitute for a focusing spot light. They have one quality that makes them useful for this type of work. The edge line with a spot is always focused and hard whereas the edge rendered by a honeycomb tends to be soft.¬† The size of the light patch is also fairly easy to control. The slightly harsher light brings out the texture in the hat surfaces. In all of the pictures shown three honeycomb grids were used. The first was a large size grid over the front of a small soft box casting an overall soft light on the model. This was placed at about 45 degrees above the model and established the overall lighting of the picture. To this I added another two flash units both fitted with honeycombs to highlight certain aspects of each hat. Below I’ve shown a closeup to give a better indication of of what the prints really look like. The real beauty of the textiles used can be appreciated from the A4 prints made from file.