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How the Other Half Lives: George Holz' Beyoncé for Spin

Photo © George Holz

You know how people on the Strobist Flickr group like to talk about how it is technically possible to shoot blow-away white with just one flash?

Yeah, this is not exactly that.

Hit the jump for a walk-thru vid for the (ahem, eight-light) shoot, including a key light combo that you're prolly gonna want to rent rather than buy next time you are assigned to shoot Beyoncé.

George Holz is the latest photog to get the Master Series multi-video treatment from Profoto. (You'll remember these three videos featuring Greg Heisler.)

That soft/hard key light combo has got me thinking. Prolly not thinking so hard I am gonna buy the giant Profoto umbrella reflector. But thinking about sticking a front-firing speedlight in front of a Paul Buff PLM or a Photek Softlighter. Maybe even grid the hard light, too.

Here's the diagram, which includes the dual-flash key light, the umbrella trees and the boob accent separation lights.

Nothing to make you think too hard. Just some helpful information, for the next time you find Beyoncé in front of your lens.

:: More George Holz videos :: (via Profoto)
:: George Holz' website ::


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Blogger brett maxwell said...

I remember Zack Arias doing this style key light with speedlights, one bounced in an umbrella, one right next to it facing the subject with a tight grid:

It inspired me to try it a few times and it's a great tool!

February 09, 2012 12:08 AM  
Blogger brandonfs said...

I can't help thinking that the lighting diagram is reversed. It looks to me like the key light was camera right, no?

February 09, 2012 1:12 AM  
Blogger tweedlebug said...

You can achieve a similar hard/soft lighting effect at close range by using a beauty dish without the direct light blocker. Or, for bigger effects, use the silver Paul C Buff Parabolic umbrella with the diffuser, without tightening up the drawstring around the light in the center. You could even take that a step further and modify the diffuser so that the hole is larger. No need for a second light that way.

February 09, 2012 1:35 AM  
Blogger spottheblogger said...

I'm confused. The shadow next to her nose, her lips, and under her chin all say the key was camera right, but the video and diagram says it was camera left. Can someone explain this?

February 09, 2012 2:25 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

I'm not sure I understand where the big shadow under her chin comes from. It's location and strength seems to suggest a hard light high and to the right of the camera or even above her, but the lighting diagram doesn't have that. ANyone help me out here?

February 09, 2012 4:44 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

"Boob light"... and suddenly I'm 10 again, not 35...

Still, Does have me thinking about a soft/hardlight combo using one of those Lastolight dual speedlight brackets. hmmm..

February 09, 2012 6:19 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Interesting, although I tend to think of a silver umbrella as a fairly hard light even if one that gives a big specular highlight. As with most things though if falls on a spectrum with a truly parabolic light being harder still. Size/distance making a difference as well of course.

The hard light soft light suggested would be a slightly different thing, although it all come down to getting fine control over the gradient of light fall off around a curved surface (usually a face). Something I find pretty hard to visualise with out getting out there and trying a specific set up (and even then the effect seems to vary with skin type).

February 09, 2012 7:32 AM  
Blogger Stefan Tell said...

I use the combination of a 5-foot Octa and a gridded beauty dish quite often, if they had a special kit with those combined, or a two-light modifier, with boom and all, I might even buy that just to make it simpler.

February 09, 2012 8:09 AM  
Blogger emrphoto said...

Wow, it seems so easy and seamless (no pun intended) when you have all the equipment (and all Beyonce's equipment) available for the shoot! (grin)

Ed R.

February 09, 2012 8:36 AM  
Blogger Craig M. said...

Attended a week long shooting seminar by Will Crockett about 10 yrs ago. We learned the hard light soft light main technique from him then. Nice tech but not new. Ring light does make it easier though.

February 09, 2012 9:50 AM  
Blogger Boston Portrait Photographer said...

First time I've heard any photographer describe the sound of a flash pop as a selling point to further impress the client.

February 09, 2012 11:07 AM  
Blogger Patrick Snook said...


Re the hard light on axis with the large diffuse light.

Check out your own recent post on Andrew Pinkham's similar technique. He describes it as mimicking direct sunlight through a large window.


February 09, 2012 11:21 AM  
Blogger Debbi_in_California said...

In these lighting diagrams they never show the distance of the model to background. That makes all the difference in no spill on the shoulders.
Ahhh, boob light, I need to order that from B&H!

February 09, 2012 11:53 AM  
Blogger @padillabowen said...

My favorite quote: "It makes kind of a cool sound when it goes off."


Yeah, I'm pretty sure 8 billion watt seconds does make a "cool sound". He probably shot it ISO 25 at f/16.

Oh and "dual tube head with a ring flash in front".

You really gotta earn the right to say something like that with a straight face.

February 09, 2012 1:26 PM  
Blogger Jim Quinn said...

This Calumet (Bowens) accessory might handle that combination of hard and soft light easily, especially if you add grids to the central port. Even if you don't use that brand of light, it might be worthwhile to pick up a Travelite and this accessory if you do this sort of thing frequently:

February 09, 2012 2:28 PM  
Blogger HeroFoto said...

think that's nutz, check out the Lindsay Lohan shoot

February 09, 2012 2:49 PM  
Blogger Antares said...

Possibly the image was shot as shown in teh diagram, but was flipped later. Or, the light was from the other side. Even if it was, the concept is the same regardless of lighting location (though possibly confusing to the new shooter trying to reverse engineer).

I also find the specular from the "booblight" rather distracting.

February 09, 2012 3:31 PM  
Blogger David A. Harvey said...

I'm with Spottheblogger - the shadows don't match the lighting diagram - camera right is where the key is and its pretty hard. Me thinks that indeed the umbrella and ring light were camera right and high (look at the catchlight in here eyes) and that the ring light was the actual key with the umbrella being 1.5 stops under the ringlight.

February 09, 2012 7:17 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Not just eight light, but eight *packs*.


February 09, 2012 7:47 PM  
Blogger jlmiller said...

Interesting and a slightly newer take on an old lighting style, the lighting is similar to what Victor Skrebneski used many moons ago the dual to 3 light tree. I used it for many years as well with a single grid spot on the hair and black panels on the side of the light trees to stop spillage on the model arms. this gives a sharper edge to the model.

February 09, 2012 8:18 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

To the people who are think the key is on the other side:

Nope. Check her nose. Her face is turned into the light and the light is right on her nose.

You are jus being fooled by the tonal similarities of her hair near the camera-left side of her neck (in shadow) and the shadow of the chin/face.

February 09, 2012 11:36 PM  
Blogger Jeremy DeBauche said...

I like the set up, but I was anticipating that the next thing that was going to pop up on the screen in the video, after the long list of gear at the end, was "Total Cost = One Milllllllion Dollars"

February 10, 2012 9:43 AM  
Blogger New Wave said...

I want to know about this apple box elevated plexiglass back ground - tell all!! And I agree that the boob specular is too much...

February 11, 2012 4:21 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

I have to say, for all the comments about cost... you can achieve similar results with almost any brand of lights. You still need 5-6 lights, and you might not reach f16 in a big studio. But if you're rolling out 9-foot seamless in a typical hobby studio, then you can reach f8-f11 with any studio strobe, and achieve nearly the same results. Go to ISO 400 and it's doable with speedlights and cheap modifiers. Not as much fun, but.. it can work.

Pay attention to the setup, not the equipment.... this is a very common and useful lighting arrangement.

February 11, 2012 10:56 AM  
Blogger Frank Grygier said...

I am going try this with a grid on speed light mounted front facing in a Westcott ORB with the diffusion layer off.

February 11, 2012 11:18 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This sort of dual key light is fairly common. I use a Profoto Hardbox, some use a Profoto Magnum, etc. The two lights don't have to be on a common axis, as long as the 2nd light is within the the circumference of the umbrella, you will only get one highlight.

Except for table-top I use one pack per head, it makes life much easier, without the tangle of cables running around the studio there, is less to trip over.

February 11, 2012 2:42 PM  
Blogger Don Boesen said...

I think it neat that he still likes the sound that the light makes as it goes off.

February 13, 2012 2:57 PM  

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