Recently I received a call from the owner of the company that imports Elinchrom studio lighting, Kayell Australia, asking if I could help them out.

The owner of Elinchrom was headed to Australia and they wanted to put on an evening for their customers.

I have a great relationship with Kayell and am sponsored by them for all my studio and location lighting gear from Elinchrom and all my reflectors and backdrops from Lastolite so I was more than happy to oblige.

Kayell opened the bookings a couple of weeks out from the event with an expectation of around 150 people coming along. However, within 24 hours they had nearly 500 registrations!!

After a few stressful days for Kayell we ended up with about 250 people in attendance on a cold Melbourne night.

My thoughts going into the demonstration shoot was to highlight the benefits of different light shapers more than to talk about the lights themselves.

Now I’ve used Elinchrom lights since the mid 90’s and always loved them but at the end of the day light is just light – it’s what you do with it as it comes out of the head that makes all the difference.

So my goal was to start simple with an Elinchrom Deep Octa, the most versatile and beautiful light shaper I have ever used, then build the image with a couple of extra lights before moving onto the Elinchrom Soft Light Beauty Dish and then some strip light portraits….

Ahhhh the best laid plans…..

Elinchrom Deep Octa Single Light Portrait

I knew we were in trouble pretty much the minute we arrived.

David and I entered the Dallas Brookes Centre (where the evening was scheduled) and saw that our ‘studio’ space was basically the size of the average bathroom.

Now imagine trying to set up two or three light stands, back drop stands and back drop and model and posing chair – all in about a 5 foot by 7 foot space. YIKES!!

There are many problems with shooting in a very confined space.

You have limitations as to the size of light shapers you can use, it is harder to control the spread of  light and of course you can only keep the lights close to your subject which changes how the light wraps your subject and how it ‘feels’.

So it was a case of ‘let’s do what we can’ with the space and lights we have, after all most home studios don’t work in much bigger spaces than hat we were confronted with.

After a few single light, styled portraits I threw a gridded light onto the back drop and gave the model some licence to move around herself.

Elinchrom Deep Octa and Gridded Rear Light

One of my favourite ‘tricks’ is to have my subject lean ONTO the soft box itself and shoot directly at it.

It produces the perfect white backdrop every time, not to mention beautiful soft light.

Shooting into the soft box


Learning how different light shapers look and how many different ways you can use one shaper is one of the great learning journeys in studio lighting.

One of the most popular fashion light shapers these days is the beauty dish, just about every fashion headshot you see on the cover of a magazine these days was shot using one. They produce a beautiful sculpting light but like any light if you don’t use it right it can produce horrible light. The difference between the two may only be  a few centimetres.

The difference between good and horrible light could be just centimetres.

If you set up a light and your first test shot just doesn’t look right, either too flat or too contrasty, then the solution may be just a slight adjustment rather than a big change of position. When you get it right, the light it simply beautiful.

The beauty of the beauty dish

The final shot from my one hour demonstration shoot was a matter of demonstrating the value of walking around your subject and seeing how many different ways you can shoot the same light set up.

Moving to a 90 degree angle from the front produces a very different looking image.

Same light, different shooting position.

Overall it was a fun, if challenging, night.

We had some tech issues, some space issues and we were time poor but the images are not too bad and the lessons, which are always the important part, were clearly demonstrated.