Re-creating Diffused Sunlight with a Studio Light

||, Photography|Re-creating Diffused Sunlight with a Studio Light

Re-creating Diffused Sunlight with a Studio Light

By |2018-07-13T11:57:35+00:00November 23rd, 2010|Categories: Gear, Photography|Tags: , , |4 Comments

As a stock photographer who shoots mostly lifestyle and food images, a big part of what I do is I try to light my subjects so that they don’t look like they were lit. Make sense? Well, I basically want there to be no unnatural shadows, crazy lighting, etc. I love to use studio lights but I always want the focus to be on the subject and the activity going on in the scene and be lit as if it were outdoor light, window light or just normal indoor lights. You’d actually be surprised at how much work can go into a shot to achieve this … sometimes it’s really easy, but sometimes it’s also extremely challenging.

Canon 7D, Canon 28mm f/2.8 lens, 1/125 sec at f/4, ISO 100

When I was visiting family last week my dad was really cool with modeling for me. He used to have to use a CPAP machine to help him breathe at night, but lost a bunch of weight so doesn’t need to use it anymore. But since he still had the machine handy I thought we would do some stock images with him sleeping with the mask on.

Window Light: Canon 7D, Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens, 1/10 sec at f/2.8, ISO 100

When I first set up the bedroom the light outside was nice and cloudy so it gave a soft, diffused look to the bed. I was happy with this light, but it was way too dark for me to get any real shots (the shutter speed, at 1/10th second, was too slow to hand-hold, and the aperture, f/2.8, gave too little depth-of-field for my tastes). So, I positioned a White Lightening x800 with a 32×40″ foldable softbox just in front of the window (see photo at the top of this posts … this was rental gear from—see yesterday’s post for more info). I used my handy light-meter (yes, I use a light meter), metered to f/4 and then took another test shot:

White Lightening x800 light: Canon 7D, Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens, 1/125 sec at f/4, ISO 100

The image above looked so close to the original that I didn’t even need to make any changes. Both are completely un-edited, btw … they are straight out-of-camera with no adjustments applied. Oftentimes I don’t have a starting point for my images (I have to create the light with nothing to compare it to) but I usually know what “look” I’m going for. These two images were just perfect examples of how studio light can be used to make it look like no studio light was used.

About the Author:

Nicole S. Young is a professional photographer and published author whose love of photography and teaching has grown into an online business where she creates training materials and resources for other photographers. Nicole is best known for her books on food photography, but is widely versed in a variety of photographic genres, including landscape, travel, lifestyle, and even underwater photography. You can learn more about Nicole's work on her website,


  1. Thom Gourley November 23, 2010 at 11:58 am - Reply

    Very nice light. Of course, with the big box, you’re probably getting a little more bounce off the ceiling than with a window, hence the softer shadows (like the bed covers). Might be interesting to see the results if you had a black card along the upper edge of the box. Still looks very nice, though!

  2. Nicole November 23, 2010 at 12:05 pm - Reply

    @Thom – That bounce from the ceiling was probably a good thing (to fill in shadows on the face). Since I never tested the “before” with my dad in the shot then I don’t know if it was too dark with just window light.

  3. Ruben Schoenefeld November 23, 2010 at 8:13 pm - Reply

    Leave it up to Nicole to make CPAPs look good, heh! And good for your dad for losing the weight.

  4. Karen Larsen November 24, 2010 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    Hi Nicole,
    I follow your blog regularly, and am impressed by your talent and success as a photographer! I’ve seen you several times at the few Utah photowalks I’ve been able to attend, but you don’t know me. Since your past several posts have been about lighting, I’m wondering if you might have some suggestions for a problem I can’t figure out. First, a little background. Until now I’ve never ventured into studio lighting. The most I do is set up a couple of speedlites with Pocket Wizards. I’m just now deciding it’s time to set up a small home studio, (good timing with snow, wind and cold weather upon us here in Utah), and last week I went to a studio lighting workshop which was more about the types of lighting for portraiture. It is still all pretty much ‘Greek’ to me, but the presenter had a great buy on some equipment so I walked away with my first studio light, a Rime Lite made by Hyundae. I was told I could use my Pocket Wizards to trigger it, ( I have a Flex TT5 and a Mini TT1). Well, they trigger it just fine, but the flash is out of sync. It must flash either before or after my camera (5D Mark II), because my images are all dark. (Everything works fine when I use the sync cord tethered to my camera.) I’ve tried to look on the Pocket Wizard website for trouble shooting help and in the tutorials, but can’t find any help. Do you have any suggestions???? Also, would you consider given a private lesson on how to actually set and sync studio lights, and use a light meter to get your exposure right?????? I’ll sign up!

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