The final word
Joe McNally shows us the beauty portrait lighting setup he used to shoot a Vegas dance star
Lighting up is tricky. Too much and it’s spooky, and you might as well be lighting Freddy
Krueger. Nothing wrong with that per se, but generally subjects don’t hire you to make them look like they’re an extra in Zombieland.
But a dash, a light pop, a smooth-as-silk upward drift… now that can be quite lovely, and can get you called back.
Enter the Uplite. It’s been a featured item at Lastolite for a while now, but has gone a bit unnoticed. I’ve been doing some fashion of late, and brought it into play as part of our regular travelling kit. It offers options to either bounce the light source down, or push it straight up at the subject. It has different sources of reflection, from silvery to sunfire, and a waterproof ‘bottle cap’ so you can put the reflector surface down on the ground and not ruin it. This portrait came from a combo of four Speedlights, a D5 and the new Nikon 105mm f/1.4, which is one of those lenses that you, when you look at the file, go, “Holy shit.”
The key here is tragically simple and one of those things I should have thought of before. I keep the metal support system together and don’t disassemble it to travel. We had always kept it intact in the studio, avoiding the few minutes it takes to screw the thing together. But then I simply decided to travel with it, all assembled, with the diffuser/reflector pieces folded around it. It travels great, and the 15-minute setting up time on location is down to about three.
I’m happy to have it in the kit. The light, swirled in with a simple overhead, is quite lovely, and I’ve been having fun with it. For the wonderful Joli Irvine, a Las Vegas dancer about to take the stage in Le Reve, the main light is the Ezybox Hotshoe Soft Box, with the white interior. Add a raw backlight, and some terrific posing on her part, and you’ve got a beauty portrait that no one would confuse with Nightmare on Elm Street.
A dash, a light pop, a smooth-as-silk upward drift…now that can be quite lovely, and can get you called back