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Cosplay Photo Shoot with Elinchrom Portable Flash

Cosplay Photo Shoot with Elinchrom Portable Flash

by Michael Sewell

Meet the 5th Legion, a troop of cosplayers. they're  definitely a unique type of client, and not because of the costumes. They have quite a special outlook on life. All of them give up an enormous amount of their time for charitable causes, and quite frankly, they all seem to be a little bonkers. It's this last trait that I love the most.

My intention for this photo shoot was to recreate similar lighting to that found on the corridors of an Imperial Star Destroyer, as seen in the Star Wars films. Although I wanted it to be moodier and darker, to complement the vibe of the evil Empire.

After some thought, I decided I would go with an overhead lightsource, as used in the filmsets. This presented a couple of challenges. The first of course is how to get it there, and my solution was to make use of a large boom arm.

The Elinchrom ELB 500 TTL is absolutely ideal for boom work, as the head is so small and lightweight, and the only additional weight is the Q-Mount to EL Mount Adapter (allowing standard Elinchrom modifiers onto the tiny ELB 500 heads), and the softbox itself. In this instance, I went with a Rotalux 150cm Indirect Octa combined with a 150cm Rotagrid. The size of the Octa meant there would be a good spread of light for a group, whilst well controlled by the honeycomb, preventing light from hitting the background etc. It also meant that with an individual subject, they could stand almost at the edge of the pool of light, giving a very nicely diffused spread along their full height. 

Due to the height of the boom arm, and its length, I added an extension lead to my ELB 500 head, giving more than enough length for the pack to sit on the floor. As I had good control over the ambient light, the output was only set to 3.0, equivalent to 50Ws, meaning I could achieve this look even with Elinchrom's entry level D-Lite RX One Head, or the battery powered Elinchrom ONE. The light source itself was barely out of the frame, and most of the costumes were a very glossy white, so I was conscious not to overexpose. I was using an ISO of 400 on my Fujifilm GFX 50S II with a GF 110mm f2 Lens.

Fujifilm GFX 50s II 1/60th sec ISO400 GF110mm f2 @ f5.6

Post processing on this shot was minimal. A simple raw conversion in Lightroom with attention paid to shadows to ensure they remain dark. A very slight increase to vibrance. That's basically it.

This image uses the exact same one light set up. The Stormtrooper is stood frame left to the pool of light, as indicated by the shadow separation between left and right. This was to ensure his forward leg was lit full length, with the added benefit of enough light to just bring up the detail on his rear leg. It also accentuated the detail on his shoulder pouches.

Fujifilm GFX 50s II 1/125th sec ISO200 GF110mm f2 @ f5.6

This shot was a more complex setup, making use of three light sources. I used a combination of Elinchrom FIVE and Elinchrom ONE heads, as the onboard batteries make them super versatile. However, as they were all low power, I could just as easily use entry level Elinchrom D-Lite RX heads, as long as I have access to mains power.

The most obvious light source, is the one behind the model. An Elinchrom FIVE firing through a standard 21cm Reflector with a 30° grid fitted. It was at a height of around four and a half feet. The output was set at 3.0 (equivalent to 50Ws) and about four or five feet from the black backdrop. The light basically overlit the black backdrop, causing it to go to a light grey and making a nice separation from the officers black uniform. The model was positioned exactly central in the spot created by the background light.

The second light was positioned frame left, and further back than our officer. It was firing through a Rotalux Stripbox 50x130cm Softbox with honeycomb Rotagrid 50x130cm. This created the accent light across his cheek, enhancing the texture of his skin and stubble quite nicely. The flash output was set to 2.0 (equivalent to 25Ws), as it was barely out of frame, and I wanted the accent light fairly subtle.

For the key light I used the same 150cm Indirect Octabox with Rotagrid from the previous image, this time on a standard (but heavy duty) light stand. It was still quite high at seven and a half feet, and angled downward as much as possible. It was placed frame right, and almost in line with our officer and the accent light, making the lighting set up almost an example "cross lighting" (a technique where two light sources are used on either side of a subject, then aimed to cross each other, creating depth). The output was again at 2.0 (equivalent to 25Ws). However, as it was a little further away from our subject (Which was mostly so it wouldn't foul the frame), it contributes less light to the subject, and allows the accent light to overpower it easily.

Here's another example using the same lighting setup and camera settings.

I wanted a dramatic look for my final group image, and once again achieved it with a simple three light setup.

Frame right, I placed that 150cm Octa Softbox with grid at shoulder height. My strobe light was set to an output of 4.0 (equivalent to 100Ws).

I also placed a second light with my strip Softbox and grid frame right, and beyond our subjects, facing slightly towards them. You can pick out this accent light along the edge of the officers faces, and also the folds in their jackets. This created a nice separation between our subjects and the background, especially important as we are pairing black clothing with a black background. The flash output was set to 4.5 (equivalent to 150Ws).

The final accent light was placed frame left, and barely out of frame, but well beyond the subjects. This provided the finest of accents along the troopers helmets. The accent line is so fine, it could almost be described as a rim light. The flash output was set to 5.0 (equivalent to 200Ws).

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