Overcoming the Sun: Clamp Shell Lighting

One of the advantages of using strobes is paring the sun. However sometime not only do you want to light up a subject, you want to have a effect that is hard yet with minimal shadow, similar to what large reflectors create. With recreating that effect using lights, I found the best solution: Clamp Shell Lighting

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The diagram doesnt depict it well, but technically one flash on a boom is above the other, the sun behind the subject back, lights are aligned to the side of the subject for a more natural feel with the camera between them or at the side of the lower light. One difference between the setup I use and a standard clamp shell is my ground light is not exactly below the first light but slightly more offset. This lower light job is to fill in the shadow for that extra spectacular effect, recreating a look similar to a reflector. Depending on where the shadows actually are, it is moved to fit the situation.

Also note, to over come the sun with a 500/250w light, I usually use a metal reflector or bare bulb for power. This is essential especially using high speed sync where even more power is lost. However if the sun is low or in semi sheltered area like a forest or the exterior of a building, umbrellas can be considered to soften the light.

Below are some pictures shot with this setup and their in camera settings:


Nikon DF: 28mm F1.8 1/4000 (B1: 10/10 B2:10/10 HSS Barebulb)

11am light is relatively strong. Full power on both lights at barebulb to overcome the sun.


Nikon DF: 28mm F2 1/500 (B2: 8/10 B2:7.5/10 HSS  Shoot Through Umbrella)

As the area was semi sheltered, I dont really need to fight the full force of the sun, as such 2 umbrella can be used to better diffuse the light.

Kobato Small

Nikon DF: 28mm F1.8 1/1600 (B2: 9/10 B2:8.5/10 HSS Barebulb)

Shot during the taiwan evening sun, B2 dont really have the full strength to over come the sun itself especially if done in dual head mode. More will be talked about B2 in the upcoming review.

This photos represent outdoor usage of clamp shell. Gives a nice light on the face thats spectacular yet not too harsh with the second fill light that is usually lower powered to fill in the shadows. Hope you learn something from it!

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