In cooperation with our partners for memory solutions

In cooperation with our partners for memory solutions

Justin Bettman

Clowning Around

I recently collaborated with the ACME Brooklyn, a prop house in New York, to create some new work to showcase their incredible props. Shawn Patrick Anderson, the creative director and founder of the prop house, did all the set design for the shoot. We bounced ideas back and forth for about a month, and finally decided on building sets that looked like a clowns warehouse or apartment.

The first set we photographed was the clown sitting at a table. Shawn Patrick had a huge red ball that was the inspiration for this set and lead us down the path of focusing on clown noses throughout the set. This set was lit with 3 Siros 800 heads.

Setup 1


The key light was a Siros 800 with a P45 reflector, boomed overhead and shot through a 12’x12’ 1 stop silk. This gave us a nice even light to fill the room. The rim light was also a Siros 800 with the standard built-in reflector, with some yellow/orange gel on it. I had this facing into camera to add some drama to the room since shooting with just the key light was quite flat. The third light in this shot is a Siros 800 on the other side of the wall shooting through a P45 reflector with CTB shooting through the window. Since I had warm light coming from the left side, I wanted to contrast it with cold light coming from the right side. I also felt like the blue added a spooky, night time feeling to the photograph.

Shot 1

Canon 5Ds, ISO 160, 1/160 second, f/9, 35 mm


After shooting the first setup, I realized that if I moved to camera left, it made for a really nice portrait shot that offered a different view of all the props. I kept all the lights where they were for the initial setup, but I took off the warm gels on the strobe that was camera left. I also added another light to become the new rim light coming from behind the subject on camera right. I used a hazer to make it look like the cigarette he was smoking really filled the room. Anyone who follows my work, knows I love using a hazer whenever I can :)

Shot 2

Canon 5Ds, ISO 160, 1/160 second, f/9, 57 mm

The final setup turned out to be my favorite. When I was first lighting for the shot, I was really unhappy with how flat the shot felt, so it took lots of tweaking to get it where I wanted it to be. This was a good lesson of why personal projects often turn out better than client work — because you have the time to dial everything in and there isn’t a time constraint. The key light for this shot was a Siros 800 with CTO coming from camera right. Behind the clown, you’ll see there is a lamp in there, acting as the motivating light source for this key light. It’s important if you want to achieve cinematic lighting that the light sources all feel motivated by something. Inside of the lamp, I put a flash bulb with CTO since the standard lamp bulb that was in there wasn’t bright enough to balance with the strobes. For fill light, I used the Siros 800 shot through a 1 stop 12 x 12 silk. This me to fill in the shadows and evenly light the scene. I used a Siros 800 with CTB camera left on the floor to give some drama and variation in color. Above that light, you’ll see the star light that was a practical light. Because I had this light in the shot, I had to bring my shutter speed down to 1/50 so that the strobes wouldn’t overpower it. And of course, I used a hazer again for this shot :)

Shot 3

Canon 5Ds, ISO 200, 1/50 second, f/5, 55 mm