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Lara Jade

Teaching with lights

I've always loved shooting in California - the light always adds an element of wonder into editorial stories and projects and brings me back time and time again.

This past June, I decided to host a 4-day workshop event in the mountains above L.A. in the picturesque Topanga Canyon. The focus of these shoots was to teach the students how to shape natural light and add artificial light to enhance a scene - rather than overpower it. The Mountain Mermaid (our location) was the perfect location; enabling us to set up a variety of scenarios to demonstrate when to use artificial lighting and when to rely on natural light. What I teach in my workshops is the methods I use when I plan and light my own editorial or commercial shoots, so it's important I am also using the same gear (as well as the models and styling teams I work with).

During this particular workshop I used the following equipment -

broncolor Move Kit 1200 - The move kit is very portable; we were able to easily move the light set up to different areas of the location. What I love about using this kit on-location is that EVERYTHING is included in the kit (so if you're like me and not very strong, you don't have to go around hauling tons of gear with you). Usually this is my go-to kit; I then carry the Octa 150 with me as an additional option.

Para 88 with diffusion - The lighting around midday to 4pm was very strong and overhead, making this the worst time of day to shoot!

The para 88 is a large light source and powerful - adding that punch in contrast to your images. Since we didn't favor the overhead light from the sun (due to shadows on the subjects face - which we always try to avoid!) we used a 4x7 scrim with a one stop diffusion cloth above our model - the Para 88 was our main source of light, directly facing our model.  Whilst usually I favor using the Octabox 150, in this particular set up I wanted the contrast to be a little stronger and bring out the detail and color in the clothing. To further soften the light on the models’ skin, a one-stop diffusion cloth was placed on the end of the Para 88 umbrella (as seen in the video).


Octabox 150

I've talked about the Octabox 150 a couple of times before, but my main reason for using the Octa is that it really helps enhance a scene when you're combining it with natural light. The Octa gives a soft diffusion and can be made softer by simply adding an additional diffusion cloth on the inside or outside, or by feathering the light (we did both on the workshop). The main reason for using this light and why it's a key piece of equipment when shooting outdoors is because we are trying to enhance a scene, not overpower it - the shoot theme itself was very soft and classic, so the soft light works well to enhance the mood.

Most of you will know the frustration with shooting in midday sun - often on client shoots or when you have a number of shots to do in a day, you HAVE to push through it. When I first purchased a scrim, I thought 'why didn't anyone tell me about this sooner?!' This has become the most used piece of equipment in my kit this year. We used both the 1/2 stop and full stop diffusion cloths during the workshop, depending on the level of diffusion we wanted. This gave us a soft even light and enabled us to shoot on a wider aperture - helping enhance the mood of the shoot.


In certain scenarios, a large reflective source can work wonders; for this workshop, we used the California Sunbounce 6x8 (with white/black sides). In one scenario, we were shooting a model by the pool and the best background for the shot was also the area where there wasn't a lot of light on her face. She was in a perfect spot shaded by a tree but we needed to add some punch to her skin and outfit because the background was a lot brighter and overpowered the scene. The students held the reflector using the white side - reflecting back the available light with a soft, natural look - enhancing the scene. The great thing about the sun bounce is they double us a v-flat (in studio or on-location) or diffusion if you are in midday sun.

You can find my the schedule for my next workshops in London & NYC at


Models - Rachel at Photogenics and Madison at Vision Models LA
Styling - Marissa Adele
Make Up & Hair - Jennifer Hanching
Photo Assistants - Mira and Felix Kunze