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Lighting an F-16 with 400 Watt Strobes

Photography & Video Tutorial

By JPMorgan | June 17, 2014

For today’s The Slanted Lens lesson, we are shooting out at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, AZ. We want to get shots of fighter pilot Josh “Chunk” Moffet with his F-16. What an incredible airplane!

The first obstacle we have to deal with is the plane facing the direction opposite of what I wanted and not being able to move it. In choosing the best angle to photograph the F-16 in this position, it will have me looking into the sun. I will need to light the shadow side of the jet with 400 watt strobes. Not an easy task. Let’s take a look at how we will accomplish lighting an F-16 with 400 watt strobes. Oh yeah, did I mention it was 105 degrees Fahrenheit outside?



1. This is our first image with just the ambient light. I’m going to set 3 strobe heads to light the Jet fighter and one head on the pilot.



2. Head #1 will be on our fighter pilot. I will use radio slaves for the the heads. It's a small OctoDome with a FlexFlash head. Here is our image with the first light.



3. Head #2 is a TritonFlash aimed at the tail section. The head is placed on camera left.



4. Head #3 is a FlexFlash with only a reflector on it aimed at the wing or mid-section. This head is placed on camera right.



5. Here is what the setup looks like around the pilot.



6. Head #4 is a FlexFlash with only a reflector. It will be placed camera right and light the nose of the fighter. I tilted it up slightly to keep some of the light off the ground.



7. Here is our lighting diagram.



8. I moved to the front of the jet and did some more shots. These turned out great when I applied a Nik effect on them. I took the image and added dark contrast and used subtraction points to remove 70% of the effect from his face and body. I then added a straight contrast and desaturated the image. I’m very pleased.


This was a great shoot. I loved the location and the subject matter. It’s not that easy to light a large object with smaller strobes, but it’s very doable.

Thanks for watching! Keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’.

-Jay P Morgan

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Nathaniel Johnston: | June, 17, 2014

That last shot is your money shot. Looks like you accomplished it (correct me if I’m wrong here) with only one strobe to fill the back of the pilots head, using the sun as your key light. now THAT’S how you shoot a big subject!

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