Making Sun Where There Was None

Connie Brown

Click on any image for Full-Size

Today’s behind-the-scenes (and lighting tutorial) is from my recent shoot for the Wall Street Journal’s Review Section on Connie Brown, who paints one-of-a-kind wall maps on canvas that are, quite simply, works of art. She researches each private commission and creates much more than a map, but instead produces what can be described as personal portraits of a region special to the client.

I spoke to Connie and she told me she lived in a converted schoolhouse, but her studio was an all-new building out back, with lotsa white walls, high ceilings, and quite bright…which it was…but it was also surrounded by a lot of really tall trees…


…and as bright as it may have been, those trees did a super job of keeping any direct sun from lighting up the studio. And since I wanted to have a bright, airy look to the shots, it fell upon me to invent some Sun…fast! Thankfully I had the perfect thing for making Sun when there is none…a Profoto Magnum Reflectormagnum50

As a light modifier, the Magnum couldn’t be simpler…it’s just a deep dish with a 50 degree throw that is highly polished to a mirror finish. This not only makes for an extremely efficient light…even backed off 50 feet from your subject you still get a huge output…but the quality of light has a nice, open feel to it that looks just like the Sun!


We placed one Magnum with a Half CTO (for warmth) on a Profoto Acute 2400w/s pack about 20 feet from the main, double-height window…with a second pack & head lighting up a smaller second window…and were amazed at how realistic the results were…

Connie Brown

Connie Brown

Connie Brown

The white ceiling and walls acted as natural fill cards, so we were able to point and shoot from pretty much any angle we wanted, and the hot backlight perfectly mimicked the Sun. And when we switched to a more head-on shot of Connie against her easel, the bright, open, lifestyley look of the first shots now turned wonderfully dramatic…

Connie Brown

With the portraits done, I now had to do some vignettes of her studio, and the outside lighting still proved to work without any changes…






I can’t say enough how impressed I was with the lighting effect we were able to achieve with essentially one pack and one head. This is the kind of thing filmmakers do all the time by dropping a few 10K HMI’s outside of a window, but this was much, much easier!


11 thoughts on “Making Sun Where There Was None

  1. love the warm sunlight feel in these images, as well as the “3D” quality in the first image- I am guessing Zeiss or Hasselblad glass? I really love the sense of depth the backlight and lighter than subject background created. Fantastic, beautiful, creative work as always.

    Actually, that first shot was with my old (film lens!) 20-35mm f2.8 on the 5Dmkii…..there were a couple I did with the H1…HERE and HERE…but everything else is the Canon. BT

  2. Very useful, thx , few day`s ago tryed to do the similar thing with paul buff Einstein e640 and 11″ reflector with full cto , but no luck, need more power)))))))

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