The darkest hour is just before dawn

I thought I would share something new today: a Lighting Recipe where I show exactly how I lit this shot.

I am partial to low key photography with soft lighting – placing emphasis on only specific areas of the frame using light, otherwise dark tones throughout, and with a smooth transition between light and shadow.  The goal with this approach is to create a dramatic atmosphere with a little bit of mystery.

Here’s how I did it:


  • Camera with macro lens
  • Tripod
  • Black background
  • Charred cedar plank as a floordrop
  • Lump charcoal for scene building

Lighting Ingredients

  • Main light: Litrapro with softbox, positioned with Platypod gooseneck arm and Ultra tripod base
  • Background light: Litrapro with grid, positioned with Platypod gooseneck arm
  • Reflector: 10×15 cm recipe card, folded to stand upright


  1. Build the Scene

I prefer to keep my scenes simple. Here we see the Mandalorian minifigure standing on a pile of lump charcoal placed upon a charred cedar plank.

2. Add the Main Light

My main light was Litrapro with softbox, set to 5% brightness at 5700K. I positioned it high and right with a Platypod gooseneck arm and Ultra tripod base, and pointed it forward to feather the light.

3. Add the Background Light

My background light was a Litrpro with grid, also set to 5% brightness at 5700K. I tilted it just slightly with a Platypod gooseneck arm to get the look I wanted, with the light framing the minifigure.

4. Add the Reflector

I folded a white recipe card and placed it opposite the main light, just out of frame so that it would fill the shadows on the minifigure’s back.


To show the difference that these steps made, I took a picture of each. To ensure a fair comparison, I shot in full manual mode: 3 second exposure at f/8 and ISO 100. The only difference between the shots is the lighting, and I noted my camera’s centre weighted metering indications in the captions below.

Ambient light only (single overhead recessed LED light):

EV -1.3

Main light only:

EV -3.0

Main light + background light:

EV -2.6

Main light + background light + reflector:

EV -2.4

Wrap Up

I’ll close out with a side by side, showing the difference that a deliberate use of lighting can make.



Published by Scott Murphy

Photography for the love of it.

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