A brief Saturday Light post this week, highlighting the promotional shoot I did with the New Vintage Ensemble for their upcoming production of “The Fourth Wall,” which opens 10 July at the Cooperage in Honesdale, PA.

The fourth wall is the space between the performance and the actors, the imaginary wall the separates them, so the concept of our promos was to include the wall as an actual element.

We took that idea literally for the headshots, and had the actors smush their faces up against the panes of a glass door.  This is what happens when you run into the fourth wall!


The setup for these was pretty simply; it’s a one-light shot, with a speedlight on a stand with a large shoot-through umbrella.  It’s set much farther off to the left than I’d usually place a light, but that’s what it took to keep the reflection of the umbrella (mostly) out of the frame.

It did sneak in along the edges in a couple of frames, such as the one above, where the wider framing to include her hands let it show.  Anytime you have to work with glass in your lighting setups, it’s difficult.  And sometimes an outright bitch.

NVE Fourth Wall Headshot Lighting Diagram


I was fine with the background falling dark so that it wouldn’t distract from the actor’s faces, but wanted some texture to remain.  Since this was on-location and not a studio setup, I was able to preserve that sense of place.

It’s a simple setup.  The only trick I employed was to use a polarizing filter on my lens, to help deal with the reflections in the glass.  It’s harder to use a polarizer with flash than with continuous lights – you have to chimp and check to see that it’s aligned right.



Shooting info: OM-D E-M5 + Olympus 12-40mm lens, f/2.8, 1/125, ISO 200.  YN-460II with shoot-through umbrella, radio slaves.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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