Photographer Magnus Svensson of MAZ Studios

Awesome photographer Magnus Svensson gives you some awesome lighting setups!

Get to know Magnus Svensson, contributing photographer. You can see his work in the upcoming post here and you can see even more of his work if you follow the links in this interview.

Where are you from?

– “I’m from Karlstad, Sweden. But I recently got a new studio in Stockholm so I probably move there pretty soon.”

How old are you?

– “I am 35 years old”

Any homepages we should take a look at?

– “Yeah, www.mazstudios.com is the main site. I also have a blog. That is in swedish though, sorry to say. Been thinking about making it all international. We’ll see :-)”

How long have you been into photography?

– “Actually I haven’t been into the photography part that long. I started my company 2006, but I worked with retouch for about 10-11 years. And that’s how I got in contact with the world of photos.”

What is your area of expertise?

– “I have always been influenced by the more edgy stuff, fetish and other art that is not well known for the regular people. So, when I take on any mission this is what I like to introduce in whatever genre I take on. My main areas is fashion and advertisement. But I have done some glamour before and it’s a cool and fun style. Not that much money though in that. But the fashion is what I have the passion for. To me, a well shot editorial is like a work of art. It just blows me away. So, I like to take the fashion and make it “Maz style” sort of speak  :-)”

What is your dream assignment?

– “The big magazines like Vogue and similar. I have recently done jobs for Elle, UNA (Hong Kong), Harper’s bazaar, so that’s cool. I love the international assignments.”

Who is your favorite photographer?

– “David Lachapelle is truly one of my biggest inspirations. Even though it might not show in my work he has always been someone I looked up to. There is of course a lot more but that one is probably the most important.”

What are the most common beginner’s mistakes when it comes to lighting?

– “Learn to walk before you run! You don’t need 5 pro photo flashes the first thing you do. Start with one. Even today, I still love to use just one. Simple, yet power full.”

What is your favorite lighting setup?

– “Hard to say, but I have always loved the result of the ring flash. I think you either hates it, or loves it. I, for one, loves the shit out of it.”

What is your worst photo experience?

– “I like photography and everything around it. So its not like I’m only into commercial or fashion. I like to try out new stuff. So for a season I worked as a school photographer. You know, shooting the photos for classes. So, one time I worked on a kindergarten. And a few tips I got before the job was to let the parents leave and don’t let the kids start to cry ha ha. So, I failed this miserably of course. I forgot about the parents so they stayed. And it was devastating. On one side we had the parents yelling on the kids “c’mon, smile, like you did this morning. C’mon, you are ruining everything kiddo” And on the other side, the teachers saying the same thing, and of course blaming me for the slow pace. Everything was of course my fault ha ha. So, that was a long, long day. Never did that again after that. They say kids and animals are the worst things to shoot. I agree 🙂 But I take the animals every day of the week over those brats!”

Clam shell lighting setup for beauty shots

Beauty shots using the clam shell lighting setup.
Clam shell lighting diagram. Please notice that the softbox and reflector are NOT vertical as the lighting diagram insinuates.

Beauty lighting setups does not have to be difficult. You can easily get professional looking beauty shots using the clam shell lighting setup.

It’s called clam shell simply because you rig two softboxes as a giant gaping clam shell. It’s hard to see in the lighting diagram because of the levitated view. It would have been better illustrated if the lighting diagram was viewed from the side. Anyway, I think you get the idea.

A common setup is to build you’re clam shell with a larger upper softbox and then a lower smaller stripbox. The upper softbox is about one stop higher than the stripbox. Using two softboxes gives you good control of the light.

Simplified clam shell lighting setup

This specific clamshell lighting is simplified a bit. I used one big softbox from above and then a big horizontal silver reflector underneath. This gives you a little less control of the light, compared to using two softboxes, but the setup is about what you want anyway. The softbox will automatically give more light than the silver reflector. You can vary the distance between the soft box and the rector to control the light a bit. You can also try with a white reflector to find a lighting setup that you like.

Lighting setup using natural light and silver reflector

This is a photo portrait of the swedish professional dancer Karl Dyall. The lighting setup is very simple. The model is standing next to a big window which is about 4 feet from him on the right hand side. On the left hand side stands a silver reflector about 2 feet away. It was cloudy that day, so the light is very soft.  As many of you know is the Canon EF 50/1.8 II bokeh a bit stressful, so the warm light in the background is not as smooth as I would like it.

Natural light photography

When you practice natural light photography, keep in mind that the constant light from a silver reflector can be annoying for the model if the light is too intense. It makes it difficult for the model to keep a certain facial expression, and the whole workflow for the session will be affected.

If the light from the window would have been more intense that day, or if it had been an outdoor session a sunny day, I would probably have used a white reflector instead of a silver reflector.

Portrait lighting diagram with natural light and reflector

Studio lighting setup for product photography

This is a simple yet very useful lighting setup with only two hot shoe flashes (canon 580 ex speedlite), two homemade light modifiers and a dark glossy board.

I use one honeycomb snoot on the backdrop to get more control of the light. That flash i placed under the board. I use one homemade horizontal strip softbox as a main light. That flash is mounted on my camera.

For this session I wanted a dark exclusive look n feel that harmonizes with the delicious dark coffee tones, so I used a brown backdrop and a black glossy board to put the cups on. Even though the board is dark, it will still reflect plenty of light from the background

Low budget lighting setup

First time I used this lighting setup was on an assignment when I shot some food and drinks for a restaurant i Stockholm and needed to keep the budget down.

I have reused this lighting setup many times. These specific photos is from a session when I shot some stock images for istock. Check out that lightbox.

It’s difficult to give a good ratio between the two strobes, since I have used this lighting setup on many different colored backdrops. My advice is simply to try what’s best for your specific session.

Good luck with the shooting!

Photographer Carl Swahn

Contributing photographer Carl Swahn

A few questions answered by photographer Carl Swahn.

Where are you from?

– “I’m from Stockholm, Sweden.”

How old are you?

– “I’m 35.”

How long have you’ve been into photography?

– “I bought my first black and white darkroom in 1993, that’s when I got into it for the real. I developed pictures day and night. The next big step was when I bought my first DSLR, a Canon EOS 300D (kiss?).”

Which photographic genres do you like best?

– “I work across many different genres, fashion, advertising, product, stockimages and more, but I like to take photos of people in general.”

What is your dream assignment?

– “Since I most of all like to take photos of people I would rather think of a dream session with a person, than a dream assignment. I would really like a photo session with Charlize Theron who is not just extremely fotogenique, but also a great actress. I’ve understood that she had a tough background and has been working really hard to achieve all her well deserved success. That’s inspiring, and I like working with people that inspires me.”

Your favorite website?

– “Smashing magazine is very inspiring, even though it’s not specifically about photography.”

What other photographers do you like?

– “I like photographers that go their own way and take photos with heavy impact. Larry Clark and Terry Richardsson are such photographers and I really love what they do. Since this is a blog about lighting setups I feel that I must mention Jill Greenberg and David La Chapelle even if that might be a bit too predictable.”

Your favorite lighting setup?

– “Even though I’m very interested in lighting setups, I have no specific favorite. But I like shooting on location so I prefer lighting setups that doesn’t require much lighting equipment.”

Favorite photo accessory?

– “That must be my Elinchrom Skyport, a radio trigger for my strobes. It’s really great!”

Let’s have a look at some of your photos

Here’s my blog in Swedish: Carl Magnus Swahn

or take a look at my istock portfolio.