High Key Versatility in Studio B

High Key Versatility in Studio B

The versatility of this studio is unmatched in the area.

With the exception of one window that receives direct sunlight in the early morning hours, Baltimore’s Studio B is a controlled lighting environment. What does that mean? Lets take a look

A Variety of Options

Along with the all white walls, (and ceiling to floor too) there is a large disc reflector that can help photographers bounce, cut and shape their light. Perhaps the largest factor in being able to control light in Studio B is the choice of modifiers.

Studio B’s Modifier Options
• 5’ Octabox w/ grid • 2’ Deep Octabox w/ grid • 3’ Strip Box • 21” Beautydish • 7” Reflector w/ grid • 40” Folding Beautydish w/ front baffle •
Add in the versatility of the very tall and very white walls…

The real star of this space ARE the white walls! The studio staff provides constant upkeep in the form of touchup paint in both of our spaces, but in Studio B it really stands out.

Our 14’ ceilings allow adequate space to boom, raise a light, or shoot downward onto your subject from a ladder. Each of the studio’s bright white surfaces can act as a bounce.

Don’t Get Cyc’ed Out

A cyclorama wall, the scooped floor of seamless white plaster is a truly wonderful feature, but you wont find one at our Baltimore studios. Instead, we opted to leave in the corners to allow photographers more flexibility.

You can still pull a seamless white look very simply by adding at least one background light, typically with it aimed at the corner or where the floor meets the wall. Creating your ‘hotspot’ on the joints will basically just wash them out so that they look infinite; like a cyc wall or roll of white paper.


Lets face it, with a roll of paper or a cyc wall, you can only create two environments: an all white background, or an underexposed grey background. Not that that is a bad thing, but along with those two setups, lets discuss a few ways that you can use a white box.

My favorite use of this would be high key lighting, but paying special attention to retaining awareness of 3D space.

Personally, I hate the idea of photographing people on white seamless because that’s how you shoot stock products. Furthermore, the lack of a shadow or some form of reference so that they don’t just look like they are ‘floating out in nowhere’. I want to see a floor, or a wall, or just a hint of them.


In a 2017 “High Key Glamour” workshop with Zoe C. West, both the model and the walls were lit, but the background was about two thirds of a stop dimmer. This allowed us to see the corner that she is tucked into, and the floor as well. Zoe’s shadow outlines her left side, further adding context to the 3D space that she is in.


Of Course There Are Exceptions

Despite how I spoke down about it earlier, shooting a model against a clean and bright ‘superwhite’ background is not always a bad way to go; but there are definitely some ways to do it that look less awkward.

Breaking the frame is my personal favorite way to fix the illusion of your subject floating out in the middle of nowhere. In this photo (below) of model Lori Glimmer on the dance pole, her legs, and the pole each break the frame. This means that they are optically larger than the frame of view, so they are not 100% inside of it.

This forces us to think in just 2D space since ‘the floor’ is implied. Mind blown.

In the following two photographs of Lori on the pole, her hands are cropped out at the top of the image. These two are not ‘keepers’ in my opinion because I think that the crops are in awkward places, but they illustrate two important points.


In image number one, the subject is about eye level and her (bent) legs are very close to the crop at the bottom of the frame. You don’t really think too much of it until you see the next image. Notice that the crop leaves lots of negative space below her, implying that she is higher up. Her eyes are much higher than the lens, which is looking up at her.


So, even without showing 3D space, we can still use subtle imaging clues and perspective to define the space she is in… or at least avoid that awkward ‘floating’ look.

In the next image below (this one is the keeper of the series) Lori is 100% within the frame BUT the pole still breaks it at the top and bottom and this saves the image. It makes a great dancer promo image if you ask me!


I should add that working with someone that is performing on a pole is all about timing and communication; practice is the only way to get better at it. For starters, you need to set up your lights, and your setup, will most likely limit the poses and direction that your subject can work within to get a flattering image.


Lets take a step back and look at the lighting setup that I used in each of the above images of Lori Glimmer.

There is a small octobox above her. It is gridded to prevent spill, and pointed downward. To achieve this, I created a mini boom using a C Stand.

The cone of light that this fixture creates is wide enough that she will be lit (from above) when she is just about anywhere on the pole.

The second light is a small strip box (3’ tall by 9 “ wide) on a standard light stand, lined up and pointed just to the right of the pole. It is about 7’ back (to allow a swinging girl some clearance) and to make sure it illuminates a wider area around the pole as well. Notice that these two lights are both pointed inward towards the pole. This is to allow illumination if the subject is pointed in either direction.

Take note that the small gridded octa above will only look good if your subject is looking up at it; if not, it will create dark under eye shadows. That’s a big limitation for sure, but we were able to work around it.


The lights in Studio B, Alien Bees, have very short flash durations, which will freeze action despite your shutter speed. Because this is a controlled lighting environment, there isn’t much ambient to allow much motion blur. For that look, continuous/ hot lights are the way to go. Perhaps that will be a future blog post.

Atomic Joshua image
Post by Atomic Joshua

Photographer + Filmmaker turned studio owner.