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Mystery Photo….Revealed?

Sep 3

In Best Guesses at 2:14pm


Had some traffic over time about the lighting grid for this photo, which we have used as a blog header. This was shot for Kelby Training, and re-confirms my fondness for seedy motel rooms. It is all small flash, but it is not all flash. It’s a mix of sources.

So I’m throwing it out there. Whoever wants to have a shot at this, and figure out the lighting plan, have at it. Person who nails it gets an autographed copy of Hot Shoe Diaries, and a Lastolite Tri-Grip diffuser.  Hell, I’ll even sign “Numnuts” on the diffuser, if you want. Remember though, everything I sign has a tendency to plummet in value, so choose wisely.

This ain’t a contest, and there’s nothing formal about it.  I’ve even talked in general terms about this pic in workshops, so it’s not like this is gonna be the search for the holy frikkin’ grail. It’s just that enough folks have pinged about this image so we thought it would be fun. We don’t get out much in our studio. More tk…..

216 Responses to “Mystery Photo….Revealed?”

Adam says:

on September 3, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Flesh in the lamp half cto

outside two strobes full cto

half cto on the leg through bed sheet

blue gel on tv

Hope I nail it ;P

mk says:

on September 3, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Stop the non-contest! I have the answer…

What’s the lighting plan! Hire Joe McNally! ;^}

Slavo says:

on September 3, 2009 at 3:29 pm

My guess is this:
1x snooted Speed light over the camera right aiming at the leg gelled orange(yellow?); 1x lamp turned on lying on the ground; 1x flash via softbox over camera left on the bed; 1x flash gelled red on the end of the hallway, aiming on wall between window and the door, 1x flash gelled blue on camera top right behind the TV (switched on), 2x snooted flash behind the wall aiming on the guys face and upper half of the body and 1x flash gelled orange on a stand behind the mans leg aiming down.


Mark Rainer says:

on September 3, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Fun challenge. I’ve never had the pleasure of attending one of your workshops, though I’d love to one day.

I see six flashes
Three outside
One with diffuser and a red gel pointed at the wall/backdrop
One with a half CTO behind the man about knee height Or it could be an incandescent light possibly bare bulb
One camera left behind the wall about head height zoomed to 200mm or with a grid the man with a grid and half CTO also spilling onto the door
Three inside
One high above the girl zoomed to 200mm or a grid and a half CTO
One to camera right possible shooting through a panel or feathered soft box with a blue gel
One more behind the bed with a blue gel with a diffuser

The lamp on the floor has an incandescent bulb you’re dragging the shutter to let it register on the sensor as with the TV

Pete Duvall says:

on September 3, 2009 at 3:34 pm


D3 w/12-24 set pretty wide. WB Daylight. Shutter about 1/15th er so to burn in lamp and TV.

Flash #1 camera right, aimed at models knee. Gridded or snooted, full cut CTO.

Flash #2 – Camera (further) right, aimed behind tv, moderate throw, gelled CTB or just plain blue.

Flash #3 – behind wall, behind shady dude, broad throw, red gel, set higher and aiming down, not quite at the model (thus the shadow across his face and hot spot on the floor).

My assumption is that the flashes are all SB900s, if that matters.

fingers crossed.


Alan says:

on September 3, 2009 at 3:38 pm

I think you set your WB to florescent or something to make the room blue, two flashes set outside gelled red one shooting at the mans face and across his shoulders and the other hitting him low and skipping across the floor the rest of the outside light is from a sign or something, a flash camera right gelled blue behind the TV washing the wall and the TV is just on, the lamp is turned on and just laying there, a flash in a grid shooting straight down at the ladies knees an spilling onto the ground gelled red and another flash behind the bed gelled blue…!!!!!????? I DON’T KNOW!!!!! YOU PROBABLY DID IT WITH ONE FLASH!!!!!

Dave Cross says:

on September 3, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Nice try Joe….
But I think it’s pretty obvious:

One flash and the rest is Photoshop:
8 adjustment layers with appropriate masks.
Noise filter on TV set
istock photo of guy with gun in doorway.
Added the grid in the window with the Shape tool.
A bit of dodging & burning here and there, and voila!


Tim O says:

on September 3, 2009 at 3:42 pm

You all forgot one missing item in the lighting setup. … “numnuts” behind the camera position to models right about 7 feet.

Great shot. GL to those who figure it out:)

Larry Eiss says:

on September 3, 2009 at 3:43 pm

OK, so I made my comment on the lighting in an earlier comment, but I forgot to mention one thing that bothers me.

Just to the right of the table leg nearest the camera there appears to be a reflection of the fallen table lamp. So this may perhaps have been shot through a window.

Also, kudos to the commenter who thought the lamp has gaffer tape on the bottom! I failed to notice how directional that light is.

Paul says:

on September 3, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Two lights outside: Ranger or 900 with a red gel far back(shadow on door), CTO behind him(shadow on floor)

Two CTB flashes: one behind bed(behind her leg), the other camera right(cable shadows)

Two CTO flashes: one high/slightly camera right(on legs), the other in the lamp

Since the TV screen is slightly blue instead of deep blue, I’d guess your WB is closer to daylight than tungsten. You probably dragged the shutter less than people think in order to get the tv fuzz.


Scott Pierson says:

on September 3, 2009 at 3:55 pm

3 speedlights: One gelled red behind the back door/window, one gelled blue camera right snooted/gridded to behind the TV, and one top left, gelled orange, snooted down at her knee.

Eric says:

on September 3, 2009 at 3:58 pm

I think you have some gelled flash going on outside but you also have some ambient in there and you’re getting that deep red with white balance. One of those light sources is behind the man and the other off to his side. You have a gridded box top camera left shining on the knee. most likely a flash of some sort for the lamp. Then you have a blue gelled flash shooting hard into the TV to use the cables as a cookie on the wall.

Jonathan says:

on September 3, 2009 at 3:59 pm

I think the exposure is a bit less than 1/60th to allow for enough ambient light coming from street lights outside.
Two flashes outside the door, one high to the gun side of the guy snooted to shine toward his face and the other behind the guy, aimed down toward his feet, both gelled yellow.
One flash behind the bed, gelled blue and pointed toward the wall.
One flash above the camera, slightly to the right aimed at the woman’s leg, gridded and gelled yellow.
One flash camera right and about level with the camera, gelled blue with something to keep the light from spilling away from the wall, gelled blue.
One flash inside the lampshade, gelled yellow.
Ambient light coming from the television.

Jack Pope says:

on September 3, 2009 at 3:59 pm

White Balance in the camera set to tungsten to make the daylight turn blue in the room and a flash behind the bed to kick that up a notch. A flash zoomed over head onto the model’s knee with two full CTO’s to bring it to tungsten then to very warm. Two flashes in the outside room jelled red on low power, cross bouncing to make an even colored wall. I do not think there is another flash pointed at the mans face but he is lit up a bit from the reflections off the back wall. Flash in the lamp cover as well with two full CTO’s.

Charlie Thiel says:

on September 3, 2009 at 3:59 pm

fun shot. Here is my best guess for light sources:

Two flashes in hallway, one, gelled red, to the right of the private eye, one behind private eye’s left knee with cto gel.

One strobe on the girl’s knee, cto gel, snoot, spilling over onto pills.

strobe in lamp, snooted with cto gel


blue gelled strobe lighting wall behind tv, snoot

blue gelled strobe behind bed with snoot

That’s my best guess.

Eric says:

on September 3, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Forgot to add that there is also a blue gelled flash on the wall with the window kinda behind the bed.

TC says:

on September 3, 2009 at 4:09 pm

Wow, happy I’m not going to read all those descriptions…

Here’s mine to add to your misery.. ;) – I’m going for something different, just to avoid guessing the same as everybody else. Hopefully.

All the blue: Lamps already in the room. Looking blue due to being a PP WB somewhere down around 2000K.
All the red: Lots of red gel.

1. Outside A: Something weak pointed at his face, throws shadow on wall.

2. Outside B: Something rather powerful, behind guy, low, pointed left, but with small dome (or really wide) that throws enough light into the room and makes reflections on floor.

3. Inside A: Above and to camera right, gridded an pointed to her knee. Hard shadows under her hand and behind leg = no diffuser.

4. Inside B: Lamp on floor. Weak flash inside, with dome.

5. Inside C: Behind her leg. Lamp from night-table, moved to floor.

I would love to look at a higher res version…

Marc says:

on September 3, 2009 at 4:15 pm

First I just want to say that I absolutely love this image, and the film noir shots you’ve done are some of my favorites Joe.

Next having me guess the light pattern on an image is about as good of an idea as mixing Cheetos and Peanutbutter; my imagination just gets away from me but here we go….

The lamp on the floor is ambient, and the TV is ambient as well. I’m guessing you exposed for these, and added light to make your scene.

1 SB-800 or 900 above the model on the bed with the kit amber gel on it snooted pointed at the knee of crazy bed lady.

1 SB-800 or 900 with a Blue Gel on it to the right of camera, above the TV and table, about 5 feet behind the camera.

1SB-800 or 900 with Full CTO Red outside shot from directly at the back of the Small Flash Police there in the doorway at a slight downward angle.

I’m also going to guess that this isn’t actually a seedy hotel, this is part of Dobbs Ferry (to which I’ve never been because I’m from 5 years behind the rest of the world in Indiana). The light outside is going to be an SB-800 or 900 with the same gel as behind the Flash Police on it set to show stopper full power outside lighting up some fog machine generated fog to keep the exterior of the room nondescript, while casting the red light very diffusely outside.

I’m even going to go on a limb here and guess that this was shot TTL with an SU-800 from off of an SC-29 Cable to camera left about 5 feet up, so that all the flashes could see it through the door and window.

Awesome. I can’t wait to find out how much easier than this it actually was!

James Arendell says:

on September 3, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Camera set to tungsten,60th sec f5.6 canon maybe:) 2 lights,1st is a ranger (sandbagged as its blowin a hooley out there) and wearing a cheeky red gel, second light to camera left axis level gelled 1/2 cto+ 8¨snoot (honl) don´t see any hotel bed sheets though, the bit thats got me stymied is the lamp on the floor,going to now suggest that a third light was stuffed into the shade set at 1/64th (if it had been a chicken instead of the lamp I would have gotten it straight away!

How did I do?

Michelle S. says:

on September 3, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Ok… here’s my shot at trying to figure this out… Part of the lighting plan was unplanned… fog? this was a first-floor room (whether it’s a real “seedy motel” or staged, it looks realistic)… the red light outside is from the red of some car (or truck)’s brakelights. The glow on the man’s face and shoulders are from the porch light outside the door. The glow on the ground is a reflection from the vending machine around the corner (possibly Photoshopped to match the mood of the photo?). There’s a blue night light by the bed that you can see peeking beneath the lady’s knee. A snowy tv. The blue light at the top-right of the photo from a lava lamp or a black-light. The lamp on the ground – not sure if there was light coming out of it – the reflection of the light off the ground doesn’t quite ring true for the direction the light would be coming from out of the lamp. One off-camera flash set to the upper-right and pointed down and to the left to illuminate the lady’s knee. One reflector to bounce some of that off-camera flash back onto the pills on the ground and the wheeled-foot of the bed. There are so many different possibilities of how to make this shot, it’s hard for me to nail down what was really used unless I was actually there and taking notes!

James Arendell says:

on September 3, 2009 at 4:19 pm

Rc´s post about gravatars hasn´t reached your community here by the looks of it Joe?

Will says:

on September 3, 2009 at 4:21 pm

One SB behind the wall between the door and the window gelled red., another off camera right aimed at the wall gelled blue on a stand. a third from roughly the same place gelled warm (1/2 cut of CTO) and aimed at her leg from above, with a grid. A fourth SB gelled blue on the ground behind the bed (and her leg) aimed at the wall for color separation. A fifth SB placed inside the lampshade with a cto cut aimed out the lampshade at the pills on the ground.

Phil says:

on September 3, 2009 at 4:24 pm

Avis, Enterprise… um Hertz?

Tim says:

on September 3, 2009 at 4:25 pm

two flash with cto gels directed on the head and on the foot of the detective behind the wall

a flash with stofen like diffuseer behind the detective (the light reflection) together with the smoke creates the unifying color outside the room

hard light coming from the left side a little below the tv with blue gel

one flash zoomed to about 85mm from above towards the girls knee

and another blue gel flash from behind the bed towards the wall with the picture frame

and a small lampshade lying on the floor

hope i fot it right!

France says:

on September 3, 2009 at 4:25 pm

1. The Girl
At first I thought just one gridded, CTO’d flash on the leg, but looks to me like there two shadows next to the leg, one hard and one softer, so maybe there’s also a snooted, red gelled flash along with a harder gridded, maybe yellow gelled flash. The harder source, looks to be coming almost straight down toward the knee, a little forward and a smidge to the right.The softer source looks to be coming from above, bit from further camera right.
2. Ambient light, I think you dragged the shutter a little and used the actual light from Television screen and maybe to illuminate the shade of the side table lamp. Though I suppose that could be illuminated with a small flash.
3. Blue gelled flashes – One blue gelled flash coming from camera right to illuminate the side of the TV and wall. Might be bounced off the wall camera right. Another blue gelled strobe, snooted or gridded, is angled at the back wall to define the shape of the woman’s back leg.
4. Man in doorway – Looks like he has a red gridded spot coming from behind the back wall highlighting the far side of his hat and face and shoulders and creating the hard shadow on the door. And while the general red fog outside could have been created by bouncing a red gelled flash or flashes,into actual or man made fog, maybe you red gelled some actual car headlights?
5. And finally the red highlight on the table legs might be a reflection from the outdoor lights, but it looks more intense than that so I’m guessing there is one more red gelled, gridded flash, aimed through the back window or possibly coming from behind the bed.
That was fun. Thanks! Can’t wait to hear what you actually did!

Kevin Rabito says:

on September 3, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Ok, what I want to know was it the pills or the dude with the gun that did her in. :-)

Al Graham says:

on September 3, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Gridded CTO, high camera right on “victim.”
incandescent bulb in lamp.
blue gelled softbox, high camera right into wall.
small blue gelled light behind the bed.
TV snow.
red gelled flash into wall outside window.
gridded cto gelled flash on man’s face.
soft fill above camera.
WB warmed up in post.

gu says:

on September 3, 2009 at 4:38 pm

6 flashes in total.

1. Outside the room in the hall way, to light up the space.
2. Flash with grid on the bloke’s face and upper body.
3. Outside the glass wall on the right hand side.
4. Hidden behind the bed leg spitting out a little blue spot on the wall.
5. Hidden inside the lamp.
6. Grid flash aimed down at the female talent’s leg.

That’ll be all.

Les Doerfler says:

on September 3, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Umm…being the pro that you are, you previously scouted out hotel rooms until you found one that would most likely be the scene of a murder.

You then waited until the lighting situation was where you wanted it and made a nice available light grab.

Please sign my trigrip “Numnuts” since the Joe McNally autograph market is flooded right now.

Robert Hyatt says:

on September 3, 2009 at 4:49 pm

It looks like one or two strobes with red gels behind a big lastolite shoot-through panel outside, probably about eight feet off the ground pointing down, silhouetting the man with the gun, splashing a little light on his chest and the right side of his face and making the outside glow. It’s probably a few feet from the wall between the door and window.

There are two lights inside. One is on the far side of the bed with a blue gel and a snoot pointing at the wall behind the TV. This light is cool because it separates the lady’s left leg from the wall behind it that would be dark without that light. The other light is slightly right of and above the camera. I don’t think this one is gelled but may have a tungsten gel.
The TV and lamp on the floor are on so they are providing their own light.
It’s possible that the light outside is light from a red neon sign but I doubt it. I’m sticking with the strobes and lastolite theory.
Even if I’m wrong, it sounds really cool.


Daniel S. says:

on September 3, 2009 at 4:53 pm

I’d say there are 7 flashes light this seedy photo.

1 flash concealed by the wall between the window and doorway, gelled red, and snooted to light the man’s shoulders. Light is close to the man.
1 flash behind the male subject, concealed by his body, that is doing nearly all the red fill.
1 flash also concealed by the wall between the window and doorway in the back, helping with the red fill.

It looks like a fog machine or smoke helping with the diffusion an mistiness of the red outdoors too.

1 flash in the lamp on the floor, gelled CTO.
1 flash aimed at the female subject’s knee, gelled CTO/red, snooted/gridded.
1 flash behind the bed, gelled CTB, aimed at the wall.
1 flash to camera right, aimed behind the tv, gelled CTB

So yea, 7 flashes … 8 if you’re using an SB-800/900 as a commander.

Katrin says:

on September 3, 2009 at 4:54 pm

The TV is white, so I would guess you didn’t set the white balance to anything fancy (if you had set it to Tungsten, it woulda turned green, which it didn’t, so it’s neutral).

Dead Lady:
Her front knee and the pills are lit from top, gelled orangeish (full CTO?) and snooted (since there really only is a puddle of orange light at the floor that doesn’t spill far).

Lamp on the floor: I figure you just turned on the lamp. Orange color because it is a tungsten bulb. Considering how few the lamp lits, it’s pitch dark in that motel room and your other light sources are overpowering the ambient (eg. from the hallway). The red light on the wall is a reflection of the light from the lamp, and you can even see the frame of the lamp being reflected in it.

You probably had one flash on the hallway gelled to red. Through the window, that red flash also lights parts of the table and the stuff on it.
Plus there’s a light right behind the bad guy’s feet. I would guess, also given the tungsten color of the light, that it’s a reflection of a (overhead?) lamp in the hallway right behind him casting that comicbook shadow all the way towards us in the frame.

Wall on the right:
Given the direction of the light, that’s where the window is. Since this is a hotel room, I could imagine that the bluish color stems from a light sign outside the hotel. At the top right corner of the picture you can see a bit of “dirt”, that could be something on the window. Maybe you also enhanced that blue light with a blue-gelled flash, because I think I saw the edge of a gobo in the top right corner that keeps the light from that flash from spilling over to the left.

You then put a flash very close to the wall to the left of the door, gelled to blue also to match the hotel sign’s color, to separate the edge of the mattress and her other leg from the background. Given the hot center of the light, it’s probably also snooted and pointed right at the wall.

Ok, now I’m waiting for the solution being something like “as you can easily see in xyz, I set my white balance to fluorescent…” :-P

Kati says:

on September 3, 2009 at 4:55 pm

White balance tungsten- Makes the ambiant light turn blue-

All sb flashes geled CTO- one camera right and above for the woman that’s sleeping- didn’t quite make it to bed- One in the back room behind the seedy man watching sleeping beauty- Perhaps one of your assistant is behind the wall with a reflector to light seedyman’s upper body- One SB in the lampshade. the backroom’s light is very warm, there might be more cto mix or red into it as well?

I will get the book signed please and tri grip to go thanks! :-)

Dan Davies says:

on September 3, 2009 at 5:02 pm

It’s self evident:

1. Red light outside from 400 firefly’s of the genus “reddus buttus”.

2. Dead woman on bed lit by funeral pyre being burned just off set.

3. Joe’s coke supply being liberally sprinkled inside dummy TV screen by highly trained pet gerbil.

4. Spot on floor apparantly from fallen lamp created by stepping on a satsuma and creating orange eliptical shape

5. Man in door has also stepped on satsuma.

6. Purple ambient lighting created from long exposure mixing red & blue lights on top of police vehicle ready to arrest Joe for murdering the model in order to create realistic picture.

Am I right?


David Cooper says:

on September 3, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Inside Practicals
2)Lamp_just the bulb

Inside Strobes(SB800 or 900)
1)spotted strobe_hard on legs with double CTO
2)full CTB behind bed at wall
3)Full blue on wall to right of camera

Outside strobes
1}Red gel in hallway
2)Another light behind man. It is pointing into the room, flagged by jacket
3)Spotted flash with CTO on side of face

That’s 6 strobes and 2 practicals

Stutter @1/8th sec

Mike Wiacek says:

on September 3, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Hrmm, Joe told me how he lit this when he stopped by back in July. Am I disqualified?

Mark Howells-Mead says:

on September 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm

Gridded spot on shooter’s face with 1/1 CTO. Snoot with 1/1 CTO on woman’s knee from camera right, small softbox above scene for fill (on camera, looking at the shadow behind the woman’s hand?). Tungsten bulb in the lampshade, the falloff is too rapid for a flash. Blue gelled strobe for the wall behind the tv on 1/2 or 1/4. Blue gel behind the bed on 1/16. Some kind of red gelled flash on low power for top left corner, filling for window frame, ceiling and wall.

Outside: I’d usually go for red diffused strobe mixed with tungsten lamps, but as you seem to emphasise that there are mixed sources here, I’ll go for the brake lights of some kind of vehicle.

Michelle Knight says:

on September 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm

Well, I reckon that the models hand on the bed and the white pills suggests that this was shot daylight white balance, so everything else must have been gelled.

Lamp on the floor isn’t lighting much, suggesting a low powered bulb, or else the strobes were ramped up/doubled.

Lighting on the models leg suggests an orange gelled, snooted strobe camera right and high, or else one of those annoying ceiling spot lights.

There is something funky going on between the bed and the wall, suggesting a purple gelled strobe firing at the right and painting the right hand wall purple.

Outside looks like it is sunlight.

That blob of light at the blokes feet, however, I’m not sure about. Something inside me says it is natural.

Probably nought out of ten for that guess.

Dennis Pike says:

on September 3, 2009 at 5:21 pm

ok, so here’s what I think. you have a standard table lamp lighting the girl’s leg. I say that because the color matches the color put off by the lamp on the floor.

I see a flash gel’d blue on the wall to the right and one behind the bed. I believe outside is lit with street lights along with a flash gel’d with a CTO on the guy in the doorway

If by some stroke of luck I am correct, I would like the trigrip autographed “numnuts” I already have the hotshoe diaries. how ’bout “The moment it clicks”?

Bill Bixler says:

on September 3, 2009 at 5:22 pm

For what it’s worth, here is how I would make that photo:

-Flash slightly camera right high on stand full cut CTO with a small diffuser
-Flash slightly camea right low to ground zoomed out with full cut CTB
-Flash behind bed dialed down with full cut CTB
-Flash outside between door and window close in but zoomed wide with full cut CTO (and maybe another half cut of CTO as well)
-Street light (or some non-flash light) backlighting shooter
-Lamp is on with a low wattage bulb

Joel Bischoff says:

on September 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm

I’m definitely in for this challenge!

Starting outside- 3SB’s: One behind the man in the doorway, aimed at the camera, one in the parking lot, aimed towards the wall/window/door area, and one gridded, just outside the door frame, pointed toward the man’s face, all gelled red.
On the far side of the bed- 2 SB’s: one low, gelled blue, aimed at the wall and a little towards the door, one slightly higher (hidden by model’s leg?), gelled red/orange aimed back at the camera, snooted (shows on the table legs camera right)
The TV and the lamp I think are the only real parts of the scene (let them burn in- 1/60th?)
Behind TV, camera right- SB aimed at wall midway up, gelled blue
Key/Main light- SB up high, camera right aimed at model’s leg, snooted or zoomed to 200mm (120mm), gelled warm to match the lamp
Fill light- Just so camera left (almost OA) above the camera, into an EZYbox or Trigrip, gelled warm, down about a stop- stop and a half.

So, lesse… I count 8. And if I calculate the McNally conversion correctly- that’s only “a few”.

Great Fun. Let us know what it actually was soon!

John S says:

on September 3, 2009 at 5:28 pm

My two cents:

2 flashes camera right – one low and snooted to illuminate the pills, another higher up highlighting the girl’s knee. Both are gelled cto.

Out on a limb: the reflection on the floor from the fallen lamp doesn’t quite look directionally correct to me – I’m going to say the reflection is actually a tightly snooted flash. The light in the lamp is incandescant.

There’s a flash inside the door where Bogie’s standing, gelled blue.

Another gelled blue flash is illuminating the table and wall on the right.

The red light outside is a red gelled flash (I’ll go with one, but there may be two.)

The TV is on channel 1.

Thanks for the puzzle!

Chris Warkocki says:

on September 3, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Amazing shot Joe! I’m not too sure exactly how it was done, but this is how’d I’d pull if it by using this photo as a guide.

Looks like 7 lights total.

1. We have a CTO gelled light on slight camera right and up high lighting the leg and edge of bed of the model.

2. We have a flash on camera right flagged to keep the light hitting the edge of the desk with the TV and the right wall.

3. CTO gelled flash in the lamp which is bare bulbed and spills onto the on the ground, which seems to not spill out the bottom of the shade. I’m going to have to guess it’s snooted in some way or the flash head is zoomed out tight.

4. A blue gelled flash behind the bed hitting the wall to break up the warm gelled left leg. It appears to be snooted to keep the beam tight.

5. A CTO gelled light directly behind the guy with the gun which causes the shadows coming forward into the room and stop at the dead womans feet.

6. A red gelled flash, bare bulbed out the door between the window and the door which causes the the highlight on the side of the face of the man and that cool shadow against the door.

My only issue is trying to explain the red highlight on the legs of the table. I’m using the stray light from the 6th flash to say it’s there, but I might also place a 7th flash with a red gel in the background outside the big window coming into the room as well, but those highlights are so bright. There may also be a 7th flash with a red gel hitting the table at a harsh angle off the left side of the scene with a snoot to control that light.

A stab in the dark, but worth the mental challenge.

John A. says:

on September 3, 2009 at 5:50 pm

This is one of my favorites!

Three SB’s out back, two with a red gel and one with a full CTO behind the dude on the ground pointed back towards the camera, and I think there’s a fog machine back there as well.

One CTB gelled SB behind the bed pointed at the back wall.

Incandescent bulb in the lamp on the floor strategically positioned, used a slow shutter to burn that and the snowy TV screen in.

One gridded SB camera left with a full CTO pointing down at the dame and the pills.

Lastly, another SB camera right out of view with a CTB gel lighting the wall to the right side of the table the TV is sitting on.

Hope you do more these “find the holy grails”! =)

Cindy Farr-Weinfeld says:

on September 3, 2009 at 5:50 pm

I pretty much only shoot in natural light unless I absolutely have to use a flash, but I LOVE this shot and your film noir shots in general, Joe, so just had to say so here. But I DO want a copy of Hotshoe Diaries so badly, after reading The Moment it Clicks! Wah! Wish I knew anything about lighting so I could comment as smartly as so many others have–oh well! I’ll just have to suck it up and buy a copy like everyone else someday! lol! Nice shot anyhow, Cindy

Zeljko Naic says:

on September 3, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Who’s gonna read all this?

One bare flash with CTO above right shoulder pointing left and down. Second, camera right, with CTB, pointed at wall behind the TV. There is a lamp on the floor obviously, TV set, and some LCD or similar panel behind the bed. Your main light was red gelled flash behind the window (at least one stop above other flashes), and there is some sort of lamp behind the man with the gun. Seven light sources. And for the TV screen, your shutter was about 1/60.

chris smart says:

on September 3, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Hi Joe,

x4 lights

monobloc in hall gelled red

camera left gridded monobloc with CTO, you can see the reflection on the floor and scattered under the mans feet.

sb unit in the lamp, should have had a cto on jo!!!! LOL

Finally a Blue gelled sb unit gridded camera right.

I have no idea what camera setting you used,just trying to understand mixing tungsten with other colours, so tungsten would be my best guess.



Daniel says:

on September 3, 2009 at 6:21 pm


I would guess there is a flash camera right pointed at the girls legs with a CTO to get the warm colour, pretty much zoomed all the way to get the hot spot on the knee and the falloff around the leg. Then there is another one camera right aiming at the nearestwall with a real low Powersetting and a blue gel to get a seperatione between the TV and the wall.

One Flash behind the bed gelled blue on low setting. One in the lamp with a CTO to get the reflection on the floor and the screen iluminated… if it is natural light then there has be a block to prevent the light from hitting the wall behind the TV.

Outside there is a flash aimed at the mans face with a CTO and another one behind his legs for seperation and the long shadow falling into the room. Then another one or two with red gels and diffusors to get the glow behind the window and the “Reperbahn”-Mood.

I hope I guessed right…


John Flanagan says:

on September 3, 2009 at 6:28 pm

Hrm…I am going to venture out on a limb here….

I am seeing 4 or 5 flashes here….and possibly rear curtain sync.

Start with background: 1 or 2 flashes cto or gelled red. Most likely one far back for full cover and highlights on the man, and one snooted at mans torso for fill.

On the back wall it looks like another flash ctb, aimed towards the right wall, and crossed by another ctb flash camera right aimed towards same wall.

Finally, the girl….I think was lit with the same kinda lamp that is laying on the floor. Maybe with rear curtain sync allowing for some painting in. Looking at the intensity and angle of the beam spread it looks pretty harsh and a little blown so whatever it was, was in close. Could also just be a CTO flash on light stand held over that area.

Can’t wait to see the answer!

Bob DeChiara says:

on September 3, 2009 at 6:32 pm

I think Dave Cross nailed it!

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