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Rob Grimm: How to Mimic Natural Light in the Studio

Rob Grimm: How to Mimic Natural Light in the Studio

Being able to witness natural light and recreate its patterns within a studio is one of the more challenging tasks a photographer can encounter. However, it is also one of the most significant assets a photographer can have, and fortunately, it doesn't have to be complicated to learn.
This week, we are fortunate to have Rob Grimm of RGG Studios break down this process with easy-to-understand language and demonstrate how to mimic natural light in the studio. Rob also shares some insights from his journey as an artist and how an in-depth knowledge of lighting has helped him build a successful career as a photographer.

“I am a commercial photographer specializing in food and beverage photography. I have been in the business for thirty-one years, but I have had a camera in my hand since I was eight years old. My father was an artist, mainly a potter and painter until he became interested in photography when I was very young. We built a darkroom in our basement and set off on our photographic journey together. Much of our life revolved around photography and the creative process.”


“Over the years, I have been very fortunate to build a client list of international brands including the likes of Jack Daniels, Bacardi, and Woodford Reserve on the beverage side to Kraft and Panera on the food side, just to name a few. I have been able to work with these types of great clients because I feel driven to understand the brand’s story and then figure out how I can best bring that to light. As a result, I have moved away from other types of photography and doing personal work because I want to truly concentrate on my client needs.”

“That might sound strange to have a photographer not pursue personal work. But when I don’t have a camera in my hand, I pursue other creative outlets. I had a furniture design business for several years, and I am still driven by spending time in my shop creating something. My studio has become a hallmark of who I am as an artist because I am continually building things and rearranging things to make the space more of a home. I spend a lot of time with my wife and daughters and get out on the water to row as often as possible. All of this keeps my mind fresh to come back behind the camera to create inspired images for my clients. At least, that is what I believe. “

“The techniques I have used in this video apply across the spectrum of photography subjects. I intentionally selected a shiny, slightly obnoxious subject here while remaining in my lane of food and beverage photography. But these techniques are universal to photography, and quite frankly, I think they should be used on a variety of subjects. That is the wonderful thing about photography; what you learn from one genre of photography can easily be applied to another.”

“The shape and the size of the modifiers are critical to the way I work. For this demonstration on natural light, I used a Rotalux Deep Octabox for my main light and a Rotalux Square box for the fill. The deep Octabox has the directional quality of a specular source of light similar to the sun. This not only gives me the proper main light but allows me to craft shadows that feel as if they are created by natural light. The Rotalux Square box is rather wide and shallow, so it throws a broad pattern of light which is needed as a fill source.”
“Choosing the right source for each light on a set is absolutely critical to create convincing light. I often see emerging photographers using a light because they have it available without really thinking about the source or the shape. That is a mistake. I could, for example, reverse these lighting sources and balance the highlight and shadow ratios, so they were correct. But because the source is wrong, the final image will just look off.”

“This is one of my go-to lighting setups for natural light, particularly with food photography. Other modifiers, such as a silver-lined beauty dish, are often used on my sets to change the shape and throw of my light. I have to look at the subject combined with the type of mood that I want to create and then choose my modifier accordingly. Some of these changes are very subtle, but they are important to me and the way I craft my light.”

“While there have been many occasions where natural light is just so beautiful that I cannot resist it, I almost always choose to shoot with strobes. For client work, I have to have consistency and repeatability. Natural light fluctuates with clouds and the length of the day as the seasons change. When working on a client project over multiple days, I have to be able to accomplish everything on the shot list, and I cannot be shut down by the setting sun. Many of my projects can take place over multiple months or years as we build on an existing ad campaign, so consistency in my lighting is a critical component to my approach.”

“For me, the greatest challenge in commercial photography is creating images on a schedule. We gather all of these people together for a shoot, and tons of time goes into pre-production. But when the shoot day arrives, everyone has to work in sync to make sure we finish the job, and everyone can go home to their families. When I started in the business, I never thought that the clock would play such a big part of a production. But it does because, as the old saying goes, “time is money,” so projects need to be efficient and timely. All the late nights in my studio early on in my career gave me the confidence to produce art on a schedule. This was a challenge I never anticipated.”

“I took a few years off of commercial photography while I ran a photo tutorial company. Now I am jumping back into the business with new and fresh ideas. While I am not going to elaborate, I have some new techniques that I have been planning, and I am now working on a new portfolio. While much of my style with my food photography will remain the same, I have some pretty interesting ideas for things that have not been done with beverages before. And motion will be a much bigger part of my business moving forward. So please be on the lookout for these changes.”

“What I enjoy most about photography is solving the challenges my clients throw at me. While I have been doing this for three decades, I still enjoy figuring out how to achieve the client’s needs and create the images they desire for their brand. The process of making images still feeds my soul and makes me eager to get into the studio each day.”

To learn how to mimic natural light in the studio from Rob Grimm, click the link below!

Rob Grimm’s current lighting kit includes:
3 ELC 500 Studio Monolights, a Rotalux Squarebox 39" (100cm) Softbox, a Rotalux Deep Octa 39" (100cm) Softbox, and a Rotalux Rectabox 35x43" (90x110cm) Softbox. Rob also uses RotaGrids on all his softboxes when needed.

  • ELC 500 Studio Monolight with TTL, HSS and Smart Pro-Active Cooling

    $899.99More infoAdd to cart

    ELC 500 Studio Monolight with TTL, HSS and Smart Pro-Active Cooling


    The Elinchrom ELC 500 Studio Monolight is a modern 500 Ws compact built to handle your next adventure reliably and consistently. Featuring TTL with Manual Lock, HSS, Smart Pro-Active Cooling, Auto-On, and direct compatibility with Elinchrom's world-renown light modifiers. Always Prepared The ELCs are ready to go the moment inspiration strikes you. With Auto-On, the unit is always in stand by mode with your previous settings saved, and the onboard TTL speeds up dialing in your next exposure. The Manual Lock function enables a quick switch from TTL to Manual without losing exposure settings for quick adjustments or to explore creative effects. Engineered to Last Every aspect of the ELC 500 has been designed and rigorously tested to deliver maximum reliability and extended lifetime. Elinchrom created the ELCs to last through your next adventure. And the one after. And many after that. Stay Cool Under Pressure With Elinchrom's Smart Pro-Active Cooling, the ELC's learn your shooting style and adapt their cooling cycles around it, never interrupting your creative flow. Plus, their cleverly engineered airflow design and low-noise speed-controlled fan can handle the heaviest of workloads. Explore More As important as a solid studio strobe is, the light modifier is where the real magic happens. The bayonet Quick-Lock system grants you direct access to Elinchrom's world-renown light modifiers. Combined with the ELC's bright, Daylight LED modeling lamp to aid your pre-visualization. The potential to evolve your lighting style is endless. Unlimited Flexibility Your equipment should never limit you. Whether you are experimenting in your living room or working in a large studio, the ELC 500 can acclimate. ELCs can be powered down to 7 Ws so that you can reach your desired depth of field or add only a hint of light. Plus, with HSS, you can freeze motion, overpower ambient light and darken backgrounds. Edit Less, Deliver Faster. Elinchrom's precise colour science and accuracy over the whole power range enables you to deliver professional and consistent results to your clients with less wasted time and money in post-production. Wireless Freedom Never miss a shot with Elinchrom's Skyport radio-frequency system compatible with 7 camera brands. You also get intuitive control of flash settings from your camera and your computer. Even non-Elinchrom units and speedlights can be integrated into the wireless setup via the Elinchrom Skyport Receiver Plus.

    Add to cart

  • Rotalux Squarebox 100 cm (39")

    $219.95More infoAdd to cart

    Rotalux Squarebox 100 cm (39")


    Good for head and shoulder portraits, products or for use in smaller spaces. The catchlight can be similar to windows. This 100 by 100 cm softbox is a classic.

    The featherweight box features a matte-black crinkle exterior with distinctive gray rip-piping and a reflective silver interior. The shoot-through design uses both a removable internal baffle and removable, flush-mounted front face to soften the light

    The 39 x 39"" (100 x 100 cm) shape is ideal for head-and-shoulders portraiture, as a hairlight for groups or for reflective products and glassware.

    Quick Setup, Breakdown:
    Lightweight, dedicated speedrings utilize knurled, spring-action sockets to connect the four stainless rods which form the frame of the box.

    Fits assembled but de-tensioned in the included case, ready to set up again in seconds.

    Add to cart

  • Rotalux Deep Octabox 100 cm (39")

    $289.95More infoAdd to cart

    Rotalux Deep Octabox 100 cm (39")


    This narrow shaped Deep Octa reduces the spread of light and offers sharper shadows compared to standard sized octagonal soft boxes. It provides a very even diffused light over the front screen and a very direct crisp light when used without diffusers to give a beauty dish look.

    The Elinchrom Rotalux Deep OctaBox 39" diameter softbox emits a more focused soft light than most OctaBoxes when used with its included inner and outer diffuser. With either, or both of the diffusers removed, this box acts like a super-large reflector for your flash head. Another innovative feature which distinguishes Elinchrom softboxes from others is the lightweight dedicated speedring, which utilizes knurled, spring-action sockets to connect the stainless rods which form the frame of the box, to the ring. This allows easy assembly of the box in a de-tensioned state. The user then simply pivots the sockets 90 degrees until they lock into place to tension it for use.The 39" (100 cm) Deep Octa shape features a large surface area which renders a "wrap-around" light quality especially when used at close range. It is ideal portraiture.

    The 39" (100 cm) Deep Octa shape is ideal for head-and-shoulders portraiture for a group of people, as a hairlight for groups or for reflective products and glassware. Because of it's deep shape when the light comes out it appears more "punchy".

    Lightweight, dedicated speedrings utilize knurled, spring-action sockets to connect the 8 stainless rods which form the frame of the box.

    Add to cart

To see more of Rob’s work and to keep up on his future projects:
Find him on Instagram at @rggphoto and his website

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