How Jeff Rojas Casts Gentlemen in Thoughtful, Timeless Light

November 24, 2015

By Laura Brauer

I definitely pride myself in refined simplicity—it’s the only way I can maintain my sanity while I’m trying to balance producing shoots, contacting clients, teaching, writing and riding my motorcycle. I do my best to carry what I actually need, not what I think that I need. It’s okay to be prepared, but there’s a definitive difference between being prepared and over-packing. Keeping that in mind, the following lighting setups are based on that streamlined mindset.

All photos © Jeff Rojas

Neoteric Nobility

When you get a chance to shoot with a $60k+ camera that shoots 80MP, you want to practice a bit before you use it. I always want to be prepared. This image is from a practice session with the Mamiya 645DF+ with a Phase One IQ280 back and a Schneider 110mm f/2.8 that I rented from Digital Transitions in New York City before a production shoot.

To create this image, I used a Profoto D1 Air 500W with a Westcott 47-inch Zeppelin Para Softbox off camera right and facing 45 degrees down at my subject. Lighting my subject and background this way, I was able to create a beautiful gradation along the background, and the textures in the fabrics really stood out because of the quality of the light.

Camera: Mamiya 645DF+ Phase One IQ280  Lens: Schneider Kreuznach 110mm LS f/2.8 from Digital Transitions Exposure: 1/125 of a second at f/7.1  ISO: 35 Lighting: Profoto D1 Air 500W with Westcott 47-inch Zeppelin Para Softbox BTS video:

Right on Point

The staff at ExpoImaging hired me to produce a couple of short video tutorials solely using one or two speed lights, along with using the lighting modifiers they offer to create high-impact imagery. They basically gave me creative freedom to shoot what I wanted, with the sole condition that it had to be lighting setups I would use for real clients.

Moving forward, I wanted to create something iconic, something memorable, using just one speed light. I started researching photos that I loved until I stumbled upon a portrait of Javier Bardem by Nigel Parry. It was a side profile portrait in color. The light kissed Javier’s face with just the subtle insinuation of a catchlight. The background was completely black. This was the inspiration for my image.

To recreate the lighting in the image with my own twist, I used a Phottix Mitros+ to not only create a small rim light along the edge of my subject’s face, but I also pointed the light toward the background so that the light also created a long gradation along the background.

Camera: Canon 5D Mark III Lens: Canon 85mm f/1.4 Exposure: 1/125 of a second at f/6.3 ISO: 400 Lighting: Phottix Mitros+ with ExpoImaging Rogue Flashbender 2 XL Pro BTS video:

Molding the Model

I often get hired by modeling agencies to photograph their men in my “style.” Modeling agencies want their models’ portfolios to reflect a wide range of images that showcase their talents’ best features. They’ll often include “spec work” for their models that look like large campaigns, but they really aren’t. This series is from a session that I photographed to look like a grungy clothing campaign.

To create this image, I opted to use a Profoto D1 Air 500W with a Westcott 47-inch Zeppelin Para Softbox on the right side of the camera and slightly off the right of the subject’s face. It’s essentially loop lighting, with a very contrast-y light source. The fill card positioned at camera left fills in the shadows on the unlit side of ?his face.

Camera: Canon 5D Mark III Lens: Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 Exposure: 1/125 of a second at f/9 ISO: 100 Lighting: Profoto D1 Air 500W with Westcott 47-inch Zeppelin Para Softbox and white fill card BTS video:

Jeff Rojas is an American portrait and fashion photographer based in New York City. A frequent photography instructor, Rojas’ book, Photographing Men (Peachpit), will be out in March 2016, just before WPPI. instagram: @sajorffej |