Here are four examples of what I learned from experimenting and challenging myself.
My first quest was to be able to shoot with shallow depth of field in studio while using strobes. My studio space was limited in size (12' wide x 17' deep with a 10' ceiling) and my studio strobe kit only having 5 stops of adjustment levels. So I had to come up with a creative way I could control my depth of field. I decided to try using a 2-8 stop adjustable Genus Eclipse ND Circular Filter in studio. The ND filter is what I usually useed outdoors to help balance the sunlight with my portable strobes. By using the ND filter in studio it allowed me to capture my subject @ f-1.8, 1/125 and ISO 50. Prior to using the filter my typical settings for my 3 light studio set-up with out the ND filter would be f-3.5, 1/125 and ISO 50. The ND filter allowed my to open up to f-1.8 which gave me the shallow depth of field that I desired as illustrated below.
The next challenge I gave myself was to use my the light modifiers in different ways.Quality of light is influenced by two factors: the size of the the light source in relation to your subject and the distance from the light source and your subject.
In the image above I wanted to light multiple subjects with one light source. The key light (6' octa) was on camera right and slightly overhead. A strobe head with grid to camera left and behind the subjects was used for a rim light, which helped to add depth and separation from the back background as seen by highlighting their hair. Typically this is how the Elinchrome 6' Octa bank is used, as a key or main light.
To changes things up a little I placed the 6' Octa directly behind the subject which wrapped her in light (light is a little harsher due to the subject's closeness to the light source) and complimented her fair skin color. Then I added a 4' softbox on camera left just below the subject to soften any shadows created by using the one light source.
The 3rd and final set up was inspired by my recent move into a studio with 15' ceilings. This allowed me to use the the 6' Octa as a overhead light source. In this image I sandwiched my camera with the 6' Octa overhead and a 4' softbox just below the lens of the camera. The overhead large light source gave it a soft even light and due to its closeness to the subject it add a little pop (harshness). The 4' softbox below the lens softened any shadows created by to the angle of the over head light.
So there you have it 3 light set-ups using the same light source which allowed me to created 3 different feeling of images. Just by being a little creative and moving your light sources around along with adding a ND filter you can give yourself endless possibilities without having a endless supply of gear.
The and most important thing I learned from this experiment. Is that you don't have to have plies of gear to be creative. Now I can take that money that I saved on gear and spend were it is truly needed MARKETING!!!!! As we all know you can be the worlds greatest photographer but no one will ever know about it into you get out there and tell them.