kind of photography you do, be it digital,
film, polaroid, daguerreotype, 35mm
or pinhole, theres always one
thing in common...
You always need light.
what makes the difference between a
family vacation snapshot and an Ansel
Adams Moon and Half Dome?
Apart from lens choice, different format
and him being a genius, the difference
is (yes, you guessed right) light.
Not quantity but quality.
obviously you all already realized
how close, quality wise, my shots are
from Ansel Adams... As close as I am
from the spot where he shot Moon
and Half Dome (for those of you
that dont know, I live in NY...),
so this article is not about teaching
how to do lighting, but to try to share
some ideas on our brush (that
of the things digital helped me so
much is with experimentation. Being
able to take as many pictures as I
can and being able to see them right
away helped me improve my photography
more than anything. Who never tried
to set up a shot of anything and ended
up with a boring photo? Well, I did,
lots of times, to a point that I had
given up any attempts at any studio
work. Even after going digital, my
first studio shoot was a disaster.
I followed all the rules, key light,
fill light, hair light... Result? Boring...
After that I started realizing that
the nice photos I see on magazines
rarely have lighting that goes by this
rule. Thats when I filled myself
with courage and decided to start playing
with light a little bit. And never
got to stop... :)
I shoot anything now, I ask myself
first: Can I do something different
here? Thats why on most
of the photos I post I say I was playing
with light... I try to play with it
as much as I can as a way of learning
what works and what doesnt.
unless Im shooting a model at
the studio, most of my shots are done
with just one light (I call them One
light wonders). And with one
light and a bouncer or a flag you CAN
do wonders. If your subject is something
small (a flower, a pen, a baseball)
its even nicer, but you can also
use it with larger subjects (people,
enough talking... This article is not
a crash course in lighting (although
you can use it as one), but just to
share how I do my lighting. You can
use it as a starting point or to expand
your bag of tricks...
of my still life shots are One
one, for example, was shot with a single
light on the right side and a little
above. A bouncer was used on the left
side to fill the shadows. Not very
complicated, is it? :)
one was shot with a light almost at
the same level of the rock. I also
used a card to block the light a little
on the left top side to accent the
thing that I do a lot is using just
the modeling light from the flash...
As I like most of the time to have
a very shallow DOF, its kind
of difficult to achieve this with the
flash, so I just leave the modeling
light on and dont fire the flash.
Maybe when I have a real studio and
dont have to do my photos on
my bedroom I will be able to put the
flash as far away as needed to get
that f/2.8 exposure! LOL
one with just one light, this time
a soft box from above. This time I
used the flash and not only the modelling
light once I wanted to freeze the action
and also get as much DOF as possible
(I didnt want to miss the shot
because it went a little out of focus...
one was shot with one light behind
and below the flower, pointed up so
that it illuminated both the flower
and the background. I used a bouncer
card to get some light on the front
of the flower so that it wouldnt
blow the background.
Now when it comes to people, I still try to keep it as simple as
possible also. A lot of my photos are taken with two or three
soft boxes (actually, a bunch of Home Depot halogen working lights
through two or three diffusers). My most common setup is the
three soft boxes above my head, the two on the sides being a
little tilted to the inside so that they all face
the model. These are two examples of this setup:
I want something different, I normally
just move the soft boxes around, two
on one side and one on the opposite
side, for example. Not in a 45 degrees
angle, but on the side of the model.
This is what you get with this setup:
My latest post, Thoughtful, is also done with this setup:
In other words, the main thing with light is that you need to experiment.
Use the fact that you dont need to pay for film and development
and shoot as much as you can! Dont have a subject? Get
one! A pen, a pencil, a baseball, a flower, anything. Get your
wife or your husband to pose for you (yes, I know, after your
third session they will want you to get a new hobby,
but you got three sessions where you learned lots of stuff).
Play with different lighting setups, dont be afraid of
the shadows (The dark side bad is not, willing to explore
it you should be, and a great reward you will have...)
and specially dont be afraid of putting the lights where
theyre not supposed to be.
No genius is a genius because they follow the rules... :)