For the past week I’ve been struggling to come up with ideas for new shots. Actually I’ve got plenty of ideas but most of them require one or two additional flashes, which will take a while to work into the budget. So instead I decided to get back to the basics – after all, I’ve only been at this for a month, kind of skipped the basics the first time around. So today we take a look at a quick practice session, step by step, using only one light (almost).
My goal was a simple portrait with a sombre feeling and I wanted to place the light source somewhere new, not the usual, safe 45 degree angle from the front. I started by placing my model (as always, my lovely wife) in profile with a single lp160 in a shoot through umbrella, slightly below eye level, camera left. The angle isn’t really doing it for me and we’re not getting any interesting shadows to play with. Model is pretty though.
Second try: different angle and the light has been moved slightly lower. Now we’re getting some more interesting shadows since the light isn’t hitting the subject head on. The angle also feels more intimate, creating more of a connection between the viewer and the subject. We’re still not quite there though, we’re not getting the mood I was after so something is still missing.
Quick experiment: I added a rim light. Not liking it. Again, it doesn’t create the mood I’m after. I’m a big fan of rim lights but I don’t think it works here, maybe because of the tight framing. So after a couple of quick shots I lose the second light, going back to a single source. We’re almost there but I feel the light needs to be more restricted to create more mood.
Final result as shot, straight from camera with no editing. For this I collapsed the umbrella and again moved the light a bit farther down. By collapsing the umbrella we restrict the light and, as you can see, the result is that we get even more shadows and a more moody picture. The other shots could have worked too but I like this the best, it’s closest to the original vision. It sounds a bit pretentious to be talking about vision for a simple shot like this but I guess you have a vision every time you push the shutter – otherwise, why would you be pushing the shutter?
So, with a photo that’s close to the vision, we’re almost done, just some quick editing left. I use lightroom for editing and usually don’t edit very much, just small tweaks to enhance the aspects I want to be the focal point of the photo. My original intention was to turn this into black and white but I usually experiment a bit with the editing, just as I do with the shooting. Below you can see a comparison between the unedited image and the final result which got my wife’s approval over the black and white version.
As you can see, the contrast and the blacks has been enhanced to make the shadows a bit deeper, giving the whole image more mood and, in my opinion, making it pop a lot more. The colours have also been desaturated, again enhancing the mood I was after. Like I said, I don’t do much editing but I always try to experiment a bit and I actually learned a couple of new tricks from this session. You photoshop gurus will probably laugh at my skills but I’m only interested in minor enhancements since I want to keep my style simple (one reason being lack of time). That’s not to say that some of the stuff people pull off in photoshop aren’t impressive, it’s just not my style.
This was a quick shoot, my wife was going back and forth to the kitchen between changes in the setup, and in the end I think I took around 15 shots before arriving at the one I liked. I like the end result and I’ll definitely have to experiment more with a single light in the future. It certainly hasn’t deterred me from getting a couple of additional flashes though, because, as we all now, you can never have too much gear, right? Of course I’m right. I also used my new fancy background for this shot, it’s already proving to be quite useful. Happy shooting until next time.