Seeing The Light

Being an instructor at the local art center means that sometimes you have to get a little crafty. The annual “Student and Teacher” show was coming up and I was asked if I would spread the word to my students about the show and encourage them to participate. Sure, no problem. It was then that I was informed that I was also going to have to enter something. Being a business owner, my time is usually focused on getting business and making sure that the projects that are on the books get completed without a hitch, not being creative for myself. At this point I had no idea what to enter.

As the buzz was created by the students about what they were going to enter, I came up with an idea. During the class, we focused on what you can see. Making sure that exposure is even, the light is just perfect and the subjects eyes are open just to name a few. However, there was one technique that we glossed over. Low key lighting. This has to do more with what you can’t see. By the end of the class, I had conjured up a good idea of what I wanted to try and accomplish.

I tend to go towards moody or darker photos when the client allows me to. I’m talking creatively, not bad exposure! I had seen these “dark” commercials on TV for make-up and clothing companies. I thought to myself, this might be a good springboard for something different. I grabbed my wife and off to the studio we went.

How I photographed this…
I worked on this project before my “Strobist” days or off camera flash. I had flashes, I just wasn’t really sure how to use them. What I had previously bought was a constant light system. A couple of Westscott TD5’s to be exact. These units are affordable and make lighting a subject a snap. Here’s the down side, they don’t put out much light and the softboxes that they use are a pain in the rear end to put together. This is the system that I used for photographing food, product, portrait, any kind of “studio” photography when I got started. What these lights are good for is it helps you see exactly where the shadows are going to fall on your subject, and you don’t have to worry about sync speed.

Usually, I had to use a fast aperture such as f/2.8 to help keep the shutter speed up so I didn’t have to increase my ISO and introduce noise.  I sat my wife down on a stool, and took at test shot. It was properly lit, a.k.a. boringly lit. I wanted to go darker and moodier. This was the first time with this system that I was able to crank up the shutter speed. I increased my shutter and it got darker. This helped, but it still wasn’t the look that I wanted. Since this was in a softbox, I was able to feather the light. Unlike an umbrella where the light goes everywhere, the softbox allowed me to contain the light and throw it in a specific direction.

The softbox was coming from camera left. I kept rotating it until the left side of her face was going into shadow. I took a few more shots and we got what I had envisioned. I did a little post processing in Photoshop and printed it 24” x 36”. The next day I was off to the visual art center. I got many compliments and people actually stopped and took notice. This is all any photographer really wants, to have their photograph noticed. It hung in the instructors section and stood out like a black sheep against the other paintings, pottery and jewelry.

I recommend trying something different and shake up the crowd. The next time you have to enter a piece of art into a show, go the opposite, it will get you noticed…in a good way.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


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