Archive for April, 2014

April 3, 2014

Portraits: Natural and Flash

Portraits: Natural and Flash

 

The Photographer’s best tool is light. It is used to mold, define, describe and set the mood of a portrait, so knowing how to recognize the light or control it, is of ultimate importance to the artist. I’m both a natural light, or Portraits Unplugged, kind of photographer, and also have a lot of experience with using studio strobes or portable flash, which gives me huge control. Knowing how and when to use artificial vs natural can be a challenge. I just recently photographed Ceasar deSilva in Dubai, a young, smart executive originally from Chicago, for his modeling portfolio. I scouted several locations in the afternoon with the help of my good friend, Issa Al Kindy, and we found a construction site across the river from downtown Dubai. In other images we utilized the Burj Khalifa in the background, but for this set of images I was intrigued by the construction fence that was falling down at one end. By the time Ceasar arrived, the late afternoon light had already faded in the haze. Nothing wrong with it, the light is still beautiful, and I posed him and shot with the Fuji XT 1 with the 56mm f 1.2 lens wide open for the smallest depth of field. Only his eye is sharp and the bokeh of the fence just rocks.

Fence natural light

The whole scene and Ceasar in his power suit seems to me to require more drama. If the late orange sun was still illuminating his face, I might have stopped there. But I wanted to make it more edgy and define the mood more with directional light and darker shadows. I pulled out my Nikon SB 900 and put it in a 20” Lastolite soft box. Issa did the great honor of being my “voice activated light stand”, and with my direction, fine tuned the direction of the light.

untitled (2 of 20)

This now required balancing the background ambient light and the flash. I still wanted to keep the background mostly out of focus, but now I wanted his entire face in focus, not just his eye, so I decided to use f 4. The true background reading was about 1/20 or 1/30, but I chose 1/60 so that the background would go darker, both the sky and the fence. This helped his face to really pop out from the fence. I did a test at 1/125 as well, but then the background was too dark. The shadows on his face are dark, no fill, which adds to the drama. This is a more powerful portrait, as if he is the man in charge, ready to take over kick some butt!

 

The point? Fine tune your light to match the story of your subject, and don’t settle until you find it!

 

If you want to learn more about lighting, my next workshop is at the Los Angeles Center of Photography, formerly the Julia Dean Workshop, May 5-9. It’s five days of lighting: two days of studio strobes, one day of portable flash, one day natural light and the last day combining them all. A great experience with studio, models, equipment and plenty of shooting time and feedback.

http://www.ssreg.com/juliadean/classes/classes.asp?courseid=23478&catid=2931

 

All my upcoming workshops are listed under Education on my website:

http://www.bobbilane.com/#/Photo%20Education/Workshops%20/

 

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