My model looked at me like I was crazy when we drove to a grimy alleyway behind an Italian grocer because I wanted to shoot 'a pretty summertime editorial look'. While I can hardly blame her, I live and work in Seattle, which can certainly live up to its overcast and rainy stereotype. So, I sometimes find myself in a certain mania to use the sun while it's out.
In this article, I'll walk through a quick and simple look where minimal lighting and a bit of color were used to turn our spot in the grocer's alley into a fashionable set - no studio required. In particular, we will look at how the shot was built up to allow creative control in a mixed-lighting situation, using a combination of external flash and available light.
There were a few challenges for this shoot. The location was certainly not 'naturally beautiful'. I was shooting in a sedan, which is a fairly constrained space. It was late afternoon. As daylight time was short and I didn't have an assistant with me, the lighting equipment needed to be simple and easy to set up.
|As locations go, this is about as un-glamorous as they get.|
Why this particular location, sandwiched between a dumpster and a crooked cyclone fence? To build up this look, I wanted to start with 'open shade' - a location that was open to the sky but not in direct sunlight. This gives the background a soft, even light. This was important because I was using external flashes as the main light source; having even light in the background meant that I could set my exposure without worrying about blowing out parts of the background scene.
I was also planning on shooting with a wide aperture to allow the background to blur nicely. The fence, when shot out-of-focus, would provide a fairly interesting visual texture, and the rest of the alley wasn't even going to be in the shot. Most importantly, however, this alley is not a high-traffic location, so I would be able to set up the car and lighting without disturbing anybody or getting passers-by in the photos.
|This is a test shot showing the look using only available light with no |
f2.5, 1/80 @ ISO 200.
In the image above note the difference in exposure between the model's arm, which was near the window, and her face, which was in the full shadow of the car. This would be difficult to adjust for without external lighting. Ideally, aside from edge lighting, the model's face would be as bright or brighter than the parts of her body that are in the background. If I hadn't augmented the available light with an artificial light source, the images would be very soft and flat, as in this example. Recall that I was shooting inside a sedan that itself was in open shade. This is an environment with very diffuse, low-contrast light. By the same token, however, this provided an excellent palette for constructing my own lighting setup.
To maximize the effect of the available light and throw the background out of focus, I was shooting with a very wide aperture, f2.5. This can be dangerous territory when photographing people. At f2.5, depth-of-field gets very shallow, particularly for subjects that are close to the camera. Slight movements by the model or the photographer can be enough to throw off critical focus. However, as this was a candid and fairly casual look - one that probably wouldn't be printed at 24 plus inches and hung in a gallery - coming away with something less than an absolutely tack-sharp image was not going to be a deal-breaker.
My lighting kit for this shoot was a pair of Metz Mecablitz 60 CT-4 flashes that I had borrowed from an assistant. This is a 2000's era flash system which has some very handy features for situations like these.
Most significantly for this shoot, the units can be hooked up to regular sync cables without requiring expensive adapters. This meant that I could fire the flashes using standard radio triggers - the kind that I already had lying around the studio. This gave me a tremendous amount of freedom in placing the flash heads. I could set one unit behind the model to provide backlight and one unit behind myself, facing the model as a key (main) light.
This is an arrangement that could be very difficult to trigger using a line-of-sight infrared system such as those built into dedicated speedlights. Additionally, the Metz flash units provide an audible recycle indicator - they 'beep' when they're ready to fire again. This was a useful feature since I was placing the flashes behind my back and behind car doors, where it would be difficult to see visual LED recycle indicators on the flashes themselves.
A car can be used as a quick and easy set, but photographing a person inside a car does present some difficulties. There are a limited number of places where the photographer can go. Using a large car or one with very adjustable seats can give you more possibilities for situating yourself. There are likewise a limited number of locations where lighting can be placed - nominally, pointing in through the car's exterior windows. To get around this, lights could be boomed in through an open window or held by an assistant if necessary.
For this shoot, I wanted the background light to be directly behind the model, pointing towards the camera. I put the light on a stand aimed through the passenger-side window, behind the model and about two feet away from the car. This created a strongly backlit image, picking up color in the hair and putting lighting artifacts (glare) in the frame.
In order to avoid the temptation to zoom out and capture more of the model in my frame, I used a 50mm prime lens for the shoot (65mm equivalent focal-length after crop factor on my APS-H sensor). This was wide enough to get an acceptable amount of the environment and create some separation between the subject and the background, but not wide enough to cause unflattering wide-angle distortion of the model's features, which would have been a risk if I was using a zoom lens and zoomed out too far.
The background light alone did not help to open detail in the model's features, so I added a second flash as a key light to illuminate the model. This flash was about 3 feet behind my shoulder, firing through the open driver's side door of the car. However, the raw flash looked too flat and harsh for my intended treatment. Further, I originally set the flash to be about a stop brighter than the ambient light. This gave the image an obvious 'artificially lit' look.
To remedy this, I lowered the flash's power relative to the ambient light and covered the raw flash bulb with the unit's built-in diffuser. I also moved the flash closer to the model. This slightly increased the size of the flash relative to the subject, which further softened the quality of the light. This diffused light was gentle and closer in intensity to the ambient light, which made the lighting look more believable and natural.
Note that I introduced the background light before adding the key light. The background light has a less significant overall effect on the image; I often find it easier to visualize the contribution of lights going from darkest to brightest. The dim lights take back stage after the big lights are added; if I had started with the key light in place, I might have mistakenly tried to adjust this image by lowering the background light.
The main light has been corrected.
than the ambient light. At this ratio, the key light is providing a strong
fill without overpowering the natural light.
I had fairly limited options as to where the key light could be placed. If the key light were aimed through the windshield or rear window of the car, the model would have had strongly defined shadows on her features. This would not be appropriate for the mood I wanted to achieve. Placing the light so it was facing the model directly provided even illumination with few shadows. This suited the intended mood of the shoot.
It is worth noting that I metered and adjusted the lights manually, rather than relying on TTL (through-the-lens) metering and exposure compensation. This allowed me very precise and deliberate control over the relative power of the key and background lights, even though the background light was sometimes firing directly into my lens.
As I wanted the lighting in the image to look natural, I also needed to make sure that the background light (our proxy 'sun') was coming from a plausible angle. This meant raising the light to a location where it didn't seem to be shining through an unlikely gap in the fence, which was otherwise backed by solid vegetation.
|The final look, with post-processing applied. The lens flare artifacts were deliberately left in the image. f2.5, 1/60 @ ISO 200|
Finally, I added some color in post-processing to give the image a warm, pink sunset tone. This was done using a split color filter in Nik Color Efx Pro 3.0. Nik's software allows filter effects to be adjusted in selected areas of an image, such as the skin, with far fewer clicks than traditional masking. In this case, I reduced the effect of the filter on the skin in order to keep the model from getting an atomic suntan.
Beginning to end, this look took about 15 minutes to set up and shoot. Keeping the lighting simple, thinking about the environmental lighting and paying attention to lighting ratios between the flashes and ambient light allowed me to establish a consistent and predictable look very quickly. Best of all, this isn't the type of lighting set that sometimes shows up in photo magazines, where a small truck full of lighting gear and grip equipment is required to get the look. This can easily be done with a pair of external flashes and your neighborhood specialty grocer's alley.
Thomas Park is a fashion / fine art photographer and educator based in Seattle, Washington. To find out more about his work and workshops, please visit http://www.thomasparkphoto.com
Model: Ira Z
All images © 2011, Thomas Park
Sep 26, 2014
Aug 20, 2014
Jun 12, 2014
May 7, 2014
This simple photograph of a seahorse and Q-tip has taken the internet by storm. We spoke to photographer Justin Hofman about how it was captured, and what it means to him.
After a massive leak last week, Profoto has officially debuted the Profoto A1: the company's first on-camera flash system that they're calling "the world's smallest studio flash."
"When the first hyperfocal distance charts were designed, someone decided that an acceptably sharp background contained some blur — enough to notice in a medium-sized print [...] After that point, nearly every other hyperfocal chart followed suit."
The Canon EOS Rebel SL2 (also known as the EOS 200D) is the company's impressively compact entry-level DSLR. Packing a 24MP APS-C sensor, DIGIC 7 processor and Dual Pixel AF, it promises a lot of bang for the buck. And while not mind-blowing, it handles most tasks very well.
Correct these four common composition mistakes and your photos will be more balanced, tell a better story, and lead your viewer's eye where you want it to go.
The rugged, compact 360° action camera Kodak unveiled at Photokina in 2016, the Kodak PixPro Orbit 360, is finally available in the United States.
iOS 11 launches tomorrow, and it'll save all of your pictures in a new high efficiency image format called HEIC. Fortunately, there's now a converter that will let you turn those photos back into JPEGs.
Photo protection company ImageRights recently released a new service that lets non-subscribers take advantage of their streamlined copyright registration system that checks for errors and fills out all the required forms for you.
What's the difference between a $200 circular polarizing filter and a $100 circular polarizing filter? Roger Cicala at Lens Rentals put six different filters through a few tests to find out.
A flurry of leaks reveal that GoPro's upcoming Hero6 will shoot 4K at 60fps, 1080p at 240fps, will cost $500, and is scheduled for announcement/release on September 28th.
Before he became the iconic director whose name we've all heard, a teenage Stanley Kubrick struck up a business relationship with New York’s Look magazine. No surprise: he was an incredibly talented photographer.
WD's new G-Technology G-Drive mobile SSD R-Series is a portable solid state option for photographers who want the reliability of an SSD in a rugged water and dust-resistant package.
Fast, stabilized and affordable is an appealing combination when it comes to lenses. With its latest 24-70mm F2.8, Tamron aims to upgrade autofocus speed and stabilization. We've got a full gallery from this updated full-frame zoom.
Photographer Clay Cook tells the story of his most ambitious photographic dream and career goal coming true: photographing A-list actress Jennifer Lawrence.
In an interview with a Chinese website, Nikon Japan's Director of Development dropped a bombshell, saying that a Nikon mirrorless camera "must be full-frame."
Here's a side-by-side spec comparison of two flagship devices with particular attention to the things that really matter – at least to people who prioritize photography features.
A month and a half after revealing the finalists of the 2017 EyeEm Awards, the photo sharing community and licensing marketplace has finally revealed the winners.
Photographer Josselin Cornou tells the breathtaking story behind two beautiful photos captured while snorkeling with humpback whales in Tonga.
The Sony RX10 IV is a fixed lens camera with a 1"-type sensor and 24-600mm equivalent lens that can shoot 4K video or stills at 24 fps, but that's not what we think is interesting about it. The addition of phase detection autofocus is pivotal to all those features.
The announcement date is set! Google will reveal their next generation Pixel phones—their response to Apple's shiny new iPhone X—on October 4th. Let the smartphone camera wars begin.
Sony just debuted three palm-style 4K camcorders that steal a bit of speedy phase detect autofocus technology from the company's RX10 IV. In fact, they kind of improve on it.
Earlier today, NASA's Cassini spacecraft plunged into Saturn's atmosphere, ending a 20 year long mission. Here are 21 of our favorite photographs captured by this incredible machine and its makers.
Fans of film photography should keep an eye out for the widespread theatrical release of Kodachrome, a movie staring Jason Sudeikis about the final days of the iconic film stock.
Photographer Manny Ortiz breaks down the pros and cons of shooting natural light vs off-camera flash, and explains why he chooses to shoot one, the other, or both in any given situation.
A leaked product page and a bunch of leaked photos shows Profoto is preparing to release its first ever speedlight: the Profoto A1 Air TTL
The Yashica camera brand disappeared in 2003, but a new teaser video and website hint at a comeback. Excited?
Western Digital just debuted a new, higher capacity WD Gold internal hard drive. The new drive offers 12TB of storage and class-leading reliability to the tune of a 550TB/year workload rating.
The new Godox XPRO-C is an affordable, highly capable flash trigger for Canon users that boasts a lot of useful features at a very reasonable price.
Tamron is working on a lightweight, durable and compact 100-400mm tele-zoom lens that will be available for Canon and Nikon cameras by the end of the year.
The Nikon D850 promises equal parts resolution and speed. On a trip to Bend, Oregon, we had the chance to try it out with fashion, sports, landscapes, and more. Check out our updated sample gallery to see how it fared.