I thought this photo was a great chance to share a little bit of what goes on in my head when I find a scene. Sometimes the light you find is amazing and no matter what you do, you can’t go wrong. Sometimes, however, the light is either terrible or just plain non-existent. This scene was a combination of both of those latter two.
If you scroll the slider to the right, you’ll see what I saw as we ended the engagement session and were headed back to our cars. If you scroll it to the left, you’ll see what I saw in my head, and eventually brought to life with a little creative off camera flash and a quick trip to photoshop.
When I saw it, I knew I had to ask for one more (last) photo. They were happy to oblige (probably because in my excitement, it would have been like taking away a baby’s lollipop). Once they got over the fact that they were going to be posed on the corner of a public bathroom, I had to find my composition. I tried several options by my main focus was choosing a lens that would crop out the edges of the building so keep the elements to a minimum. I wanted the textures of the stone to be a strong element to help guide the viewer’s eye to the subjects. Fortunately I was able to place the camera (on a Gorillapod) on a hill to get the perspective higher). I used my 45mm tilt shift lens even though the tilt shift wasn’t important—and didn’t end up using it except for very minimally (read: accidentally). I probably would have used my 50mm, but I didn’t have it with me.
I could get in depth in to posing and positioning, but I won’t for this post. Maybe a video recreation would be a better way to show that (Let me know if that’s something you’d be interested in seeing). My goal was a really romantic image with the focus on their closeness. I told them that their only job was to stay as still as possible while I was shooting.
So lighting. I carried my flash around with a remote to snap various photos while holding the light in several positions. While I’m doing this, I try to think of it as creating building blocks that I’ll put together later to make up the final image. The settings don’t really matter much, other than trying to use a shutter speed fast enough to keep the light pollution from the ugly yellow light to a minimum. Getting this done quickly is a huge priority so I don’t want to take up time mess with the settings on the flash. To control the amount of light on each element, I’m moving farther or closer to the element on which I’m shining the light.
First I start with the important shot (faces) at a couple of different angles. The first one is safest. It lights the side of his face (enough to tell who he is) and the front of hers together.
After getting the safe one, I changed my angle a bit to get a little more dramatic. It shows less of his face, but I liked the potential of having more narrow light on her face. It also looks a little more like a light that could be hanging from the corner of the building.
After that, I just bounced around putting the light in various places that fill in the rest of the scene, playing up the texture in the rocks. I tried to keep the light in places that potentially had motivation to be real lights that would exist, so this can at least be a scene that’s plausible to naturally find. Some shots are closer, some farther, some sharper angles, some less harsh, until I felt like I had all of my puzzle pieces in place.
At this point, I felt like I had enough pieces—but that never means it’s going to go exactly as I hope. Sometimes not everything aligns well and I end up putting a couple of the safe ones together, with the main focus of getting myself and the flash masked out of the photo. However, most of the time it all matches up and I get to make exactly what exists only in my head.
Once I got to the computer, I put all the photos on different layers in photoshop, masked it all out, and painted back in what I wanted. Here’s the photos, with red outlines to show what I used from each different photo in the final version.
One last thought I felt like explaining was that this is very similar to light painting with a video light. But there are some reasons why this was a perfect chance for a flash composite rather than a light painted scene. The biggest reason is drama. I wanted a dramatic light and quite a bit of contrast. With a flash, there’s a little more control over where the light is hitting and what direction it’s facing. In light painting a scene, more often, you’ll end up with a very even, flat light just because of the way the way the video light spreads. Also, since there was some ambient orange (ugly) light, leaving the shutter open for 8-10 the seconds it would take to paint the scene, would let that light become a piece of the photo that I didn’t want.
Once again, here’s the shot. Many thanks to Tina & Derek for indulging me one more photo during their engagement session.
So, a few weeks ago I taught a 2 day workshop that was hosted at my friend, Ifong’s studio in Spokane. Since it sold out so quickly I felt a little extra pressure to give the attendees a great experience. It kept me from getting much sleep leading up to it, as I was prepping the presentations so hopefully I was successful. It seemed like it went really well & everyone enjoyed it. I really love teaching & get as passionate about that as I do while taking pictures.
It was set up so the first day covered the stark outlook of the photography industry & the need to rise above the mediocrity that exists by being creative & pushing forward or else we will fall into the failure pit that captures so many photographers. We also went over the elements of a photo that we can use to accomplish what we want which includes building our ‘photographer’s toolbox’ & stuffing it with tools which we can use to solve the myriad problems we face while on the job. We wrapped the day up with a real engagement session with Sadie & Luke, one of my couples who’s wedding I’m shooting this year. I’m so thankful that they agreed to act as ‘models’ for the workshop. They were perfect & so patient as I talked about what I was doing in between taking photos.
On day 2 we started with a discussion about how important inspiration is as we build our visual vocabulary to inform our unique voice. After that we moved in to branding & marketing, the difference between the two & how to use each to attract the best clients for you & ultimately build a stronger business. I also went over the most important tool we have available as photographers to get better quickly (any guesses?). Then day 2 wrapped up with a ‘bride & groom’ photo shoot starring Ryan & Alissa (of Ferguson Films) who likely have a future in modeling should they choose to pursue it in lieu of making gorgeous wedding films for their clients. After that I showed some of my post processing & workflow before calling it a wrap.
Thank you to all 14 people who attended & gave me the opportunity to share. It really meant a lot to me to have you all there.
Trust me, there was a fair amount of mocking of David Jay & his collection of terrible advice known as ‘the system’ throughout the weekend. :)
flash at mid-day(!)…
These next few photos are examples of how we can use natural light when it’s available or create the light with flash when good light isn’t readily available. The first two are natural light & for the last one, the sun dipped behind the clouds so I got out a flash instead. My biggest regret from the workshop is that I didn’t take the opportunity to take a group photo of everyone who attended. FAULIRE! So in lieu of that, I’m posting some ‘behind the scenes’ photos taken by some of the attendees.After this first iPhone photo of Ifong’s studio, are a series of photos taken by Paddy Hoy, Tanya Smith, & Ana Hopkins. Fortunately I had enough foresight to have Logan Westom shoot some video of the workshop so I think I’ll have some viewing to do so I can figure out what I can do better next time!