February 5th, 2011

A Little Flare

When doing my portrait photography workshops, sometimes people struggle to extrapolate a fundamental concept to a creative use.  Fortunately, last weekend, as I was reviewing split lighting, Desiree saw the opportunity to apply this light pattern to an image concept she was planning.  She said she wanted to create an ominous image of a man with a rifle pointed at the camera.  I had to think quickly - here I was demonstrating model photography and I needed to take the image in an entirely different direction - in real time - with no plan.

Here's what I did.  First, I realized that shooting from a position closer to the subject with a wider lens would emphasize perspective adding drama to the image.  Typically, I would shoot a model at 200mm so I grabbed my "nifty fifty" 50mm lens and moved in closer.  Working with wider lenses is tricky because you can be tempted to tilt them up or down to frame the shot.  The trick is to move the camera up or down vertically to compose the image instead of tilting the camera.

This was a good first step.  I had the key light swung behind the subject to maintain the split lighting pattern, a hair light so she wouldn't fade into darkness and a kicker dialed to a really low power just enough to lift the hand out of the shadow.  I didn't want the hand bright - I wanted the face to be the brightest part of the image so the viewer would start at the eye then move to the hand.

After this was in place, I wanted a deep, dark feel but I didn't want to change exposure.  Instead, I just went with a cooler white balance.  I can't remember exactly what I dialed in - it could have been a tungston preset or I could have tried 4000K - but it worked nicely.  The image turned more blue yielding a midnight feel.

I liked it but I wanted some pizzazz to finish it off so I grabbed a speedlight on a stand, dialed it to minimum power and positioned it as far behind the subject as I could pointed straight at the camera position.  I took a minute or two to position this speedlight to get it in the spot I wanted.  The I grabbed my camera, framed the shot and encouraged my amazing model, Mari, to give me some attitude.  One shot and Mari delivered.

I think I'm getting addicted to lens flare.  Stay tuned for more.