Posted on May 20, 2013
What do you do when you’re faced with a really dark space to shoot in? One of the problems with cranking up the ISO of your camera is that you lose contrast and the sense of depth that directional and controlled lighting can bring to an image. You don’t always have to use multiple flashes – working with the natural light and supplementing it can give you the equivalent of a 3-light setup. Sometimes you have to build up and create the lighting from scratch, layer by layer. There are some examples below with notes as to how they were shot – usually in dark murky corners with the light put back in. If you would like to learn more about lighting or camera skills the next training workshop is is on June 2nd.
Posted on March 22, 2013
This is a post about photography and lighting on location so you’ve been warned! I’ll get around to some posts about the Canon 5Diii at some point but one of things that I’ve noticed with some super high ISO shots I’ve seen is that whilst they’re recording a sharp image in very low light the subject itself looks flat because the lighting is flat. When the light simply isn’t there to create the contrast you need to have to fake it or make it with artificial light. Here’s a few examples with lighting diagrams for the first two.
Paul Hendy & Emily Wood – the room was very dark when exposed correctly for the window, so add a fake window (a medium softbox, quite high and angled down). The softbox stops the light bouncing all over the place and a small flash gun on the floor lights the dark corner. The second shot of Paul uses the window light as a kicker whilst a softbox balances the shadow side of the face.
Children in a school corridor. The corridor was very dark and the window light weak. A backlight fills the corridor whilst a softbox fills in to the opposite side of the window. A high ISO shot would not work as the difference between the shadows and highlights would be too much.
Couple on the beach in Whitstable. End of day sunshine? No. It was murky and flat and horrible. There’s a flash gun with an orange Honl gel sending light from behind and to the side of the beach huts. Flash guns with a gel are great for simulating sunshine if the ambient light is weak.
Office shots – all except the last one are from one flash gun. Firstly on the floor, bounced off the ceiling in the background to light a wall and create a kick to the background; then to the side to create a kicker to the face where the window light was too weak; then a softbox very close to the subject to create rapid fall off and a dark background.
Finally light against a bed and pillows – a softbox plays such a useful role as a portable window light.
Posted on February 10, 2013
Sunday June 2nd, in the lovely surroundings of Charlton Park (Canterbury, Kent), a private country house, you’ll spend the morning going back to basics to learn how to get the most out of your camera and get off the auto setting. In the afternoon you’ll learn how to photograph people, working with natural and reflected light and flash.
You’ll need a Digital SLR camera with optional manual controls to attend this workshop. Ideally you’ll have a flash gun that works both on and off your camera but you can still learn valuable techniques without this. Book both sessions and save £25.00! BOOK HERE
Posted on January 28, 2013
One of the things I do a lot of is take studio lighting out on location, which is no surprise as most of the commercial photography I supply across Kent & London tends to be editorial, or print publications of one sort or another. Most of the time I use a small portable kit (small lightweight flash guns) but sometimes you need the extra power and variety of larger lights (I currently use Bowens) and modifiers (things that shape and change the quality of light). The images below are 1-2 lights using a softbox, gridded spot and a beauty dish – different modifiers for different purposes. The softbox is a great window light mimic, whereas the beauty dish and gridded spots are useful for more contrast and direction. If you would like to learn more about lighting on location do please get in touch.
Posted on January 28, 2013
I posted a while back that I wanted to do a quick (and well overdue) review of the Canon 5diii.
I was one of those rare types that had the 5D Mk 1 “Classic” and skipped getting the 5D Mk ii. I had good reasons, in fact one – the autofocus was the same in both cameras and was woefully inaccurate. Not only were the outer focus points few and scattered around the middle of the frame, they frequently did not lock on. Most of the time the 5D was focused and recomposed from a central point or put into manual focus. The group shot below with Michael Praed is the last one I took on the 5DMk1 and at ISO 1000 I was nudging it as far as it would go. It was/is however one of the best cameras I have owned in terms of colour rendering, IQ, contrast and warmth. It’s just a shame that I always had to carry a 1d series camera too to deal with anything tricky. It feels more ergonomic and resistant than the previous models. Better weather sealing. Better balanced.
So, enter the 5d Mkiii. It’s 1 1d series focus system in a 5D body. It is quirky and fun to use. The images are warmer than you’d expect from a Canon, the operation smooth (even silent if you select the shutter mode). The focus points are better placed spread out in multiple cross-metered zones which can be expanded with a few clicks. It even remembers where you placed the focus points when you switch from portrait to landscape.
The ISO capabilities are almost insane. Capturing production stills at 8000 ISO is like shooting at 800-1600 in the past. It doesn’t remove the need to find the light or create it when you need to (to avoid pancake flat, lifeless low contrast images) but it responds well to small amounts of light. It’s a camera to grow into but it’s all things (and more) that the 5dMkii should have been. For bargain hunters wanting to go full frame and without the need to fast focus, used 5D Mk i bodies are worth a look.
1. ISO 400 1/200 f6.3. Mkiii balances highlights and shadows well and retains the creaminess of previous models.
2.ISO 3200 to bring the ambient in and the file quality is like ISO 400. The means less power required from off camera flash too or the need for a tripod in low light to drag the shutter.
3. ISO 8000, 1/25 at f4. Acceptable grain. Nuts.
4. ISO 1000 on the 5d classic, 1/30 f.5 to pull in the ambient and balance with the octobox off-camera. One of the downsides at shooting at higher ISOs is that your flash heads even at low power can be very powerful, so your shallow depth of field might suffer as you push to f11 or higher.
5. ISo 400 with quality of ISo 100.
6, 7 and 8 – ISo 1000-2000. Off camera flash creating an extra “window” but the mid-tones are captured well at the higher ISO. Contrast needs a boost as you go over ISO 3200.
Posted on January 22, 2013
As the snow finally melted after the winter weather on the Kent coast, I paid a final visit to the Abbey Chapel development in Faversham to photograph the 3-bedroom house there ( http://abbeychapel.com/the-house/).
At the back of the Chapel is a three bedroom house with a large studio/office . The house replicates the old Sunday school building but inside it has a totally contemporary design. From the front door, the entrance lobby leads into the kitchen, dining room and double height living room. Fully glazed, folding doors open onto the secluded courtyard garden. Plenty of light meant that I made selective use of my travel kit (Bowens heads and battery pack) to add contrast and definition to some of the corners.
Posted on January 15, 2013
You’ve heard me sing the praises before of low winter light levels for photography and how it’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s not. Honestly. It’s not a matter of cranking up the ISO and getting on with it. Sometimes either the contrast is simply lacking (things cal look a bit washed out of flat) or the differences in light levels between the bright bits and the dark bits is too wide (in the past this was the ratios we banged on about). Do you expose for the bright or dark bits?
At the school shoot below I had to light every single shot. Where possible I used bounce flash (using white walls into nice large diffused light sources) but where the walls were coloured (and so bounced light would have picked up wall colour with it) I had to use directional light in place of a where a window might be. Directional light helps with contrast too. If you need help with your lighting, do please get in touch.
Posted on December 4, 2012
Although there is a definite place for using bigger lights on location, speedlites / speedlights continue to be a useful way of faking light when it simply isn’t there naturally. A quick walk through the images in the gallery below from L to R:
1. Student prospectus shoot using a limited number of extras to show a busy cafe area. Dull and yellow tungsten ambient light replaced with zoomed in 1 x flash warmed up with a Honl gel, camera right. Second light camera left in background to boost cooler window light; 2. Very dark and sparse kitchen with one flash off camera right to be the window light and a tight shot over the top of a table. The starting point for the metering is the oven / hob light; 3. Student cafe again with dull tungsten replaced with “sandwich” of 2 x flash guns camera left and right (one as a backlight the other as a key light to the girls seated); 4. Flat ambient given a push with flash at low level to create some shadow detail on the cakes; 5. Location portrait with enhanced flash backlight; 6. Headshot taken in the entrance of the Marlowe Theatre by underexposing the background to black and then using a flash from camera left; 7. Property shot with flash in the bathroom because the window light was far too weak; 8. Single flash off camera left and at low power to raise the ambient gently so as not to make the bed linen too white; 9. Flat and misty day changed to autumn with a single light high and camera right with a Honl gel; 10. Very dark bedroom shot given a kick with a single flash backlight to fake sunlight. The key light is from a window camera right; 11. Same technique with raising the ambient in a property but 2 flash guns this time – one from the weak window camera left and another tucked behind a wall in the background; 12. Single light bounced off an umbrella to replaced the tungsten downlighters.
Posted on November 25, 2012
There was a set of my pictures that appeared in the weekend press last week to illustrate an article about a new National Trust exhibition at Winston Churchill’s former home Chartwell. This was a mixed shoot involving people, priceless artifacts and restrictions on where and when the pictures could be taken.
Although large rooms and people shots do require me to turn to the likes of a Bowens Gemini head, my 2 x Speedlites (Canon’s spelling) always travel with me. For the editorial shots of the Churchill family, they are mainly one light balanced for the ambient with Honl gels OR an extra light to give the window light some extra reach. I usually have a small softbox over the speedlite and close to the subject (and when zoomed in means that you don’t need a grid modifier).
Posted on November 19, 2012
The posts in the next few weeks will be in praise of the humble speedlite / speedlight as they continue to be an essential part of my daily editorial and commercial photography kit. Just a quick post though about when you need to overpower the sun with something a bit stronger.
Recently I was hanging off a step ladder on top of the White Cliffs of Dover taking some shots for the National Trust, celebrating the successful end to a campaign to purchase a section of the cliffs. I have always been, and continue to be a big fan of underexposing the ambient / background light to create a bit of contrast and depth. So, the shots below the sun (coming from the direction of the sea) became a fill light and I used a single 500W Bowens head (with battery pack) with a reflector dish at full power, camera left to create a kicker. Now although the light direction appear a bit contradictory, I had to bring down the exposure on those huge white cliffs and the sunlight hitting them. So, sometimes a small flash gun can’t quite manage enough power when you need it.
The same was true of some family shots on the beach where the sun was the back-light and I has to deliver enough power to to the front of the group. A single 500w head from a distance create an even fill light whilst the sun created the highlights to the hair. If you would like to explore using artificial light, do please get in touch about some photography training.