Little Adventures

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Monday, March 15, 2010

What You Are Not Lighting

For someone who's just starting to learn about lighting, it is a common objective to pay much attention on how to light his photographic subject.  Much attention is given to where the light - or lights - should be positioned.  For this reason, a would-be strobist will typically have an umbrella or a softbox on top of his shopping list of lighting accessories - that's what I did.  Why?  Because we are so focused on achieving what on-camera flash cannot do - soft light.  It's simply amazing how much a person could be so beautifully photographed with soft light coming from an angle that is not the same as your camera's point of view.

But most do not realize this fact ---> Equally important to what you are lighting is WHAT YOU ARE NOT LIGHTING.  The problem with umbrellas and soft boxes is that they broaden the throw of light - soft but broad - that often times they fall everywhere, even where you do not want them.  And that makes your strobes uncontrolled light, which defeats the purpose of off-camera flash or strobing.

In this case study, we have here again Steve Osman as our subject.  The pictures that appear here were taken with his consent during one of his performances in Porto Arabia at The Pearl, Qatar.

In the first two pictures above, you can see what lighting, or rather lack of lighting, there is in the area where he is performing.  The shops behind were nicely lit and provides a beautiful background to his performance.  Now, if only there could be some kind of a spotlight on him . . . so that's what I did for him in my pictures.

In this picture above, I placed a speedlite on top of a balcony rail, of which height is just enough to light him properly.  The balcony railing is about 3 meters away from where he is standing.  The speedlite was set to 1/4 power (as what I usually start with) and in 24mm zoom.  Not only was the power too high in this first attempt, but also the throw of light was too broad.  It virtually lit everything including the unsightly wires and pedals on the floor.  I felt that they do not contribute to the image so it was not necessary to show them, much less waste my light on them.

So I dialled down my flash by 2 stops - to about 1/16th power (with camera ISO set to 400) and adjusted the flash zoom manually to 105mm.  I had to dial down that much because the narrower beam of 105mm zoom means more light is concentrated into one direction.  I managed to get the result as in the picture below.

I'm happy enough with how the light was falling only on his upper body.  All I have to do now is watch him perform and fire away.  The following are some of the shots I took using a tighter composition.  There is nothing interesting below his knees so I didn't felt it was necessary to include those in the frame.  They would only clutter the pictures.

After a while I moved to the other side of his "stage" without moving the light source.  From there, there is a fair view of a plain wall that made a nice clean background making these shots look like they were shot inside a studio.


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