Photo Notes

October 26, 2009

FABULOUS NEW BOOTY LIGHT!!!!!

Filed under: Basic Photo Technique,Lighting Technique — John Siskin @ 5:36 pm

Sand Canyon HomeThere are a lot of lighting products on the market, and many of them are mostly hype. There are only so many ways you can manipulate light, and few of them are new. So you can make a light source larger with an umbrella, soft box or a light panel. If you want to put light in just one part of an image you will probably need a snoot, grid spot, or barn doors. There are other ways to do these things, but they do about the same things. Changing the name doesn’t change the product much.

One of the things people have tried to do for a long time is to make the little light source on a camera mount strobe, like the Nikon SB 900 or the Canon 580, act like a bigger light source. When you have a large light source the light hits the subject from all points of the source, so you get less shadowing and softer transitions between highlight and shadow. Vivitar introduced a bounce card for the 283 strobe in about 1976, so the manufacturers have been at this for a while. The Vivitar bounced all the light off a card, simple but didn’t change things all that much. Later designers bounced light off the walls of the room, so that there was a lot of fill light. This was more effective. So you see products from Sto-fen, Lumiquest and Gary Fong. There are differences in the way they move the light around and where they move the light, but the idea is similar: some light goes directly to the subject and some is bounced. Now this idea works, and it is probably the best idea for event photography, and will work well in other situations.

Direct flash

Taken with a direct flash. See the hard shadows and the high contast? What a difference the BOOTY LIGHT makes!!!

Booty light shot!!

Booty light shot!!

I have decided to introduce a NEW and FABULOUS way to spread light from a camera mount strobe, or many other kinds of strobes. Did I say it is NEW and WONDERFUL? I have to make sure I use enough hype here. It is the BOOTY light, yes this FABULOUS new light is actually a shoe covering. You can by TWO for only 79¢, YES less than a dollar. That makes these WONDEFUL, NEW units less than one half of one per cent as expensive as a Gary Fong Lightsphere II. Didn’t I say this is FABULOUS?

Seriously these are useful tools. I have used them on several occasions, because I needed to be quick of I needed a camera mount strobe to add to a monolight on a stand. In addition to the before and after shots, necessary to introduce something as WONDERFUL as this, I have a shot from a recent project where I used the booty light and just one other strobe with an umbrella. I had to work quick on this shoot. So think about it: Don’t you need a Booty light? Here’s a link: http://www.envirosafetyproducts.com/product/Tyvek-Shoe-Covers.html You can also buy them in quantities of over 100, even CHEAPER!!!

Thanks, John Siskin

Ps. One size fits mostly all! WONDEFUL!!!

Pps. Collapses for easy storage and WILL KEEP THE CARPETS CLEAN!!

My classes:

An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio

Business to Business: Commercial Photography

Booty Light on a Norman 200B, one size fits almost all!!

Booty Light on a Norman 200B, one size fits almost all!!

Booty Light on shoe, It's dual purpose!!

Booty Light on shoe, It's dual purpose!!

Another location shot with the BOOTY LIGHT the booty light is the only light on the outside of thedoor, the strobe with the umbrella is in the room past the door.

Another location shot with the BOOTY LIGHT the booty light is the only light on the outside of the door, the strobe with the umbrella is in the room past the door.

October 12, 2009

Natural?? Light

Taken with both continuousl light and strobes. Link to an article about the Tools of Light

Taken with both continuousl light and strobes. Link to an article about the Tools of Light

I’ve seen a lot of photographers, and some of talented armatures talk about natural light. So maybe I should too. I hate the term natural light, simply because in our culture natural is always good and artificial is always bad. When was the last time you saw a product advertised as NEW! Now with More Artificial Ingredients!! So my first problem is that when someone speaks of natural light they are making a value judgment about light sources. Second, people aren’t always consistent about the term; really natural light ought to be used to describe sunlight, moonlight, starlight, and less useful things like molten lava and the back end of lightning bugs. If you use only natural light you are not going to take any pictures more than a few minutes after sundown or, if indoors, never very far from a window. Of course this limits the pictures that you take. Many people seems to include, in their use of the term natural light, any light source that happened to be there, including such poor quality light sources as fluorescent light and sodium vapor light. I would prefer terms like existing light and ambient light or even found light. We could call the light we make for a shot created light or controlled light, or even perfected light.

I think that the real problem that people have with making light is between continuous light sources, like quartz lights, and instantaneous light sources like strobes. There is no question that it is more difficult to place and modify lights that you can’t see. So often photographers are confused because the shot they see has no relationship, or little resemblance, to the shot they took with the camera strobe. Of course the reason is that the strobe was in a place no light came from, and had a quality of light that wasn’t present the moment before you took the image. It’s as if you switched off all the lights and put a spotlight on your head. So if you are going to get strobe to work for you, you need to learn take control of the way the light works. It isn’t the fault of the light, and it isn’t because the light is instantaneous the problem exists because the photographer expects the strobe to work by magic. Instead the photographer must understand how light can be controlled and used. Then we will make better images because we can control the light.

I should also mention that while you can do things with continuous lights, there are problems that only strobes can solve. Strobes are much brighter than other sources, many strobes are brighter than daylight, so you can control a mixed light environment. Also strobes have a true daylight color balance, so they are easier to use with daylight. Strobes are smaller and lighter than continuous lights with equivalent power would be, and they consume less power.

Link to an article about one light portraits.

Link to an article about one light portraits.

October 2, 2009

What Ratio?

Filed under: Lighting Technique — John Siskin @ 2:55 pm

groupFirst I wanted to start with a picture from a recent shoot. This image is part of a fund raising. I used nine lights and about 3500 watt-seconds to make the image. The alpha channel was made at Deepetch. Since I’m writing this time about a subject I’ve discussed before I wanted to add a new picture, here, at the top of the blog.

I wanted to talk about talking about lighting. I really hope that at least a few of you will want to talk back about this. Here’s the basic problem: we need to use language that is actually descriptive of the photographs we make. By way of example, Adams often wrote about the “luminous quality of the light.” While this sounds great, I’ve never felt that it was really very definite. Would glow have been better?

 

The example that is the most trouble to me, as I teach lighting, is using ratios to describe lighting set-ups. When people first stated discussing lighting in terms of ratios they used hard lights, that is just the light in a reflector, no soft box, no umbrella, no light panel. If you think about the design of the lights as a clock face then the subject was in the center of the clock face, the camera and the fill light are at noon and the main light is at 3 or 9 o’clock. If you do this, then the right and left side of the face will have very different light values, and the transition will run down the center of the face. The difference between the brightness of light on the two sides of the face will be in direct proportion to the strength of your lights. If you make a light brighter, whether, by moving the light closer or raising the power there will be a direct result in the corresponding part of the portrait. I should measure the light falling on the subject; the ratio I am really interested in is the light reflected by the subject. However if I measure the light falling on subject, an incident reading, I get the same results. I am attaching an image made with hard lights. You can see how different the two sides of the face are.

3:1 ratio with hard light

3:1 ratio with hard light

All this is fine. The way the lighting is described, and the results of the light, are actually closely related. The problem comes in as soon as you start using large, or even medium sized, light sources. Now there is no relationship between the ratio and the way the subject looks. You’ll note that I said, NO relationship, not some kind of qualified relationship. First the two sides of the face are not lit differently, but the difference between the two sides is a softer gradation, perhaps there is no difference. So the light on the two sides of the face can not be described as a ratio. You could say that the power of the lights can be described by a ratio, and you can measure that. The problem is that this ratio, based on incident measurement of the light, has no direct relationship to the way the image looks. What describes soft light? The size and position of the light are descriptive. Please understand that I like soft light better than hard light, but I want to describe light accurately. Do the ratios tell you anything? Here is a soft light shot with the same 3:1 ratio as the hard light shot, but you can’t find that ratio in the face.

3:1 ratio with soft light. Where is the ratio?

3:1 ratio with soft light. Where is the ratio?

So, here’s my problem, how can I get people to stop talking about ratios, with soft lights? These ratios don’t describe anything useful about how the shot was made. You could use the same ratio, and get an entirely different look. How can I get people to talk about the size of the light source, the position of the light source, and what the light does to the subject, this information is actually useful. If you want more on this subject you might check out this article: Hard Decisions and Soft Light (www.siskinphoto.com/magazine/zpdf/hard-softlight.pdf) and I have an article coming out in a special issue of Shutterbug that will also relate to lighting.

You can see most of my articles at this link

Please check out my classes:

An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio

Business to Business: Commercial Photography

Thanks, John

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