Photo Notes

October 30, 2013

Studio Open House!

 

To start I just want to remind you about the classes: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio and Getting Started in Commercial Photography and the books:

 

I’m going to be having an opening for my studio on Friday November 1. The address is 971 North Delaware Street, Suite B, here in Indianapolis. Please come by if you can. I’ll be showing photographs of buildings in my studio and at the building in front: Re/Max Metro. The text for this blog entry is from recent correspondence and the photos are from a job for BMW Contractors. Thanks for your attention!


A couple of things about rim light, first most of your shots won’t work. Positioning the light is very critical, and even when you have an assistant, most of the time the light or the model won’t be in the right place. I much prefer the snoot as a tool for rim light. Norman has a wider “stovepipe” snoot that I prefer to the smaller ones like the Alien Bee. What I do most of the time to get rim light is put a bare bulb strobe, no reflector at all behind directly behind the subject. This works more often. This will put light on the background so sometimes I put a gel on the back of the light to change the color of the background. The position and power of the light both affect the outcome, so you have to experiment. I like to avoid discussing things in terms or ratios for several reasons: the most important is that ratios stop people from paying attention to the results. I set up my shots with a tethered computer so that I can evaluate the shot better. The bare bulb allows for more movement in the subject, but you have to keep the subject between you and the light. You can also use a large reflector on the side to bring some of the light to the front.


I really like to use at least one very large light modifier, usually a light panel, for a portrait. It creates a very soft gradation.

I don’t like the term “natural light.” It is a value term, and it often gives the idea that ambient or found light is generally or always better than light you design and create. This isn’t true. Many people have no idea how to make good light, but that is no reason to think that found light must be better. Photography comes from the Greek and means “write with light” if you can’t design good light are you writing with light or copying light?


You need to look at several things when you examine light. The first is the color. Often people don’t notice how warm or cool a light source is. The color of a subject will shift with the light, but because our eyes compensate for color, we don’t always notice.


The transition from light to shadow is a function of the size of a light source. So if you have light from the sky coming into a room you get a large light source, very long transition from light to dark. You need a big light source, at least as big as a window, to reproduce this light. Hard light makes very short transitions, which look like sunlight especially if you add warm filtration to the light.


Watch a person’s eyes in prints or when you are shooting. You can often see the reflection of the light source there. A small reflection come from a hard light, a bigger reflection is a large light source. The large reflection won’t be as bright. The eyes can also tell you about the placement and direction of light sources.


Balancing light is the essential trick with strobes, to evaluate and change our images by searching for the right levels on our lights and our exposures. With the histogram and the proof image on camera or in the computer we have better tools for creating the right exposure than any meter could give us, but it does take repeated testing. If you use a hand-held meter you will get an answer, but very often it will be profoundly wrong.


In addition to the new image stabilization equipment, there are some standard suggestions about holding the camera more effectively. Cradle the lens in your left hand, thumb pointing away from your body. The left hand supports the lens and the camera. The right hand guides the camera and controls the camera. Relax your body and breath out half way when you shoot. Lean against a tree or a wall. You might also consider a mono-pod or a chainpod to help stabilize your camera.

I hope people are interested in these posts, but I really don’t know. If you want to leave a comment you have to log in. I’m sorry about that, but I was getting a huge amount of spam posts, so I had to change to registration. If you’d like you can send me an e-mail with your comments, john@siskinphoto.com. Also please remember the classes and the books!

An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
Getting Started in Commercial Photography.

 

October 1, 2013

Bike Shot in the Studio

I’ve been working on the studio, no surprise there. I’m finally happy with the current situation, while there’s more to do, it doesn’t have to be done now. I’ve moved in the lights: 20 or so strobes, another half-dozen quartz lights and an armful of projectors. I think I have 10 tripods, not sure how that happened. Booms and light stands, umbrellas, soft boxes and light panels, and all the things that come from a life spent in photography. Of course the important thing now is to get the studio busy. That means shooting, and I just got a couple of new customers! I also want to rent out the studio and offer classes here. What I want to do in this blog is to show you the studio at work, shooting and teaching. Ginny Taylor-Rosner brought a few of her advanced student from Ivy Tech in for a motorcycle shoot. This entry has a lot of large shots; I hope you will follow it to the end. Here’s the studio plan:

It’s easy to get large subjects into this studio, as you can see. I used a gray muslin on the back wall and black plastic muslin on the floor, so the set was really inexpensive.

The first thing I did was pull down white seamless along the side walls. I installed seamless holders on the side walls so that I could use them for very large reflectors with white paper, and so I could pull down black paper to reduce bounce light. It worked really well in this shot. In the shot marked Side Lights I only have the lights that are on the side seamless on, not the light on the front seamless. The light on camera left was placed at the front of the seamless to rake across the paper. This creates a very big light source. On camera right I place a light set at 750 watt-second at the back of the seamless. It spread across the side seamless and onto the diagonal seamless.

I put another roll of seamless on a pair of seamless stands on a diagonal in front of the bike. Once again I used a strobe raking across the seamless to give me a big light source. This light was set at only 400 watt-seconds. You can see what this light added in the image marked Front Light. This image has the all three of the large light sources. It’s important to have barn doors on the lights when you are bouncing light off seamless paper. The barn doors keep the light from spilling directly onto the bike and the background. I had to use cine-foil, black aluminum foil, in addition to the barn doors, for the front light because of spill light.

Only the light on the diagonal seamless.

I made some small changes in the position of the lights that rake across the paper. It’s much easier to move the lights than it is to move the bike or the paper. We also moved in a gobo (large black light panel) at the back of the bike to make the light on the saddlebag more even. Then I put a bare bulb light set at 200 watt-seconds, covered with a pale lavender gel, behind the bike. This added the highlight below the bike and put a little color into the background. If I’d used a darker background we could have added more drama with this light. This shot is marked Last Light.

Added a small strobe behind the bike. Bare bulb with a gel.

In this shot, Final Set-Up, you can see the position of most lights in the set. I added the light panel in front of the bile late in the shoot. It helps to open up the tire and to even some of the reflection on the front of the bike.

I was a little concerned about the density of the engine and the high light from the light behind the bike, so I made a couple of bracketed exposures. I used these captures to give me a little more control over these areas by using them as layers in Photoshop. I did a few other quick touch-up to make my Final Image.

Thanks for visiting the studio here in the blog. If you’re in Indianapolis give me a call and come by 317.473.0406. If you need to rent a studio I’m ready. Special price for October: $275 for the day! I hope to have classes available in the next few weeks. If you need a private session let me know as well. The Portfolio Class is meeting on TUESDAY OCTOBER 15. This class will help you present your work. There’s more information, and a sign-up link here. I hope to see you soon!

 

Here are a couple more images from the shoot!

Shot by Terry Pitman

Don’t forget about the classes at BetterPhoto and my books!
: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
Getting Started in Commercial Photography

 

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