Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Using Fill Lighting to enhance the Photo

Recently I was commissioned to take a series of informal portraits of Larry Stokes, one of Kitsap County’s Port Commissioners. The Marketing/Communications Manager warned me beforehand that he can be a bit of a difficult, but once he warms up to you, he has a heart of gold.

When getting out of the car, I was greeted by his two dogs, which treated me like a long lost friend. Round one to my side. After unloading my car and while setting up lights, on the porch, he asked since it was sunny outside why did I need portable flashes. I went into explain that it’s good to use a tad bit of fill flash to fill in the shadows, especially when you were metering for the ambient light.

After finding an ideal location on his porch, I fired off a couple of tests and showed him the results and explained why I needed to set up a few of the flashes and adjust the output for less light. While taking pictures the dogs came up to join him, which only added to his personality.

After the shoot he invited me into his den, which looked as if it was taken from a scene of an old Alfred Hitchcock move, “Psycho”. Hanging on the walls were stuffed heads, all shapes and sizes, ranging from moose, varies varieties of deer, analopes, mountain sheep to a huge Alaskan bearskin. Also posed in the room corners were a stuff cougar, raccoon and a couple of bears fighting in a corner. He said once while hunting in Alaska he came upon the two bears, one black and other fighting, and killed them. He’s also a hunting guide and a very talented taxidermist.

Posing him in the den, with a bunch of stuffed animal heads on the wall made the photograph work. Using the tools of his trade, elements in the background all added to this environmental portrait.

I wanted to get Larry in a shaded setting and away from the 3:00 sunlight. I used a two 550EX light setup for the porch pictures (both headshot and overall). One light was set about three feet from the subject on camera left, while the other was camera right about five to six feet from the subject.

I really liked the way the porch was in the shade and wanted to utilize the leading lines of the railing, decking and house as they lead right into the subject. Plus, the sunlight spilling onto the decking through the railing also added a nice touch as well. I metered for the overall ambient lighting which was 125th for ISO 50 and I set the flashes output at -1 2/3 (camera right) and - 1 1/3 (camera right). I took a few test shots to make sure the flashes didn't overpower the existing light and make adjustment to f-stop and set the Ev to Exp. Comp.: -0.3. I always strive to balance the flash output to the existing lighting so that the lighting looks natural.

Flash fighting placement for or the inside shots were: one camera left, beside the subject, pointed at the wall to shed light on all those heads in the background. Another was camera left pointed at subject and the 3rd light was camera right. I always meter for the existing light in the whatever location I’m in and then set ISO, flash output, shutter speed and f-stop to get the correct mixture lighting, so that I don't get harsh shadows.

I used my 16-35mm f2.8 lens for the porch and inside shots and used my 70-200mm for the outside headshot.

Hope this helps everyone to understand what going on through my head as I try to figure out the correct balance between the existing light and my flash output.

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