light situations

Black (& White) Friday: Fade to Black

Not having had the chance to get out and shoot the streets of Ottawa very much, I have found myself dipping into my catalogue more often. This is an image I made late one night while experimenting with different lighting positions.

Self portraits are tricky, and I often find it easiest to accomplish using old manual focus lenses attached to my camera using an adapter. This image was accomplished using an old Minolta MD manual focus 50mm lens on my Sony, with a single flash positioned at 90 degrees to my left (camera right) that had a Rogue FlashBender on it to diffuse the light slightly.

low key self portrait

There are two types of light to consider when doing flash photography – ambient light (the light we see that fills the room) and light coming from the flash itself. What people don’t often realize, is that the amount of these two light sources can be controlled by making simple changes to our shutter speed and aperture settings, and if you know these two things, the overall quality of your photography can improve dramatically whether using flash or taking pictures on a bright sunny day.

Shutter Speed controls ambient light

Shutter speeds are identified by numbers that look like fractions – 1/100th, 1/200th, 1/400th, etc and can go up to 1/4000th on most DSLRs today. The higher the number, the faster your shutter will click, and the less light will enter your sensor resulting in darker images. Conversely, the lower the number, the more light will be let into your sensor resulting in brighter images.

For the image above, I wanted to eliminate the ambient light in the room. To accomplish that, I set my shutter speed to it’s maximum sync speed of 1/250th. This is the fastest that my camera can take a picture using a flash before it starts to cut off the image. If I had set my shutter speed to a faster setting, such as 1/500th, then part of the left side of my face would have been cut off. If I had set my shutter speed to a slower setting, such as 1/100th, then some of the wall in the background would have been visible in the image.

Aperture – controls flash light

Yes, you can change the flash power by making adjustments on the flash itself, but it’s often easier to accomplish the same effect by simply changing the aperture on your camera. The aperture is identified in f-stops, such as f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, etc and can go up to f/22 for most standard lenses. The higher the number, the darker your image will be because it will be letting less of the flash light hit your sensor.

I don’t remember where my aperture ended up on the image above, but I would have started with an aperture of f/5.6 and my flash at half power, and made the appropriate adjustments from there. That’s always my starting point. If I had to guess, I would have probably ended up at f/10 or f/11 to get this look.



Black (& White) Friday: A Simple Portrait

For this week’s black and white post, I thought I’d share an image from a really fun shoot I did a few months ago. This was a simple one-light setup with a shoot-through umbrella placed at 45-degrees to the left of the subject, and pointed down at 45-degrees toward him.

This is a friend of mine, and he grew a moustache for Movember last year to promote men’s health. Since he regularly wore those aviators, I couldn’t help but ask him to pose as a mean cop workin’ the beat. The hardest part of the shot was keeping him from laughing.

It’s amazing what you can get from using a single light source. I now have a couple more lighting tools, but all you really need are a light and a reflector.

flash photography

Black (& White) Friday: Split Lighting

My second post in three weeks featuring a dramatically lit portrait. Perhaps I’m on to something here? Probably not. If you missed it, you can see my low-key self portrait from two weeks ago here.

Here is an image I took during a photo shoot featuring the split lighting technique. It’s often most effective when your subject is a man with well defined features, and not often recommended to do with ladies… unless of course your model has wonderful skin and huge beautiful eyes like Sara has here.

This post is also serving double duty this week as my submission for the Weekly Photo Challenge because of its extreme contrast.


Head Shot Experiment #1

Head shots, how hard can they be? I mean, you just get someone to stand in front of your camera, act natural, smile, and presto bango you’ve got a gorgeous head shot.

Well… not even close.

As my love of photography grows, so too does my interest in trying new photographic challenges. And, as I wrote in a post yesterday, I have come to realize that I love photographing people more than anything else.

So, before settling down to work this morning I had a little fun with a co-worker and pleaded with him to be my first head shot guinea pig. I had a camera, a flash, and a dark corner of our office to work with. Simple! Well, that was until he stood there and said, “so, what do I do?” Gulp, I says.

Luckily we are good friends and we’re not shy to say or do anything around each other so this first test was pretty fun. I’ve learned sooooo much from Robert Harrington and David Hobby, and I figured it was finally time to put all that theory into practice.

My setup was simple – a single flash set at half power with a shoot-through umbrella, ISO 200, f/5.6, and two pieces of white paper taped together to act as a small bounce reflector.

I’ve gotten my starting point and figured I’d tweak from there. So, “let’s take a test shot, just stand there and act natural.” Ka-pow…

ME: “Perfect! But what the hell are you doing?”

HIM: “I want you to get a shot of my watch.”

ME: “Oh, well stop it and lets take another.”

After all, I want to see how the light falls on his face. Ka-pow goes the shutter again…

We’re now both cracking up and doing a bunch of ridiculous poses. But, I think that little exercise was able to relax both of us. Because the next one we got was money… at least that’s what I think… for my first effort. This is almost straight out of camera, it just has a smidgen of  a touch-up in Lightroom.

What do you guys think? I’d love to get some constructive criticism and learn from any of your experiences. I can’t quite decide if it’s a tad hot on his left side or not. He’s definitely not blown out, but your comments are most welcome.