One of the most invaluable skills I acquired while at the newspaper was learning to assess my lighting options on scene quickly.
Most of time it meant I would use what’s already at the scene. This approach means you have 2 light sources:
- what you bring (your small portable flash units) and
- what available light there is
So, in those instances I had to also figure out the color temperature of the available light.
If that sounds technical, just relax.
With the digital cameras all you need is to take a picture and see how skin tones are rendered and adjust for them.
What I mean by adjust is, if you’re shooting in a room lit by florescent lights, then you need to slap a florescent green filter on your flash.
You have to match the color temperature of your light sources or else you’ll be kicking yourself when you sit in front of the computer.
Unless you plan on bringing your entire arsenal of gear, you should think of locations that have light.
Not lots and lots of light, but places with very directional light.
The pictures of Samantha were setup in a hallway which had a doorway leading out to the roof.
The open doorway on the right is providing me with the hair light in this instance.
Canon 40D camera set at 1/400 sec @ f2 ISO 400.
My main light was the Speedlite 550EX, set on Manual @ 1/64th power bounced into either a silver or gold reflector on the left to give me f2.
The light from the doorway on the right metered between f2.8 and f4.
One Light Setup
As with most things in photography and art in general, I can’t say a certain type of lighting is wrong or right.
It only matters if my subjects like the picture I make of them.
Here are 2 examples of using just one light.
Ted was lit by a single light/flash placed about 10 ‘clock on the left behind my subject Ted.
If you look at the setup, you will see that there is no reflector or any fill at all resulting in a low-key portrait.
I like how this emphasizes the masculine face. Again, to me what matters is that Ted likes his portrait.
For this portrait of a member of the Macintosh Users group which I belong to, I used a variation of the same one-light set up.
The only difference, if you study the setup, is I added a reflector. There was no light modifier attached to my flash.
There was a white board that was on wheels at the senior center when I did this demo, so I just pushed this into place next to my subject.
If you look closely at his glasses you will see the tell-tale reflection.
Your biggest hurdle with this sort of lighting is figuring out how to prevent the light from behind the subject from entering the front of your lens.
If that happens, your image will look terrible because of the loss of contrast and you will also get flare.
Yes, there are lots of folks who love that look, that’s why there’s a Filter within Photoshop called “Lens Flare” for that.
I see that applied indiscriminately because it’s so cool– even when there is obviously no backlighting.