Finding the light and using what’s there

Caitlin lit by window light on the right. A Speedlight set on manual power @ 1/32th power to create separation and just enough to accent her cheek on the left.

One of the more difficult skills to pick up is finding the light in any location and making it work for you.

Along with learning how to relax/distract your subject so that they aren’t so self-conscious, this skill, finding the light, doesn’t just happen overnight.

Books and mentors can only show you so much.

You won’t get it until you play with own light equipment and photographing in various locations.

Why various locations?

By trying different locations, it forces you to look and evaluate where the light is.

For my picture Caitlin taken during a demo for Small Flash Lighting, I kept things simple using one Speedlight off-camera.

The main light was a huge west-facing window and it was about 10am so the sun wasn’t shinning directly inside yet.

Here’s the picture of Caitlin using just available light (big windows on the right). It’s actually a very usable image even without the flash to fill. A few clicks in Photoshop can bring out the detail in the shadow areas.

When using a Speedlight like this when there is enough available light, it’s best to just use the Speedlight to accent or fill or provide separation of your subject from the background.

We were inside Division 9 Art Gallery.

When light levels are low, always find a way to brace yourself. 1/50 sec @f1.4 may seem like it’s enough to freeze motion but it really isn’t because I’m using a camera that has a 1.6x magnification factor. Photo by Marvin Sesuca.
Caitlin and I were waiting around during a break when I spied this robot that was a sculpture inside Division 9 Art Gallery where I was teaching. I asked her to remove her sweater, positioned a Speedlight behind the sculpture then taped her skirt to the hand of the robot. The rest of it was all Caitlin. I asked that she ‘sell’ the idea that the robot was alive. Sure, I could have worked on this some more. Wish I had more time to mess with this concept.

As expected, there was a lot of ‘clutter’ for our sakes.

No disrespect to the wonderful art pieces and their artists, but for my purposes, those were distractions.

Unless my objective was to show an artist with their art work, I want to simplify.

Identify your subject, figure out what you want to do first, then choose your lens to show just what’s needed.

After you get that picture, push the envelope and go a step further.

Ask yourself what else you can try.

Make it fun

I asked Caitlin to pose with the robot, an art sculpture by Jim Behrman, that was on display in the gallery.

If you want to include a prop, you have to ask if it will work with your subject.

I asked Caitlin to remove her sweater.

I taped the robot’s hook/hand to her skirt so that there could be some tension in the fabric.

The one speedlight behind the robot aimed at the red wall accented Caitlin.

Available light lit did the rest.

So when you get a picture in hand,  have some fun especially when you get a model who’s a good sport?
Peter Phun Photography

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