Speed lit

Since this blog is called “speedlighter”, and I kind of specialize in lighting, I thought I might do a quick post on quick lighting.

Today, I had a student shoot me, and her dog, using one studio light (a 400 Ws Bowens light). To do this you need to do the following:

  1. Set up a light on a stand;
  2. Add an umbrella;
  3. Shoot near a wall which acts as the reflector (that is why one light is enough!);
  4. Connect the light to the camera using, for example, a cable;
  5. A light meter to measure light and hence to help you set the flash’s power;
  6. Set your camera to f/8, 1/125th second, 100 or 200 ISO;
  7. Now meter to that (i.e. adjust the light until the meter read f/8).

The first test shot should be without flash, and should be black.

Then, connect the flash cable and shoot:

Michael Willems

Michael Willems

And then, after that test shot, the object of tonight’s shoot, which was not me, alas:

Duke Dog

Duke Dog

Cute, eh?

Note the simple composition, blurred background, the excellent composition and tilt (see Friday’s post), and note the catchlight from the umbrella in Duke’s eyes. (If we had shot through an umbrella, the catchlight would be even more simple, round).

Framed

One more composition post, this morning.

When you shoot an image, you need to think about what the subject is, and how to draw attention to it.

There are several ways to do it.

  • Blur the background.
  • Use converging lines.
  • Make the subject big.
  • Use colour.
  • Use negative space
  • And as I have pointed out before, one other way to draw attention to a subject is to frame it.

Trees are a favourite way to achieve this kind of framing:

Framed

Framed

And sometimes more dramatically:

Bench framed

Bench framed

And we do this again and again:

Oakville and lake

Oakville and lake

And sometimes in less usual ways. Look, for example, at the plant, framing the bride here:

Bride, framed by plant

Bride, framed by plant

Try this yourselves: frame your next few pictures.

Dutch Angle

A play on words. “Dutch Angle” is a Hollywood term used to describe cinematic angles used by the likes of Leni Riefenstahl in 1930s Germany.

(How would Hollywood know the difference between “Deutsch” and “Dutch”? Just think of the Pennsylvania Dutch, who were Germans too.)

Anyway, back to angles. I have mentioned them before. Uncle Fred only uses angles in his photos when he accidentally fails to straighten the horizon.

So when do I use angles?

Here are  few examples.

Boerenworst Barbecue

Boerenworst Barbecue

Photographer's Shadow

Photographer's Shadow

Knox Church, Oakville

Knox Church, Oakville

I use angles for the following reasons:

  • When I have to, to fit it in. This is more common than you might think. Never hesitate: turn to a crazy angle if you want to get more in.
  • When I am using a wide angle lens, almost inevitably.
  • For artistic reasons, e.g. to get the Rule of Thirds.
  • When I want to straighten one particular picture element.
  • When I want to add a sense of energy to an image.

So there are many valid reasons. Look at your photo album: how many images are turned? If it is not a significant proportion, I suggest you may want to do more.

Confusion reigns…

…but I am here to help you sort it out.

I hear a lot of beginning (and some advanced) students who confuse white balance with exposure.

This confusion is not surprising, since both have something to do with “this picture of a white wall, say, is not white enough”, and they both occur together very often.

So here’s the summary:

  • White balance is about the colour (it ought to perhaps be called “colour balance”).
  • Exposure is about the brightness.

So ask yourself what you mean when you say “that white surface is not white enough”!

  • If it looks too yellow, say, then it is white balance you need to adjust (the WB setting on your camera).
  • If it looks too dark, it is exposure (the +/- setting, “exposure compensation”).

And of course since they occur together,you may well have to do both. Get the colour right first, then the exposure.

Confusion lessened?

A few more pictures

Today, a few more pictures for you for the recent walkarounds.

Door and leaving

Door and leaving

You know how I always talk about story telling? One way to do it, one I have mentioned many times before, is to have a blurry subject in the background and to hence make the viewer work out what is happening. Having to work it out adds to a photo’s interest. In this picture, “Door” and “Leaving” are of course connected. And you see the rule of thirds being applied, I prusume?

I am called The Speedlighter. Speedlights are often handy, like in this picture.

Fall leaves lit with flash

Fall leaves lit with flash

I underexposed the background by two stops or more. And to get the background blurry, I took this at f/4. This needed 1/4000th second if I recall correctly. That is beyond the flash sync speed, so I had to use High-Speed flash (FP Flash). Nice result, no? Looks surreal, and that is what you get by combining depth of field control with light control.

Last one. Use unusual effects.

Oakville Hotel, October 2010

Oakville Hotel, October 2010

Like smoke from a barbecue to get an unusual picture of a familiar sight.

As always, photos look best when viewed full size.

Now: time for you to take the lens cap off, if you even use one, and go shoot!