Summer. Not quite yet.

…but enough sun to shoot outdoors. So here was the outside today, in an Ontario that is still devoid of leaves:

Exposed for the background, that is 100 ISO, 1/250 sec, f/7.1.

Uh uh: obviously that does not work. What is the solution?

There are at least two solutions I could choose.

First I could brighten it all. There are many photographers who only do this and it is not a bad solution. It leads to images like:

That is not bad, but what if I wanted to see the background darker? I like to make my subjects the bright pixels. Bright pixels is where it’s crisp and clear.

So the other solution, and you knew it: use a flash. If I shoot into an umbrella, I can get the flash close enough at half power to achieve this:

And that is how I do it.

Notes for this: I used an umbrella to shoot into. Using pocketwizards, I fired a 580EX flash at half to full power (I usually avoid going over half). I used a sandbag on the light stand, but even then it can blow over.

Later, I had to go direct. In this field:

100 ISO, 1/250 sec, f/8.

Why did I go direct? Because in an open field, an umbrella would be blown over even with a sandbag on the light stand. Sometimes it is that simple!

And as said here before: direct, unmodified flash is fine, as long as it is nowhere near the camera!


About exposing to the right

If you look at the ARTICLES above, you will see one about “exposing to the right”. Read it. And perhaps remember this as a “take-home” outcome:

Provided you do not actually overexpose any of the channels (Red, Green Blue), you can always reduce brightness in all or part of the image in “post”, and as a result of doing this increase the quality compared to shooting it darker in the first place.

That is why we expose to the right. I am not advocating doing this all the time, mind you: it would mean post-production work all the time, and we are photographers, not graphic artists. But sometimes you simply do not have the time to put up lights.

Like here:

When I shot that, I knew I would want the ambient light darker. But that would have meant getting out the softbox, boom, pocketwizards, and so on; and that simply was not practical at the time. So I shot like in the pic above, knowing that I could reduce—not increase— exposure in part of the image later by way of masking or vignetting.

With a little work, and I mean a little (perhaps a minute or two), that gives me something like this as an end result:

Now again, of course it is much better to actually shoot this way. But when you do not have a choicer, expose as highly as you can without overexposing either of the three primary channels; then, reduce locally later to taste.



That red jacket

The reminds me. When I was shooting the red jacket, the red jacket ended up, well, not red, at the bottom. More purplish. Look:

The reason: overexposure at the bottom, specifically of the RED pixels, when I expose enough to get the top lit. The model was too far from the window, so the light hit mainly her bottom half. Hard to see in person, but easy to see in the camera.

The solution: In Lightroom, in the DEVELOP module, go to the HSL pane; select LUMINANCE, and drag the RED Luminance slider leftward (minus). Now you get this:

Now that I am not blowing out the reds, I get a red coat!

Then the last step: I brighten the top with a graduated filter with exposure set to +1 stop. Now I get the final result:

This is all a matter of simply recognizing what is wrong. I was not able in time to fix it on site, but I knew I had enough leeway in my RAW files to fix it later. Sometimes, that is how it works.



New Beauty Light Technique

I have illustrated many lighting techniques here, from “Terry Richardson Amateur” to “Studio traditional”. Let me add one I use. I call this “bright-bright-blur”.

What I do here is use a bright room with reflected light. I then use settings, and flash to achieve three things:

  1. Bright ambient light
  2. Bright flash light
  3. Blurred backgrounds

I do that by first, setting my exposure so that the meter reads +1 stop. Yesterday that meant 800 ISO, 1/125th second, f/2.0. I wanted f/2 to blur the background. I wanted 1/125th sec to reduce motion blur. That gave me the need for 800 ISO.

Then, I put on a flash, aimed it behind me 45 degrees up, and adjusted Flash Exposure Compensation (FEC) to +1.3 stops. That gave me added flash to the already bright picture. That flash fills any of the darker areas. Great skin; great beauty light!

The pictures now look like this:

That is basically straight out of the camera.

Clearly, this is light suited to glamour and beauty, more than to my usual corporate headshots. The point is: it is yet another light type you can use; another tool in your creative toolbox. Master it, and then decide for each shoot what light type to use. photography is talking emotion. The more you master light, the more you can tell stories with your photos.



So today I shot Serenity Hart, the feminist activist who is touring Canada to emphasize women’s right to go topless. I shot her when she was being interviewed by Michael Coren on Sun News:

See here for the entire video, and see here for some still and a few portraits we took afterward (the latter contain toplessness, so if this is not your thing, do not click the link).

Here’s a “suitable for work” shot:

You can support Serenity’s tour via this link.

For most of today’s photos, I used a flash off-camera shooting through an umbrella.

  • No flash gives bright backgrounds and flat light.
  • Straight flash gives flat light and hard shadows.
  • Off-camera flash rocks.

To see an example or two of each of those lighting style, look at the pictures in detail: — these contain toplessness).

More about the light:

  • For all these, I used TTL off-camera flash.
  • For the second set, by the boat, using the umbrella was impossible: too little light from a small flash. So I used the flash direct and unmodified. That gave me enough flash power. Just.

Good light is a necessity for good pictures, so when you are shooting, always think about the light. And I assure you that that is what I was thinking about today: not breasts, but light.