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.


On A Mission

Yesterday morning I shot a mission. I shall tell you about it in a moment, but let’s start with the light.

Said light was not inspiring. Shade. Like this:

So the solution is easy: I grab an umbrella and flash. I use

  • An umbrella and light stand.
  • TTL flash, light operated. Using a 580EX on my camera and a 600EX in the umbrella
  • I set the ambient exposure to 1-2 stops below meter (the meter indicates 1-2 stops minus).
  • That gave me 1/250th, f/6.3, 800 ISO.
  • White balance is set to “Flash”.

I now get the light I want:

Now the mission.

The young woman on the left is on a mission called the “Topless Tour De Canada“, and her objective is to point out that going topless is legally allowed in Canada, for women as much as for men.  Her tour starts in Toronto and will take her through the major Canadian cities, and she will be filmed and photographed in each of these cities—top free.

Here’s a Behind The Scenes shot:

See the light stand? And yes, umbrellas get blown over by wind, so hold them!

And here’s one of the finished shots, in front of The World’s Largest Bookstore in Toronto—a bookstore that, alas, has recently shut down.

There are lots more: see one here. And see another one here.

The colour of the day.

Why do we use colour?

Sometimes I like simplicity, like here:

Sometimes, on the other hand, especially when I print images, I like to fill the frame with colour. Like here, from last night:

(Make-up by Glam IX Studio; model Kim Gorenko.)

The colours match the dress and the eyes. Two speedlights aimed at the background.

That last shot also emphasizes again the importance of getting a glamour-type shot like this right in terms of pose, light, and make-up.  Look at the before/after. Nothing was done here, only make-up. Straight out of camera:

The make-up and hair took about three hours to do: these are serious skills.

For a successful shoot, it all has to come together!

Now on to my Video with DSLR course, which is about to start.  Check for details on upcoming courses.


Go Toward The Light

One thing beginners often forget is the light;l specifically, where is it coming from.

So tip: always ask yourself that in every picture. Where is the light coming from.

In the picture above, I asked my model to turn towards the light (which was window light on the north side of the room; i.e. soft reflected light). If I had not done that, the back of her head would be lit. In portraits, I think carefully about where the light should be coming from, and usually the answer is “from 45 degrees above, in front of the subject, perhaps left or right slightly”.

And you can do the same. As long as you ask the question!