Less can be more

Less can be more. We sometimes make things complicated as photographers: we get gear-itis. Yeah, me too.

But you can keep it simple. Richard Avedon shot much of his work with a view camera and a white sheet on the shady side of a building. Period. For the longest time, Robert Mapplethorpe shot with a simple Polaroid camera with no settings to speak of.

So while I teach complex lighting, and I teach making complex technologies like TTL understandable, sometimes it can be simple.

Look, for example, at this recent shot of model Lindsay:

Model Lindsay, photo by Michael Willems

Lindsay, photo by Michael Willems, 2010

This is simple how?

  • A simple background. A white wall. I love white walls.
  • Simple lighting equipment. Just one flash, namely a 580EX speedlite on the camera.
  • Simple lighting setup. That flash was aimed at the wall and ceiling behind me. Using TTL, so no metering was necessary (just flash exposure compensation of about +1.3 stops)
  • Simple colour (namely: no colour. I love black and white).
  • Simple clothing. White top for high-key effect. Jeans for a contrasty dark area.
  • Simple pose.
  • Simple post work (just slight exposure adjustments as needed and skin fixes where necessary).

Sometimes less really is more. Don’t you think?

So here is your assignment, should you wish to accept it: find a white room and shoot a high-key portrait like this. Aim the flash behind you. Expose well: to the right. Have fun!

0 thoughts on “Less can be more

  1. This lighting creates lovely drifty shadows around the model, especially beside the neck and elbow. This seems to frame the very white clothing. Super line from the dark compelling eyes, to the strap, down the arm to the dark jeans. Thanks, Michael, I learned from this.

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