Light or dark?

When you need to decide what to make of a shoot, light is of the first importance. And sometimes that is the question: light or dark? Go for a high-key bright look, or for a low-key dark look?

I often do both. Let me share an example.

On a very recent shoot, just after walking in, I saw this:

And that immediately made me think “the Buddha”, “pastel”, and “bright”, and “backlit”. So you go with the flow, and I asked the model to find a pastel outfit. The outfit was a skirt, which worked extremely well when she pulled it out to make it the same shape as the lampshade. I exposed highly (1/250th sec at f/6.3 at 400 ISO), and hey presto:

High key means everything is bright except the subject, which therefore stands out. Can you see how highly I exposed that? Basically, everything except the Buddha and my subject was flashing “overexposed!”. Get this right and shoot RAW. But it is not difficult at all, as long as you realize you can make things bright or dark at will with your camera. It is a light shifter.

I had also seen a dark wall, a rich bordeaux, in a dark area. So hey, let’s use that too. But with this dark wall I thought low-key, i.e. everything is dark except the subject, which therefore also stands out. So, perhaps a dark outfit, which it just so happened she had:

Both made on the same shoot.  You can do this if you think about the light and use what you have, or what you can make under the circumstances.


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