Posted tagged ‘lighting’

“The kids are alright”

February 24, 2011

In 1965 The Who had a song called, “The kids are alright”.  As a portrait photographer it’s great working with kids.  Until they are about 4 years old they’ll just do what they want to do.  It makes for exciting shoots, as I’m never sure of what they are going to do next.  It’s also fun working out the lighting, and sometimes it’s best to leave it simple and fairly broad.

Here are some examples from a recent shoot with two kids of different ages…

"Eyes only" by Derek Gale

This shot was taken with a single big softbox quite close to the little boy, which gave pretty even lighting.  He was looking up at his reflection in a curved mirror on the studio ceiling.  The mirror was put there for just this sort of shot.  His eyes said everything, so I didn’t need to show the rest of his face.

"Looking right" by Derek Gale

With this image the lighting is the same.  It was important to catch her great expression and smile without her looking at the camera.  A simple request for her to “Look at Mum and laugh”, gave the perfect balance of  spontaneity and control.  Her face is quite central, but that’s because I wanted to include her hair, which was falling nicely over her shoulders.

“Twirling hair” by Derek Gale

Here I’ve asked her to spin round so her hair was moving.  It usually takes a few tries to get a good shape, but we nailed it first time. It’s great the way her hair has wound round to the back of her head.  You can really see the energy she was putting into getting it right. 

"Cute expression" by Derek Gale

After the studio portraits we moved outside.  As the weather was kind, with soft overcast light, I managed to get some good outdoor images.  Using a wide aperture gave a good soft background, which allowed me to concentrate on his cute expression and eyes.

So yes, taking portraits of kids is great fun.  Don’t worry if you aren’t one, or don’t have any, I’m happy shooting adults too!

Cheers,

Derek                                       www.galephotography.co.uk

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One light portraits

October 28, 2010

It’s quite common for people to ask me about studio lighting.  Typically they’ll ask about the minimum photographic kit they need to get great portraits.  My reply is simple, “One light and a camera”.  After all, the sun is only one light…

Here’s a selection of images taken using just one light.  Most are in my portrait photography studio near Swindon, and the last one is taken on location using the “strobist” off-camera flash technique.

"One light #1" by Derek Gale

Here the single studio light is slightly below the subject’s eye line, and this gives a great edge light to her neck and face.  There’s enough light reaching her right eye to give a good catch light, which lifts her eye nicely out of the shadow.  The light was set up so nothing reached the background, hence it’s completely black.

"One light #2" by Derek Gale

This is using the same light but with a red gel on it.  I asked the subject to turn her head a bit towards me.  As a result of that very small movement, we now concentrate on her left eye instead.  As with the previous image I’ve cropped it to a vertical letterbox shape.  This gives a better line across the image frame.

"One light #3" by Derek Gale

I’ve moved my viewpoint so that I am looking straight down on her hair.  It’s being lit in a glancing way so that the texture has been picked out very clearly.  The vertical letterbox crop and off-centre composition with lots of dark space add mystery to the image.

"One light #4" by Derek Gale

This studio shot uses one light fitted with soft box, which acts as a light diffuser.  The diffused light directly on her face gives even areas of light and shade, with very soft shadows  It’s a completely different treatment to the previous images.  I’ve reduced the colour saturation in Photoshop to give the right mood.

"One light #5"

This final image is from a location portrait shoot in a disused quarry in the Forest of Dean.  The light is coming from a single remotely-triggered flash off to the left.  It’s going straight down the subject’s nose line.   The unlit side of the large block of stone makes a great background to her face.  The flash was quite close, and the area was fairly dark, so there’s no contribution to the exposure from the daylight.

So, you just need one light!

If you want to learn how to take more creative images, and to learn the composition techniques I’ve used here, why not book on to my “The Creative Eye” course near Wantage, Oxfordshire on Saturday 13th November?

Cheers,

Derek

www.galephotography.co.uk

symmetry + yrtemmys.

September 16, 2010

You may have noticed from previous blog posts that I like creative photographic compositions that are quite off-centre and asymmetrical.  Although that is the case, you can make very interesting images that are completely symmetrical. 

This is how I do it. First, using some backlit studio shots of smoke from a burning incense stick… 

"Smoke Nazgul" by Derek Gale

I opened the smoke image in Adobe Photoshop and cloned out all of the little dust particles that you get when smoke is produced.  Doing the cloning at this stage saves having to do it all over again after the next stage!  I made another layer that was a copy of the background layer, then reversed it using Edit/Flip horizontal.  I then changed the Blending Mode of the top layer so that both images could be seen.  The right Blending Mode depends on the image but I find that either Lighten or Overlay gives good results.  I think this image looks like  a scary creature from Tolkien, such as one of the nazgul. 

"Aircraft Turbulence" by Derek Gale

This image, produced using the same technique, looks to me like an aircraft flying towards us, and its vapour trails & turbulence. 

"Glass mirror" by Derek Gale

This image was also taken in the studio, and is of some glass objects on a light box.  The only light is coming from underneath the objects.  The glass things overlapped so the patterns formed were already interesting.  Doing the copy/reverse/blend process gave a composition that has many interpretations.  I can see tartan, eyes, a robot, masonic symbols, etc. 

"Blue cross" by Derek Gale

This image is of a single wave coming in to a beach on the Gower Peninsular.   I took the original image with the wave going from one corner to the other, so when it was copied, reversed and blended it formed a blue cross, a bit like the St Andrew’s cross of Scotland.  As if by magic I turned Wales into Scotland! 

"Sea stripes" by Derek Gale

This final image is of a series of waves coming in to the same beach on the Gower Peninsular.  Here, as well as copy/reverse/blend, I rotated the final image by 90 degrees, which has produced a water pattern image that looks much more man-made than natural. 

Making these images is great fun, and it’s always surprising just what you get.  Why not give it a go? 

Want to know more?  We’re exhibiting at The Royal Berkshire County Show (also known as Newbury Show), on Saturday and Sunday (18th/19th September).  Do come over to the Shopping Pavillion and say hello! 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

It’s all up in the air.

August 26, 2010
You may have noticed that I’m interested in cars.  Well, I’m also interested in aircraft as well, and they are great things to photograph creatively, both in the air and on the ground.

"Swiss Hunter" by Derek Gale

This privately owned Hawker Hunter of “Fliegerstaffel 15” was at an airshow at Kemble in the Cotswolds.  I used a long lens (ca. 600mm equivalent) to get the aircraft nice and large in the frame, and panned as it flew past.  I was lucky with the shape of the clouds in the background, as they formed an arrow going from right to left. 

"Red Arrows 5" by Derek Gale

On the subject of arrows, here’s a shot of the Hawks of the RAF’s famous Red Arrows aerobatic display team.  Their precision flying is a joy, and this near head-on shot of all nine aircraft has a good diagonal shape to it, from top left to bottom right.  The red aircraft contrast well with the blue sky. 

"Red Arrows 6" by Derek Gale

Did I mention precision?  Here’s a perfect example of just how good they are.  The aircraft are perfectly placed relative to each other, and look like they’ve been cloned there – they haven’t!  Once again I’ve used a long lens and panned as they flew past. 

"Miss Demeanour jet blur" by Derek Gale

As I said, aircraft on the ground also make good subjects.  This is another privately owned Hawker Hunter, “Miss Demeanour”.  It’s got a fabulous paint job, and I saw that another jet was running its engine in front of it.  The heat from the jet’s exhaust gave good “wobble” to the air, so the fuselage of the Hunter went all blurry.  The nose wheel was too low to be affected so it’s still sharp. 

"C-46 nose art" by Derek Gale

Long lenses can be useful to capture details of individual aircraft on the ground. I loved the very aggressive nose art on this 2nd World War Curtiss C-46 Commando transport plane at an air museum in the USA.  The lens has compressed the perspective, so it’s not clear any more that it’s an aircraft. 

"B-25 canopy" by Derek Gale

This image is a further extension of that  idea.  It’s a perspex canopy on a North American B-25 Mitchell bomber being used as a filming plane in the USA.  I  chose the right time of day, and made sure that the very bright sun was placed behind the canopy. It’s made for a strong, simple image with the outline highlit, and the scratches on the canopy adding interest. 

So, get out there and get some great images of aircraft!  There’s still lots airshows this year. 

Cheers, 

Derek. 

Come and meet us at Coleshill Food Festival and Open Day on September 11th.  We’re in The Granary as part of the Arts & Craft displays. 

Calling all Trekkies: the story continues…

August 18, 2010

Once again I’m pleased to report a successful Photo Trek at Buscot Park.  It was last weekend and we had a “full house”.  These photographic training events are great fun, and Buscot Park is a perfect venue for them.  The group was terrific, with a wide range of photographic experience, and equipment ranging from a digital compact camera, to a digital SLR and lots of lenses.  I assigned everyone their afternoon’s photographic projects, and we were off. 

"Buscot swirl" by Derek Gale

Once again, we started under the trees near the garden entrance.  The exercise we do here is great for breaking the ice.  It gets everyone off the “Fully Automatic” setting, and shows them the freedom that digital cameras give you.  The rapid camera movement I’ve used here made for a fabulous off-centre swirl.  

"Buscot garden entrance" by Derek Gale

It has to be said that the weather at this Buscot Park Photo Trek wasn’t as good as it has been previously.  The relatively bright sky made the exposure compensation exercise even more important.  With this image of the garden entrance I tried to get as little of the sky in the shot as possible.  Even though I did that, I had to use some positive Exposure Compensation to get the details right in the stonework.  

"Dramatic Buscot sky" by Derek Gale

Moving through to the walled garden, the sky was looking very threatening.  It was great for photography, as the light was changing all the time.  We had a really good discussion about exposure, and one delegate was dressed perfectly, in white and black, to demonstrate the fact that meters always want to turn things mid-grey. 

"Buscot Trekkies" by Derek Gale

The delegates loved the terracotta warriors.   The sun came out as we reached them and it gave a really good range of light angles on the faces of the warriors.  They are very easy to photograph; they don’t move and never get bored with modelling! 

"Dramatic Buscot House" by Derek Gale

The clouds got even more threatening as we reached the house itself.  The angling sunlight across the front of the house, with the dark rainclouds behind, made for a stunning image.  There was an almost machine gun sound of shutters firing, and then, as quickly as it had come out, the sun went in.  You must always take your photographic chances… 

…and then it rained.  Luckily it was nearly the end of the Trek, so we sheltered under a handy tree and looked at everyone’s project images.  There were some stunning shots, and everyone had produced something they were pleased with. 

"Rainy Buscot water garden" by Derek Gale

A quick look back down the famous water garden, and another Buscot Photo Trek was over.  It was our last Trek there for this year, but we hope to run some more next year, so keep checking our website for details, or sign up to our e-mail newsletter and we’ll keep you informed. 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

Tripping the light fantastic: Part 2

July 22, 2010

In an earlier post I talked about light, and how altering it, or using it to the best advantage, can make images more dramatic.  In this post I’ll continue the discussion, and give you some more examples. 

If you think about it, the fundamental state of nature, or a photographic studio, is darkness.  You have to add light to be able to see or to take photographs.  Most of the time, the things we see are illuminated by a combination of direct light and reflected light coming from a number of directions. Interesting things happen if you restrict the light to just one direction. 

"Silhouette 1" by Derek Gale

In this creative portrait there’s no light reaching the side of the person that’s facing the camera.  The background has been carefully lit so that it comes out plain white, and the person comes out as a plain black silhouette; the ultimate black and white image!  It’s a modern take on the classic cut out paper technique developed in 18th century France. 

"Silhouette 2" by Derek. Gale

This image uses a similar method, but has a completely different end result.  Here the black background isn’t lit, and the single light is turned to point towards the subject from behind.  It gives a fantastic light outline to the person’s hair and face, but shows no other facial detail.  It’s a great look, and pretty difficult to achieve by cutting paper! 

"Portrait with attitude" by Derek Gale

In this image the light is still coming from one direction (high to the left), but it’s now lighting the person’s face.  It’s quite a focused light, so the background hasn’t been lit very much, and the person’s hair makes a good background to the profile of their face.  The position of their arm and hand, and their direct expression, gives this individual portrait quite a bit of “attitude”. 

Once you get out of the studio there’s generally quite a bit more light around.  It’s harder to get the light coming from the direction you want unless you bring your own light along in the form of a portable electronic flash.  

"Jumping boy" by Derek Gale

With this jumping boy image, I used a wireless off-camera flash low to the right to give the look I wanted.  He’s lit mostly by the flash, which is strongly directional.  I’ve set the exposure so that the background, lit by ambient light, comes out quite dark.  To get him high in the frame I’ve used a wide-angle lens and a low viewpoint, and there’s just a bit of movement blur, which gives more dynamism to the image. 

"Stylish portrait" by Derek Gale

Sometimes you don’t have access to portable flash, and you have to use the flash on the camera to give you the directional light you want.  This image was taken with a compact digital camera, a Panasonic Lumix FX-500, which has a very small built-in flash unit.  It’s part of my continuing  project to see just what sort of creative images you can take with these cameras.  I chose a dark barn to give me enough chance for the small flash to be effective, and moved the camera during the exposure.  It’s given an image with a really good mix of blur and sharpness, and excellent separation of the subject and background.  The flash catchlights in her stylish sunglasses make it look like a paparazzi shot of a film star. 

So, control of the light direction gives you better images.  To give me even more control I’ve recently bought some radio flash triggers.  These will allow me to fire my flash units from much further away, even in daylight.  I’ll be posting some example images soon, so why not subscribe to my blog so you’re the first to know? 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

A bit of background information.

June 17, 2010

In creative portrait photography, as well as making sure that the person is shown at their best, it’s important to control what’s happening in the background.  Most of the time a simple, uncluttered background works best.

"Blurry background 1" by Gale Photography

In this child’s portrait I liked the background because the neutral grey matched the colour of his top very well, and was a perfect complement to his hair and skin colour.  It was taken with a telephoto lens set at a wide aperture to blur the background. 

With this type of image you should experiment with the position of the subject relative to the background, so as to give good blur but also retain some texture.  The closer the subject is to the background the less blurry the background will be.

"Blurry background 2" by Gale Photography

In this image, of a boy with a confident expression, I’ve controlled both the blur in the background and its brightness.  He was lit by a studio flash set at a low power to allow the use of a wide lens aperture, and the shutter speed was set so that the background rendered quite dark.  This meant that the light tones in the background weren’t distracting.

"Blurry background 3" by Gale Photography

This business profile portrait, although it was taken in my portrait studio near Swindon, was lit with natural light through a doorway.  I’ve used a white muslin background which was nicely creased, and once again the use of a large lens aperture has given a simple background with a little bit of texture. 

When I was shooting this image there was a bit too much sunlight bouncing off the wood laminate floor, so I used an appropriately-sized rectangle of material with a low level of surface reflectivity, (the studio mat), to control it.  The mat is mottled grey with a rough texture, and is perfect for absorbing excess light!

"White background" by Gale Photography

There are times when you want the background to be as simple as possible, and a plain white background is ideal for that.  In this second business profile portrait, the light is coming from a flash shooting through a white umbrella to the left of the camera.  As before, it’s important to keep the subject away from the background; in this case it’s mostly to reduce shadows, but it also blurs any imperfections in the background paper.

So, as you can see, it can be quite complicated to ensure that your portraits have a simple background!

Cheers,

Derek

www.galephotography.co.uk