Posted tagged ‘studio lighting’

I’m just a regular guy: Part 5

March 17, 2011

I recently had the pleasure to do a contemporary portrait shoot for a little boy’s third birthday.  It’s now my 7th shoot for the same family.  I’ve shot his parents’ wedding, did portrait shoots for his 1st, 2nd and 3rd birthdays, and also three portrait shoots of their dogs.

"2009 age 1" by Derek Gale

Here he is, looking very cute, on his first birthday.  At that time he was not quite able to walk unaided, and he had a mass of curly hair that was cut soon after this shoot.

"2010 age 2" by Derek Gale

Fast forward from 2009 to 2010. He’s grown loads and now has a smart haircut.  He also now knows how to work an Iphone…

"2011 age 3" by Derek Gale

Fast forward from 2010 to 2011. He’s grown even more, still has a smart haircut, and can operate an Ipad too…

"2011 age 3" by Derek Gale

He’s a great portrait subject because he’s got a wide range of facial expressions.  We were throwing a small red ball around, actually an old Red Nose Day squeaky nose, and he was celebrating if his Dad caught it.  I caught him too, mid laugh.

"2011 age 3" by Derek Gale

He also did a sort of celebratory dance when the nose was caught, clearly influenced by those that footballers do when they score goals.

"2011 age 3"

This final image shows his resting face.  He was looking at his Dad in a very thoughtful way.  Just a moment later he was laughing again.

It’s been great watching him change from a baby to a proper little boy. 

Why not book a contemporary portrait shoot for your family, and watch them grow?

Cheers,

Derek                                                 www.galephotography.co.uk

The adults are alright too!

March 3, 2011

In my previous post I talked about photographing children, and mentioned at the end that I’m happy to photograph adults too!   Here are some images from a recent shoot for an adult couple.

"Blue toned" by Derek Gale

This is a blue-toned black and white image.  The toning adds to the cool look of his serious expression, but the image is lifted by the slight smile on her face.  The plan was to have neither of them smiling, however I really liked the contrast with one person smiling and one not smiling.

"Fill flash" by Derek Gale

With this image I wanted to make sure that her outfit, carefully chosen to match her eyes, was properly recorded, so it needed to be in colour.  To give a tiny little catchlight in her eyes I used a tiny pop of fill-in flash.  The long focal length lens has put the background nicely out of focus.

"Fill flash 2" by Derek Gale

I’ve used the same fill-in flash technique here.  He was in an area shaded by a large building so needed that extra reflection in his eyes.  He’s over to the right side of the frame, which balances with the space on the left side of the frame, gives him an area to look into, and draws you into the image.

"Focus on the eyes" by Derek Gale

In this last image he was in a much more open area which gave good eye reflections, so didn’t need an extra catchlight.  Going in close and using a large lens aperture has thrown most of his head out of focus, leaving just the plane of his face sharp.  This lets us concentrate on his expression and eyes.  There’s a direct communication between us and the subject, making for a strong portrait.

It was a fun shoot with a great couple.

Cheers,

Derek                       www.galephotography.co.uk

Same person: different look.

December 16, 2010

In creative portrait photography how an image looks is down to the photographer.  In the studio how you light your subject is critical, and for location images it’s critical to work properly with the natural light.  How you then modify the light can dramatically affect the look of an image. 

Once you have your lighting sorted, simple changes to the composition of the image can also change the look significantly.

"Split image" by Derek Gale

Take this image:  The lighting, a soft-box from the front, is quite simple.  The interest comes from having the subject’s face split by a sheet of muslin that was hung up to act as a diffuser/reflector.  I had taken a series without the muslin and then asked her to move slightly so that it was partly in front of her face.  It was far enough away from her to be nicely out of focus, and its translucency allowed the obscured part of her face to show through sufficiently.

"Hair!" by Derek Gale

We tried to get some shots  of her hair “in flight”. They were fine, but I wanted more structure to the image.  We spread her hair out on the studio floor and I shot from a step-ladder directly above her.   It was simple to light with a fairly directional light on her hair which gave a nice sharp shadow under her chin.  Even though her expression was similar to the previous image, the end result was very different!

"Poster girl" by Derek Gale

Away from the studio there’s less control of lighting direction, unless you carry remotely fired flash units, so you need to be careful with where you do your shoot.  This urban image was at an abandoned car repair centre and the fly posters had been  busy.  I made sure that enough of a poster was included to clearly show the type of area we were in, but not so much that the poster’s text was a distraction.  Her pose echoed the pose of the man on the poster.  I’ve punched up the background colour by “cross-processing” it in Photoshop.

"Wall supports" by Derek Gale

Same day, same shoot, completely different look.  The pipes in the image were supports for a wall near the Railway Village in Swindon and were at quite an acute angle.  By asking my model to lean on the pipes, and then tilting the camera so she looked more upright, her arms became much more elegant.  The background brickwork also became less distracting.  A crop to simplify the image, a bit of “diffuse glow”, and it was done.

"Estate portrait" by Derek Gale

Same day, same shoot and yet another look.  This final image shows how the most mundane of objects, an estate car, can be used for creative portraits.  My model is lying down on the load area floor.  The car’s open rear hatch screened the direct sun, which meant that the remaining light was beautifully diffused.  The grey carpet and shadow area from the rear seats acted as a perfect foil to her skin tones.  The black and white conversion simplified the image.

As you can see: one day, one model, many different looks.  Control your lighting and your composition to get variety into your images.

Cheers,

Derek                     www.galephotography.co.uk

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

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

I’m just a regular guy: Part 3

May 20, 2010

Just before I write the next post I thought you might like to know about another creative photography award!  Well, I thought you might like to know, so here goes… 

I’ve just won an award at the MPA Great Western Regional Portrait Awards.  It was in the “Under 5’s ” category and was from a child’s portrait shoot.  The judge liked the creative lighting, the boy’s expression, the well-controlled background, and the off-centre composition.  Here’s the shot: 

The award winner!

To get back on track with my post… 

You will remember from previous “I’m just a regular guy” posts,  that I love doing shoots for people who I’ve shot in the past.  I’ve just enjoyed a studio portrait shoot for the family of a couple whose wedding I photographed a couple of years ago.  The shoot was great fun, and I got some really good individual images as well as the family groups. 

"Jumping" by Gale Photography

In this jumping image he’s got a great shape and a great expression.  It’s tough to get both at the same time.  This sort of action shot can really give “life” to an image. 

Candid portrait by Gale Photography

 This image shows that it’s possible to get candid images during a studio portrait shoot.  I was using white umbrellas which allow quite a bit of light to go away from the subject, as well as towards them.  This means that the people behind me waiting for their individual portraits were well lit.  Great portraits are about the person’s expression, and her expression is fab.  There’s a real communication between her and the person she was looking at. 

"Black background portrait" by Gale Photography

 Here, I’ve used the same “It’s behind you” technique to get a relaxed shot of Mum sitting on a chair.  I turned round, she realised what I was doing, smiled, and “click”.  It’s clear that she put a lot of thought into what she was going to wear, and I really like the way she chose her lipstick to match the colour of her chunky necklace. 

You could enjoy your own portrait shoot.  Just give me a call on 01793 783859 to book. 

Cheers, 

Derek. 

www.galephotography.co.uk