Saturday, 27 September 2008

A little splash of colour

Often on a location shoot the location isn't everything you'd hope for. It might be absolutely beautiful, with ornate backgrounds, but painted a yuck colour of brown. It might even be a beautiful colour, but ridiculously dark. Either way, it's not just the model you need to think about lighting, but that background as well.

I did a shoot in a bar/restaurant recently which was one of the former - beautifully ornate, stunning location, but dark and dull. There was a balcony area, for example, which had amazing pillars and ornate metal work. The background was tiles which isn't all that bad (nice smooth undistracting background), but it was a sickly coloured green of all colours. There were four dull lights from above giving light in the corridor that the balcony is part of. There was nowhere near enough light to do the shot without flash, and even lit, the sickly green wasn't going to be making any nice shots. Cue the gel filters!

The following is a setup shot for the first set of shots I did with the balcony.

You can see it's a two light setup. I used a yellow gel on a 550EX (equivalent to the Canon 580EX II) which really warmed up that horrible coloured tiling. You can see on the left hand side what the tiles actually looked like. The second flash is a snooted 550EX (equivalent to the Canon 580EX II) fired from the opposite side of the room from the balcony about 6-8 metres away, to provide light on the face of the model. Thanks to Mike for being such a stunning model for this one!

Unfortunately, this young lady kicked him off the balcony for the actual shots.

Another model? Want another style? It's as easy as swapping the coloured gel on the background 550EX flash (equivalent to the Canon 580EX II). 10 secs to change!

Here's another two light setup from the same shoot. This time it was a grand piano which we planned to have the model perch on for some shots. In behind was some remarkable objects attached to the wall. Haven't a clue what they were, but they weren't all that pretty. Jammed in a blue gel on the background light though, and instantly they took on a whole new feel.

Here's one of the shots from this set.

Again, a change of feel to the shots is as easy as a gel filter change!

It's a comforting feeling to know you have the option of turning up at a location, and almost no matter how ugly or dark it is, you can bring new life to a background with a great big splash of colour.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The witching hour!

Had an interesting concept for a shot recently...a witchcraft style shoot. I'd discussed some ideas with the model in the shot above, and one thing had led to another and the idea of a witchcraft shoot came about.

There was a degree of complexity in the exposure here because of the use of candles. While your eyes adjust to them, and they seem bright enough in the typically dull environments they are used, in reality they are extremely dark. Put your camera on ISO 800, f/2.8 and you'll be lucky if you expose them correctly at a shutter speed any faster than 1/30s.

Therefore a shoot which involves combining flash and candles means a couple of things must be accounted for. Assuming you don't want ridiculously high ISO speeds, or virtually no depth of field, then you're going to have to deal with long shutter speeds. This means nothing can move during the shoot, so you need the model to stay very still for each shot, and you also need to have the camera on a tripod. It can also mean you can get a little creative by purposely having the model move though.

Secondly, given you've picked a higher ISO speed and wide aperture, your flashes aren't going to work hard at all. Where you might normally work with 1/2 power on a decent flashgun, you might easily find you're work at 1/32 power or something of that magnitude. Virtually no strain on the flashguns, so your batteries will last for ages.

A wee bit about the setup. You can see in the shot above how controlled the light is. Every source of light is carefully directed using honeycomb snoots. Only the purple gelled flash is hitting the background, while the CTO gelled flash is directed at the model, missing the background completely. The exposure for ambient is such that a little warm light from the candles can be seen on the model, but not enough to lighten the black background roll noticably.

In the last shot above, you can see the setup. The two flashes mentioned are on the left, one purple gelled, and one warm gelled, which you can see is firing at the ground on the right of the background paper. There's also a flash on the stand which is lying on its side. It wasn't used on the shot at the top of this post, but I added it in later with a warm gel to create a bit extra light on the model as if coming from the candles. There are also two circular 5-in-1 reflectors which are being used to block ambient light coming from windows, which were giving a colour cast in the images, as well as lighting the floor of the background paper.