Light is Everything!

Posts tagged “Lighting

The Small Space Studio



Can you turn this into a studio?! Yep.

Most of the time we tend to think of photography studios as huge places of sprawling, ginormous, north facing window light. It’s luxurious and lovely. For full time working pros, it might even be a necessity. But for enthusiast types like me, I can’t justify the expense. I wanted to try and see if I could achieve studio results in a really, really small space. These photos were taken in my 9×10 office. A cheap black sheet for background, some inexpensive lighting setups and you’re good to go. The best thing is that this small little studio space is portable. I can take it with me so there’s literally no place I can’t achieve similar results. Here’s a location setup of the small studio. Move some furniture and you’re golden! ๐Ÿ˜Ž



Lighting Workshop

I’m very excited to make available an Off Camera Flash Lighting Workshop I’m doing in South East Saskatchewan on October 13th, 2012 in Roche Percee. It will cover the basics: fundamentals of lighting, getting started with Off Camera Flash techniques and knowledge, familiarization with gear and hands on opportunities to shoot a model on location. It’s going to be a lot of fun! ๐Ÿ˜Ž There are a couple of spots still available so if you are interested, contact me. The cost is $100.00 each and the workshop will start at 1PM.

Gettin’ Hitched!

July 28th 2012. It’s the day two wonderful people made their vows and promised each other forever. It was also the day I became a wedding photographerย photographer who took wedding photos. ๐Ÿ˜Ž Although, with a twist. I also officiated the wedding in my Pastoral capacity. Now, if I only did the catering and the DJ stuff, I’d truly be a jack of all trades. But as it was, the service and the photos were enough. Where to begin?! I thought I would elaborate on the experiences from the day a little bit in this blog post. First of all, as I mentioned it was my first wedding for photos. I did research, as I always do. I went to Manor to scope it out prior to the big day. I’d never been there before and I needed to know some locations. Also, because the wedding was in the evening, the photos needed to be taken care of first. That meant starting at 1PM when the sun was high. And, we had to capture the critical moment of the Bride & Groom seeing each other for the first time. Normally this happens at the ceremony, but with an evening wedding, the need to still capture those moments is key. We setup a little surprise for Kayla and it worked! Lucas caught her unaware and photos captured it all.

Seeing each other for the first time!

From there, I took several more photos of the couple together in the moment. It made for some really great candids. After a few minutes or so, my awesome assistant Michelle helped do some run and gun lighting setups. Nothing fancy, just 1 light in a medium softbox. It gave us a fantastic result and allowed us to keep moving quickly getting a wide variety of shots in the short time we had.

One technique I was dying to try out was Cliff Mautner’s signature lighting setup. No flash was used in this photo. And it was taken at 1:35PM. By turning your subject so that the sun is directly behind her, it gives you an evenly lit face and front. Juxtaposed against the dark backdrop, this technique works awesome. You have to shoot in Manual Mode to get it though as your camera’s meter is next to useless for getting this photo. The camera sees all the white and all the dark and goes “AAAAAHHHHHH!” ย You have to override the meter and chimp it to make sure your exposure is bang on. You could use spot metering for the face, but that’s too easy. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I love the result of this technique. Long lenses, wide apertures and awesome lighting. It’s the recipe for pure awesomeness. Thanks Cliff!

Cliff Mautner’s Style

Speaking of Cliff Mautner, another shot he’s famous for I also wanted to try. It’s the “elevated perspective, shallow depth of field, mad-lens compression, way cool beauty shot.” Putting the focus cursor right on Kayla’s eyelash gave me this photo. I love it! It’s nearly angelic and royal, which is exactly what bride portraits should be.

“elevated perspective, shallow depth of field, mad-lens compression, way cool beauty shot.”

After the bride and groom photos were wrapped up, we had the group shots to contend with. Fortunately for us, we lucked out with the beautiful location and the 3PM time slot. I knew that the sun would be lower by then so some nice north facing shade was perfect for getting everyone uniformly lit. Then, we used my typical group lighting setup with two speed lights & umbrellas to brighten the scene and add some much needed catchlights. I had Kayla make up a list of family shots she wanted in advance so we burned through the group shots in no time in an orderly fashion. I shot all the group stuff with my 50mm prime which ultimately looks better than a wide angle for groups.

A split second after we finished the family group shots, it started raining. Boo! Hiss! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ But, it didn’t stop us. We ducked for cover and made the most of it. Having Michelle with me was vital for getting these photos because she held the light and we burned around quickly and got all the bridal party shots we needed. I really like this technique of framing the bridal party members around each other for a portrait.

Then we finished up the bridal group photos and everyone was wiped, including me. That took us to 5PM which is what we budgeted for, allowing us a nice break to get prepared for the ceremony.

I got my thoughts together for the ceremony and gave my camera to Michelle. She nabbed some ceremony shots for me as it would have been a wee bit awkward to stop the ceremony to do photography… heheheheh…. ๐Ÿ˜Ž But before we did the ceremony I also wanted a shot of the wedding bands. We framed up a macro shot, making use of what was on sight and in theme with the wedding.

After the ceremony there was the party! The rest of the night was candids of the moments that unfolded before us – which in many ways is easier. The shooting gallery is before you and the moments just happen! It’s awesome.

The couple’s first dance

Like any hall, we always are faced with the problem of poor lighting. So to combat that, I put a flash on a stick and had Michelle keep her eyes on where I was going. It worked like a charm and made for some really cool, dramatic lighting as well as just some nice, evenly lit photos too. It was great to have that control and versatility at our finger tips.

Way cool rim light!

So, all in all, it was an awesome day, albeit exhausting. I don’t think I will sign up for the “whole meal deal” again anytime soon, although not many other photographers can do your photos and your service! hehehhehe… ๐Ÿ˜‰ It was a really fun day and the couple was a dream to work with. I was thankful for the opportunity to try something I’ve never done before and I am very happy with the results. Thanks again to Michelle Needham for being an awesome assistant! And, all the best and God’s blessings to Lucas & Kayla! You guys are amazing! ๐Ÿ˜€

A Tale of 2 Dishes

Happy New Year! Another year of photos is ahead of us and that is an exciting prospect. I can’t wait to see what lies through the lens in 2012. Christmas was good for us and we had great visits with family who loved us much and spoiled us more. When Ma & Pa came down for a visit we of course got to talking about photos. Dad, being an avid nature & wildlife photographer, was showing me what he and his photo pals had been up to lately. Winter wildlife can be some of the most interesting stuff! While most guys are sitting around watching sports, these guys are outside watching the epic battle of survival unfold! Check out these amazing snowy owl photos! These aren’t photoshopped! ๐Ÿ˜Ž Just chuck a mouse out onto the snow and watch as white winged warriors wrathfully wreak havoc on unsuspecting rodentia! The main course is served! Hence, dish one.

Photo Credit: Jim Kroshus

(Jealous that dad missed out on snows, we went out and nabbed this short eared owl. Still a magnificent specimen!)

Photo Credit: Bob Schultz

Now for those who can’t handle this much excitement, there’s beauty dishes. (Hence, dish 2). ๐Ÿ˜† For Christmas dad got a wee beauty dish. It’s actually an Opus mini reflector.ย It’s basically a miniaturized beauty dish that gives you a punchy, light that is one notch off of bare flash. It’s a really cool light for, yes, you guessed it, beauty and glam shots as it gives the light a very contrasty feel. I wanted to see how this little guy compared to my DIY beauty dish that I made. It’s basically the same design idea. Light comes from the flash and bounces into a surface in front of the light, then into a reflector dish and then out onto the subject. A little bit of ping pong action is involved and it makes the light slightly more diffused but still has loads of punch.

Automatically you notice the size difference. And with lighting, unlike other areas of life, size matters. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The bigger the better. The small guy produces a much sharper/contrasty light while the bigger the light, the softer the light. It’s the same reason why natural light photographers want huge windows. Loads of big light nice and close to the subject = soft and glorious! Here’s an example of what each light produced on our subject Sven (he’s from IKEA). ๐Ÿ˜€

Opus Mini Reflector Light Mod

Contrasty Light & Harsh Shadows

DIY Beauty Dish

Still got shadows but much softer and more wrapping

So, after a quick peak, you notice the difference. The little Opus dish is much smaller and makes a more focused, contrasty light. It also fits into a gear bag much more conveniently. The bigger DIY dish gives similar contrast and punch, but is more wrapping because it is much bigger. Could you replace the big one with the Opus? Perhaps, depending on the look you wanted. It sure would make hauling it around easier!

But then again, if beauty light isn’t your thing and you don’t care about f-stops & shutter speeds, you can always try Coyote hunting. It’s hours of fun and only about 1/3 the cost of photography! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Photo Credit: Bob Schultz


James Brown: Godfather of Soul. Michael Jackson: King of Pop. Arnold Newman: Master of Environmental Portraiture. Really, he was a pioneer in creating images of people that expressed context. By context, I mean something about the place of the person that adds to or reveals something about the person being photographed. Before Newman, portraiture was people standing in front of a camera, getting their image taken for the soul purpose of the photographer recording their likeness and selling the client an image. “Portraiture” was boring, stringent and contextually void. It may have been tack sharp, it might have been well lit, but it lacked environment. Thus, Arnold Newman creates a whole new genre and approach to portraits. To quote David Hobby, “If you make environmental portraits, you can trace your photographic lineage to this man.”

There’s a great video on YouTube that is worth a watch. It gives more insight into Newman himself as well as his amazing craft that has influenced just about every current day photographer who employs that trendy photojournalism/environmental portraiture.


I was going through my own photo libraries, trying to see if I had any examples of truly environmental portraiture. And to be honest, I don’t have many good examples of it. And by modifying the comment with “good” I mean environments that actually support/reveal the person being photographed. A lot of what passes these days for environmental stuff isn’t really “Newmanian” environmental stuff. Take the famous example of Krupp. He looks reptilian, satanic even with the lighting, colour, mood and environment of his Nazi slave labour factory.

Every element of the photograph supports the core of who Krupp was. Its a far cry from chucking people into some random setting, just to have cool surroundings. The current trend of urban grunge photography when it comes to brides resonates with me this way. Sure, its a juxtaposed environment/subject mix. But it doesn’t necessarily get at who the subject is – unless your bride is actually a homeless person who naturally lives in alleyways.

My point is, let us learn from Arnold Newman, a truly amazing gift to photography. Think about the subject. Get to know the subject. Then make the photograph in a holistic, all encompassing way that weaves together lighting, colour, gesture, mood, and an environmental setting that reveals the true essence of the subject.

Not an Environmental Portrait

Environmental Portrait????


Phos + Graphe

For your Greek Etymology lesson today, we look at “Photography.” It’s a combination of Phos (light) and Graphe (write). Literally “light-writing.” I have always found that part very interesting because the term itself suggests that the person doing the light writing is actively making the image verses simply “taking” the image. It’s a subtle nuance, but it is a telling one. Why? Because with photography you are using light to tell the story of the image. When you are first starting out, you are simply taking pictures. Then, you get a bit more experience and you start muddling around with Shutter Speeds and f/stops and you find out that you have a lot more say in the story telling than you did before. But you’re still in the realm of taking pictures vs. making them. When you start wielding light, bending it and shaping it, you really start telling the story. You start exercising the control and creative license that has always been there, but now it’s on a more kicked up level than it ever was before.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You start paying attention to the direction of the light. Where is it coming from? ย What mood does it create? How does the light flavour the image? What part of the story is being told by how the light bends around objects? How harsh are the shadows? How bright or dark is the background? Does it look like a kid with a polaroid blasted the living crap out of it or does it look like a master of the universe creatively made the image with beautiful soft diffused light? It’s all pretty cool stuff. Light is everything. We should learn all we can about it and when we do, we start to unlock it’s power.

Shooting in Harsh Light

The idea that “You can’t take pictures now! The light is way too harsh!” is a bunch of crap. You can take pictures any time of the day in any lighting conditions. You have to use the light in many ways and ย some are far more pleasing than others! ๐Ÿ™‚

The 5:16PM sun was streaming through our gigantic south-west facing window yesterday evening. It was nearly golden light as it was so rich and warm. BUT, the sun was also low on the horizon as it approached its setting – giving wicked shadows and brutal contrast. The ticket to making pictures happen (and I am NOT saying it makes for optimal pictures) is to break the rules. Put the subject between you and the sun. Shoot right into the light and see what happens! It’s crazy mayhem to say the least! I was fortunate that the bright light was also bouncing off the north-east wall in our house providing this really warm fill light to help illuminate my beautiful subjects. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Are you going to get blow outs? Yep. It makes for some wild & ugly histograms! For pixel peepers, these shots are garbage. But you can still make pictures happen, regardless of the light and the time of day you have to make them.

Ugly-Assed Histogram

These shots are inside my living room, all handheld with my 50mm f/1.8 lens. Are they optimal? No, not really. But they do give some really cool highlights/backlights that challenge the photographer to nail the exposure in less than optimal natural lighting conditions.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Light is Everything

I am always fascinated at the difference good lighting makes to an image. Literally, light is everything in photography. My little girl turned 3 and we had a toddler party with lots of fun had ย by all. We were in our church hall because it’s winter and it lets the kids rip and tear in a bigger environment. However, to take pictures, you almost have to make pictures! By that I mean, the lighting sucks in church fellowship halls! No windows. Tall walls with old florescent lighting. Flat. Boring. Predictable. I did try to take some natural light shots, and they worked out OK. I had to crank my ISO to get them, which resulted in noisy images. But Nik’s Dfine 2.0 software comes to the rescue yet again.

There are two images I want to contrast in this blog entry to show that light is everything.


Cute! But Flat & Boring

In this first image, I used my on camera flash to light up the scene. It result is, we can see everyone. The light is flat and boring. It gives the over all feel of the shot an amateurish, point and shoot, grandma photo. The shadows are harsh and the lighting is uninspiring.

Cute AND Dramatic & Exciting!

Now in this shot, something exciting is happening! Not only is Phoebe 3, but she’s playing pin the tail on the donkey AND she is well lit. Beside me to my left is a huge white cupboard made of melamine. The material is flat and quasi-glossy. By pointing the head of my flash into the cupboard, I made my small speed light into a huge room light! It creates a nice even cast of light with soft shadows and lots of really appealing fall off. The over all image is more appealing and it draws the viewer into the experience of the photo. By looking for ways to do creative lighting in junk conditions, you can make photos instead of just taking them. ย As a point of interest, this photo wasn’t edited in software for the lighting – it’s just the bounce flash creating the loveliness (and of course my daughter who is 3 years of lovely). ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s a slideshow of the pics from the event that I took. In here are examples of amateurish crappy lighting and some better examples of more interesting lighting. The world is a very fun place when you are three!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.