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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?