Sunday, January 24, 2010

Learning By Shooting

Sometimes, all the theory in the world wont help you. Read all you want. Absorb every idea and suggestion. But when photons start flying and shutters go click, well... that's when you find out if you understood any of it.

Today was an eye opener.

I have been reading about lighting theory every night now for about a month. Everything from portrait lighting, minimalist lighting (using handheld off-camera flashes), strobe lighting, natural lighting and even just books on the theory of how light moves. All hoping for some grand insight into how to get the effect I want.

Here are today's results.
David Kingsbury's vase, copyright Cold Springs Studio Photography ©2010

This was shot with my usual, overhead lightbox, loaded with three daylight balanced compact fluorescent bulbs. One white card on the right side and a reflective card on the left. Simple, standard and pretty reliable.

David Kingsbury's vase, copyright Cold Springs Studio Photography ©2010

This was shot with one handheld Nikon SD-600, with a homemade snoot and held above and over the axis of the camera. Damn. I guess now the question is how do I keep that beautiful subtle background when I want it? How do I get a softer fall off in the shadow at the foot of the vase?


justin said...

Since here you're switching from a soft overhead light to a strong semidirectional key, couldn't you simply combine the two in order to produce the softer drop off under the vase? Obviously this would provide a lot of light but as you'd be using a two point lighting system I feel like it would provide the roundness that you're looking for on the shadows.

Alex Solla said...

Justin- In actuality, the second image has both lights in play... a bank of fluorescents in the light box, and the single strobe. Pretty wild. I am just wondering how to do it without the softbox. I am thinking about making something like a "grid spot"... made by taking either straws or coroplast and making a box full of baffles... in order to basically condense and order the beam of light. Dunno if I can even find coroplast anywhere around here.

Worth a try though!

Brian said...

'They' say that umbrellas can 'wrap light around', although I've had mediocre results at best. Is it the soft box itself you're trying to eliminate, or just the constant source vs strobe? We have white popcorn ceilings, and I've bounced strobes up into that before.
Try a craft/hobby store like AC Moore or Michaels for the coroplast, over in the art/posterboard area.

Alex Solla said...

Brian- I guess what I am trying hardest to figure out is how to get that nice fade from black to light behind the object. I have figured out (after playing a lot last night) that I can make do with a snoot, to basically spotlight the object.

So, as for WHY I want to move towards flash... I like the color better. Cleaner, more pop. Shooting with constant light has the advantage of being WYSIWYG... but the quality of light is sometimes lacking any punch.

Bulldog Pottery said...

Hey Alex, You are dedicated! I love it that you are reading about light. Do you have a favorite book you suggest? What is a snoot? When you say flash are you meaning strobe light?
You are inspring to keep moving forward.

Alex Solla said...

@Samantha & Bruce -
Favorite book on light? Jeez... I have read so many (and yet it doesn't seem like enough)... I think my favorite books have been by Joe McNally (Hot Shoe Diaries, The Moment it Clicks). His writing style is very casual, and he has gotten to shoot some amazing stuff!

A snoot is basically a tube you wrap around your flash to hold the light in TIGHT so it doesnt spread as much. Will post pics next week I hope.

Flash can be either strobes or speedlites... anything flash based and OFF camera. So, since we are so damned broke right now, that means low-end Nikon speedlights which happen to work wirelessly with my camera, Nikon D-80. Saved some agony there.

If you and Bruce can find an excuse, maybe I can swing down your way in April or May and do a workshop and shoot some of your work if you are so inclined. Cheers!