Sometimes the hardest lighting setups to achieve are actually the ones that look the easiest. For years I’ve wanted to emulate that dappled lighting you see through leaves on a sunny day, or that rippled light you see at the bottom of a swimming pool when the wind catches the water. Like I said, this should be relatively easy to recreate in a studio in theory, as every natural light setup is only ever one light. How hard could that be? (<- photo-nerd pun)
It’s not often I get to shoot very simple, clean white light shots, but in a recent shoot the model asked if she could get some updated ‘Polaroids’. For those of you not familiar with the term when used in reference to a model shoot, it’s actually not the now obsolete and ludicrously expensive single-shot film, but a request for very basic portraits of the model for their agency. This ‘Polaroid’ term is a relic from the analogue film days and it essentially now means shots that are un-retouched and with the model wearing very little makeup.
If you’re like me and you’ve tried to attach gels to your lights in the past, you’ve likely resorted to using one of the many types of sticky tapes available. When I used to manage a studio, I would see all manner of tapes being used to attach gels to hot modifiers. From masking tape, duct tape, parcel tape and when they ran out, even regular old sticky tape was used. But ultimately, all of these tapes fell short in achieving their simple task of holding a coloured gel in front of a light.
Art has arguably been around almost as long as humans have. The moment we learned to mark something for others to see and interpret, the moment art was born. Thankfully for us photographers, we needn’t go quite that far back to begin learning from the history of art, in fact we only need go as far as the ‘Old Masters’.
Since the recent release of my new Long Exposure Portraits tutorial from RGG EDU, I’ve been inundated with messages and questions relating to the light painting section.
Questions like: ‘What’s the best light painting tool to use? ‘Where can I get them?’ ‘Which ones did you use in your video?
Long exposure photography is tricky, especially in the studio when you’re trying to combine multiple light sources within a single frame that have very different brightnesses and colour temperatures etc.
So although I believe this article will be very useful to many of you, there will most certainly be others that perhaps have little to no experience with long exposure photography and as such this article might seem to brush over certain long exposure lighting ideas.
Embarrassingly a few years ago I was very vocal about how disappointed I was about some of the Nikon lenses. I’ve been using Nikon cameras and lenses for decades and although I was very pleased with the image quality and colour rendition their cameras produced, I strongly considered jumping the Nikon ship in search of crisper, cleaner looking lenses. In fact I was so close to leaving Nikon a couple of years ago that I went through the process of hiring and testing other brands to see if other manufacturers could deliver what Nikon could not.
For those of us that have dealt with colour in any way digitally in the last decade, we are unfortunately all too familiar with the dreaded colour banding issues. If you’re not sure what colour banding is, then it’s the visual ‘stepping’ of colour that happens in digital files.
It happens a lot and it can happen for any number of reasons. The most common scapegoats for colour banding are usually poor colour depth in our cameras, aggressive compression algorithms with online sites and any number of other technical failings. Although all of these are often part of the problem, I see one other major culprit of severe colour banding and that’s lighting.
This will thankfully be a quick little technique on how to fix an issue that can be incredibly infuriating. This discolouration issue I’m referring to arrises when you’re using the dodge and burn retouching technique and the frustrating part is that it only presents itself once you’ve finished doing all the retouching.
Colour grading tends to specifically refer to the colouring of video and in photography, we often refer to this as colour toning, but whatever you’re happier calling it, this process of making a conscious decision to apply a specific colour-look to an image in post-production is an incredibly powerful tool.