Thursday, December 4, 2014

Improvising light

Yikes, quite a little challenge to overcome today.  I'd shot some staff head shots for Tony and the team at Icon logistics earlier in the week and was using my favourite lighting setup, seen here at work on Tony: A 45cm portable soft box on a stand as my key light, high and camera left, with an Orbis ring flash adaptor for fill.

It gives a nice directional quality to the light, with plenty of detail but with a flattering amount of softness.  There's something about the ring light fill that I love.  Maybe it's that subtle halo-like shadow.


So today I returned to get some shots around the business - NZ customs inspecting a shipment and some containers being loaded at the wharf.  But as luck would have it, there were a couple of staff there who hadn't been able to have their pictures taken the other day.  And there's me with no stand, soft box or ring flash, since I try not to bring the kitchen sink to every shoot any more... my shoulder and elbow joints are starting to complain about all the heavy lifting I do.  All I had were bare flashes and a tripod.  What to do?  I had minutes to figure something out or make embarrassed apologies.

No problemo.  The ceiling was pretty low, so I popped a flash precariously on my tripod, set it to 1/4 power and a 24mm spread and aimed it up.  I was hoping to create a patch of light in just the right spot that would approximate the apparent size and brightness of my soft box.  For fill, I whacked my second flash to about 1/32 power and held it as close to my lens as I could.  It wasn't going to be perfect, but it was going to have to do.


The result pleased and surprised me.  I was definitely in the zone straight away and the new shots wouldn't look out of place against the previous day's.  I could perhaps have zoomed the flash a little more, that bright patch on the ceiling could be a little smaller, to make the light a better match to that of my small soft box.  But we didn't have time to muck around.  This was good enough. I have to say I actually prefer the improvised version.  The big bounce is so soft and flattering, and the bare fill hasn't created any second shadow, due to it's proximity to the lens. I'll definitely use this again some time if I have a low white ceiling.


This is what I love about being a working photographer.  The opportunities to improvise and discover.  And of course, credit where credit's due: Everything I learned about lighting came from David Hobby's Strobist blog.  If you're a student of mine and haven't been there yet, I suggest you go and devour every morsel he offers.

I may just go back to carrying the kitchen sink around though.

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