Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Reflecting on keeping it simple

Back in June and early in July, I wrote about an impromptu photo session with Kristina. The gear I used couldn't have been simpler.

A camera body (in my case, the EOS 5d MKII), a standard 50mm lens, a flash (Speedlite 430 EXII) and a silver reflector.

Although I have a backpack full of camera gear I chose to work as simply as possible because it would make me concentrate on the picture and the framing as I wouldn't be able to zoom back and forth.

The shoot was in my bedroom at home and I spread two black fur blankets on the bed for a minimalist, non intrusive background. 

The bedroom faces west and because the shoot took place in the afternoon, we had strong light coming through the window which wasn't necessarily a good thing!

I posed Kristina mostly with her back to the light source to give her blonde hair some backlighting. This of course threw her face into shadow. This was solved with the aid of my Lastolite reflector. This reflector has been a constant in my camera bag for over twenty years. It is small, light and portable and a great help at "kicking" some light into the shadows.

 The reflector shown folded and open. 
This was the gear used for all three shoots
At the start of every pose, I would take a meter reading from her face with my aperture on the camera set to about f4. the ISO was set to 400. The exposure was then noted and transferred to manual mode. This was for two reasons. The exposure was unlikely to change and the wide aperture meant that the background would be slightly out of focus. Because of these parameters, I had to make sure that the eyes were always in focus. That's what people look at first on a portrait.

On this image, the reflector is just in front of  Kristina's 
knees throwing light back onto the face. f3.5 1/400sec

I was so please with the results that a few days later I received a call to take a basic head and shoulders portrait for a magazine story.

Although I had all my gear in the car, I turned up for the shoot with the above equipment.

To better show the difference when using and not using the reflector I took these two pics.
Before and after using the reflector 400 ISO
1/80 sec @f5.6

Of course you don't have to buy a reflector and can make your own. A colleague of mine used to use an A3 sized piece of card with aluminium foil stuck to it. Make sure though that it's the dull side that is reflecting and not the shiny side. The light will be softer and less prone to making your subject squint.
One negative aspect of making an A3 reflector as mentioned above is that it wasn't foldable, was cumbersome in the field and prone to getting scratched, torn etc. my advice would be to get a Lastolite or similar. take a look at their website. They have some interesting tutorials.

That's it for now. Hope you've enjoyed this piece. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.