Studio Shadows

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Page created July 19, 2014
Sitting date: 
 May 21, 2013


I like to say that the second or (better yet) the third session I have with a model is my favorite.  The thinking is that my first sitting with a model is just for getting acquainted.  It's a bit strange but I tend not to feel like I know what a model looks like until I photograph her myself.  By the second or third session, I start to devise concepts specifically for that model.

Not so today.  On this day, I was experiencing the photographic equivalent of "writer's block".  I just had no ideas for Tiana.




Make no mistake -- Tiana is a world class traveling model.  I don't want to talk for her, but she, too, was distracted this session:  she was just days away from a cross-country move to a new city, and she was about to start a transition from modeling to photography.  Her modeling career has been a lot longer than most models.  Still, transitioning to another (albeit related) field can't be easy.  For what it's worth, she is a wonderful photographer.


So, I fall back on "getting acquainted" thinking.  In particular, when I don't have a specific concept in mind, I fall back on trying out an unusual lighting scheme, and I conceived this one, with the main light being a little harsh & positioned behind & to the side of the model with a softer fill light on the other side.

I was (and still am) inspired by the master impressionist painters.  Every look at the masters?  They are all about light.  They light faces in unusual but natural ways, and that can be captivating.  As a photographer, I look at a big lot of photographs, but many images have "standard" lighting.  It's a good thing to stray away from the standard & try to emulate the masters.

I'm glad I tried it, but I can't say that I like it.  I was trying to create shadows across the figure, and I achieved that.  I like how the shadows add depth to the image, especially of Tiana's figure.  However, it is not a good look for lighting a face.  And I could have balanced the exposure a bit better.

So, overall, I don't like this picture.  However, when I applied the "paint brush" artistic effect on this image (see below), the part that I don't like (the light on Tiana's lovely face) becomes less important, and the overall structure of the image (and how it was lit) is revealed.  The "paint brush" version is a big favorite of all my "artistic effects" images -- indeed, it could be my favorite, and a print of this image is hanging on my wall.



A favorite!


th02d_0066col700.jpg th02d_0066col700brush.jpg


Here is an exercise in cropping.  Cropping is an old habit of mine and it is ingrained into my "process".  I am always looking for the central "essence" of an image,  In this case, I thought the "essence" included the musculature of Tiana's shoulders & shoulder blades, so I cropped the image there (see below).

Cropping goes hand-in-hand with composition, and I do like "off-center" compositions.  See the pictures after the cropped image below.





I still have the sense that the lighting is not quite right.  I add a light pointed at the back wall, just so the shadow that defines the right side of the image (or Tiana's left side) gets better defined.  I hate shadows disappearing into other shadows (which often happens in one-light setups) -- I'll always do something to define the shape of the non-lit side.

I like this light, but it doesn't "fix" the face lighting.  But it's important to try different & new things & trying to make them work.  




If I may pat myself on my back, I'm glad Tiana & I persisted with this setup.  It wasn't overly satisfying at first -- I especially didn't like the light on the face, but we've made some significant adjustments:

  • I didn't like the light on Tiana's face when she was facing towards the camera!  That's easily address -- I asked Tiana to face towards the light source.
  • Adding the light on the back wall balanced the overall lighting well.

I like this image.



I look at a big lot of images, every day.  Not surprisingly, most are "average", in my opinion, and what makes them "average" often is the absence of shadows.  There is something more "elevated" in these images.  More often than not, it is the presence of shadows that define shape & depth in an image. 

I got to say that I hate those images that look like light was haphazardly thrown in until the camera decides that there's enough light to make an exposure.  Sure, when working with natural light, you have to take what's available & make minor adjustments.  But when you are working in the studio, you are crafting light.


At the time of this session, I had the sense that this lighting setup was falling short of my expectations.  We had time for one additional setup, but I was still in "distracted" mode.  So, I pulled out my favorite backdrop, shifted the light around to something less radical, and we made some more exposures. 

Studio Draped 


(Remember -- feedback is always appreciated) 

All images (c) 2014 Looknsee Photography

Tiana, Second Visit Out Takes

More than 100 more images from this sitting are available in the Out Takes Galleries, which are available to those who have made a donation to the upkeep of this web site.  See this FAQ question for more details.