Here we are on How Was It Done number 4! Tempus fugit as they say. It must be said I’ve really enjoyed writing these pieces for you guy’s and immensely pleased by the warm messages members have sent me... sincere thanks ;0)
For this article I thought I’d ring the changes once more and shoot something that has a little class but lots of va va vooom!
I decided that I’d shoot an image that reflected the commercial reality of my work so I’ve approached this in exactly the same way. That means for this article I’m selecting equipment I Iove and use all the time in my working life... yes it could be considered expensive but in this World you only get what you pay for and as I always say, if possible, I like to stack the odds in my favour... the Qflash helps me do this!
The idea behind this shot was to show despite the equipment choice its the simplicity of the vision that pays dividends when it comes to constructing an image. When you consider the complexity of the image this shot could easily be replicated with speedlights. It just so happened that my Qflash were set up and I thought you may like to see another light source in use. I choose Qflash because for me they strike the right balance of power and portability, especially if I’m heading for the airport, but in essence light is light whatever is producing it.
I wanted to create a fashion edged image that shows a little flare and creativity with minimum kit, just three lights, in a simple, straight-forward, uncomplicated manor.
||The McGillicuddy studio, Warrington, Cheshire.
|What was in the bag:
||Olympus E3 with the Olympus 14-54 f2.8 to 3.5 (set at about 60mm on FF)
1x Quantum Qflash (fitted to the dish)
2x Quantum Qflash (fitted with the standard reflector and diffuser
1x 48” McGillicuddy BIG dish multi modifier.
Sekonic L-758D light meter
||Image captured in RAW
ISO 100, f4 @ 1/8th sec
RAW file processed through Aperture 3.1.3
So what did I do and why did I do it:
First off I had my assistants rip pages from “lads mags” for me and then pin the pages, in a linear manor to some 8’x4’ jablite. Thats just the big sheets of expanded polystyrene builders use for insulating walls, its about £20 from places like B&Q. Its a very useful addition to have in your camera room!
I know it sounds conceited that I had my assistants do this... but, lets face it I was never going to do it myself. A good assistant or helper is worth their weight in gold, and makes my creative life much easier, I’d always recommend you have somebody to lend a hand. Rather than go to the expense of hiring an assistant why not think of teaming up with a “shooting buddy” and you can then take it in turns to assist for one another, just a thought.
OK so my background is constructed and once I’d done a quick test shot to determine how it was going to look in the shot all we had to do was reposition a couple of the pages that would have drawn the eye away from the subject.
Our model was positioned about eight to ten feet off the background, this was so I could be sure that the good old inverse square law would act in my favor and diminish the intensity of any spill from my key light. I wanted to separate Charlie with both differential focus, hence why I chose to shoot at f/4, and light to ensure she really “popped” off the background.
||48 inch big dish.
I’m a great believer in keeping thing simple. I wanted to light my subject with crisp, specular, directional light. However, for this shot I knew that If I used a small beauty dish I’d have to consider a “fill” light to control the openness and luminosity of the shadows. The alternative to setting up a fourth light was to use my 48inch BIG dish multi modifier, configured with its inner deflector as a beauty dish. Not only would this give me the quality of light I was after but when set to give me that raking, fashion feel, butterfly light would act as its own fill.
You can see from the behind the scenes image of the “key” or main light that the angle it was set to achieve my desired patten of light would leave the opposite side of the dish to work like a flat reflector, pushing a wall of light toward the subject. Again thanks to the inverse square law I knew this light would just “fill” and not compete with the intensity of the light shaping side of the dish, as it had a greater distance to travel to reach the subject. I LOVE keeping things simple ;0)
So with the “key” sorted I could look at my two accent o “FX” lights as I like to call them. Once more I needed crisp light with definite direction. I choose to use two additional Quantum Qflash T5dr flash units. I left them fitted with their standard reflector dish but modified the output of light by fitting the reflectors with their diffusion caps as you can see from the behind the scene image.
These lights were placed behind and at approximately 45 degrees away from Charlie. They were then “feathered” back so only the extreme edge “clipped” her and illuminated her sides. Now despite the light being well defined, crisp and bright on the subject that is just an optical trick, because these lights were metered to give a combined out put at one stop less than the “key”, strange but true! A light from behind the subject coming toward the lens always appears to be about one stop more than it actually is. Your incident light meter really is your best friend, so ignore it at your peril!
My overall view image shows the placement of all the components, even the fan, relative to one another.
You can also see from the behind the scenes image of the Qflash the Fw7q freeXwire receiver attached to the side, this takes its power from the Qflash and gives me a no wires, no infrared, wireless connectivity to trigger my lights... magic!
It amazes me that the whole set up is amply powered by the minuscule Quantum Turbo SC batteries, these little beauties are more than good enough for a day of my shooting. They are so compact and capable of powering standard speedlights with the appropriate lead that as part of a well rounded kit, they are a bit of a no brainer!
||Quantum Turbo SC.
|Side view of Qflash.
||Qflash front with diffuser.
One of the keys to the impact of this image is the selection of the subjects outfit and her make up. The make up was applied with “shine” to it to enhance the specularity of the lighting. The dress was selected for its “shimmery” light colour to enhance the lighting and its “floaty” material to enable the fan to give it lift and movement. This adds a further dimension to the image, giving an ethereal blur.
This is where the Olympus E3 series body comes into its own. The in built image stabilisation in the body has enabled me to select an 8th of a second as my shutter speed to show movement in the dress and STILL be able to shoot handheld... it truly is fantastic tech. This technique is called “dragging the shutter” here in the UK and “pop and burn” by our American cousins. Either way the result is the same. The Flash is controlled by the aperture and the ambient (if there were any in this image) is controlled by the shutter speed. In this instance as there is very little ambient in my camera room the exposure is unaffected but it allows me to use the slow shutter speed for creative blur.
That about wraps it up. Once more I think you’ll agree, a very cool, classy image that in essence is just a simple three light setup, the right modifiers, metering and a little thought combined to become an image greater than the sum of its parts!
Photography really is a joy and you get the most from it when you are creatively shooting. I hope this little article with its direct and simplistic approach has in some way inspired you to pick up your camera and shoot.
Any post production?
My simplistic approach applies once again. Every image needs some enhancement but I don’t want to “guild the lilly”. Any imperfections, labels or stray hairs have been cloned out. The skin softening brush in Aperture has been given a quick gloss over and I’ve done a little “dodging” and “Burning” to stop the eye straying. Oh and a tiny tweak, to take a little of the colour saturation away.
In OnOnes photo tools I’ve used the “edges to black” feature to constrict the eye within the frame and thats about the size of it... enhancement not rescue!
Until next time, Damian McGillicuddy
You can read the other parts to Damian's guide here: