In last night's Advanced Seriously Fun Photography class our main goal was to really tune in and see light. We looked at the qualities of light, then tried to apply that to how the camera sees light. A few ideas became obvious right away: because the eye opens up when it looks at dark areas and closes down when it looks at bright areas, usually the camera records a more contrasty version of a scene than our eye sees. Dark tones become darker, falling into solid black, and light areas may burn out in a photograph even though our eye can preserve detail in the same scene.
We started our exploration by making a purposefully "bad" shot -- taking a person into tricky or unflattering light and trying a photograph there. We noticed where light falls on the human face, and it creates a shape (for better or worse). We then followed that up by trying to "repair" the light in that spot. We added a reflector to fill in shadow areas, or used fill flash to try to better light the subject.
Fill flash can be tough, and we struggled with it. That's not a problem: it's tough for photographers at every level. We again practiced methods of balancing ambient light and on-camera flash, and we looked at what happens when we're able to bounce light off a ceiling or wall. We also tried bouncing off a reflector or using a reflector as diffusion material.
We attempted to understand the qualities of light: hard light versus soft light, the directionality of light, the color of light, and then tried an experiment in seeing how we could "short" light a person's face. Our basic technique here was to put the subject in a position where they turned slightly to the right or left. We then looked at which cheek was "leading" (toward the camera) and experimented in giving that cheek more light or deemphasizing it by letting shadow fall on it. This clearly changed the shape of the face as read in the photograph.
We also looked a bit at how focal length effects the face: we compared the same framing of a face at medium and telephoto focal lengths and realizing that longer focal lengths appear to compress or flatten the features.
We also tried to put all these elements together for a casual portrait, trying to train our eyes to see the light, while still choosing a good framing, appropriate focal length and maintaining a relationship with our portrait subject.
In the end, however, our goal was to stop projecting our expectations of what we'd see and really see the light present. As well, this was a lead in to next week, when we will be using studio lighting and trying to really see and control light.
Our homework was to shoot one portrait of this type, using natural light or adding flash as needed.
Icarus in Fort Worth at Tribute Film Festival - Our short documentary "Icarus in Fort Worth" screens Saturday at the Tribute Film Festival in Abilene, Texas. Tickets are free. *The Tribute Film Festiva...
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