Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Potatoes... and lighting the scene.

Potatoes by Bill Gekas

Lately i've really been appreciating shooting with one light setups. Most of my images usually involve two or three lights with modifiers and a reflector and this works for many of my shots especially scenes that have a bit more space involved but even with tighter head/shoulder type shots i'll find using two lights and a reflector is my usual safe go to setup.
More recently though when the planned concept calls to shoot with just one light i'm all for it and perhaps a bit more enthusiastic about it. A few years back when I started out shooting strobist style I learnt to light using just the one light firing through a shoot through 43" umbrella. I kept playing with this single light source which I thought at the time was limiting and I couldn't wait to add more lights for more effects holding the belief that extra light sources would produce a more powerful image. I've sort of gone down that path over the last couple of years and now it seems like i've come back full circle and have come to the realization that i'm really preferring these one light setups. They may seem a bit simplistic but I find these one light images sort of have a more organic aesthetic to them, it also focuses me to concentrate more on the composition, tonal relationships, quality of light, emotive expression and other elements that make a great image rather than just trying to wow the viewer with technical prowess. Sure, multiple lights are required for specific shoots but some images can get by with the less is more analogy. Although unlikely, who knows, maybe one day i'll ditch all my lights and go back to natural light!

The above photo 'Potatoes'  is lit using just a single speedlight firing through a 43" shoot through umbrella placed outside the window firing indoors. There's a large white reflector just behind the subject filling in some of the shadow areas but I still consider this a one light setup.

Could this shot have been taken using just the natural light streaming in through the window? Absolutely, the ambient was about four stops lower than where I was which would have had me at a slower shutter speed, a wider aperture, a higher iso or a combination of all sharing the 4 stop discrepancy between these variables. Now considering i'll probably end up printing this at about a 24" x 36" size, working at a slower shutter speed and anything slower than 1/60s handheld is not my ideal solution, a higher iso is not something i'm too keen on and an aperture wider than what I wanted and at this close shooting distance would have rendered the background a bit more bokeh'd (if that's a word). Photos with nice wide apertures producing dreamy bokeh definitely have their place with certain styles but I myself am usually an f4.0 - f5.6 person for this type of work. An artificial light source as simple as a speedlight just solves many issues!

Placing an artificial light outdoors firing in is something i've done before when I don't really want it too studio looking and all I did here was increase the amount of light that was sort of already there in turn letting me have complete control of my shooting environment. Basically i'm controlling the amount of light giving me full control rather than having the ambient light controlling these other technical variables. I usually enjoy lighting the scene, even if it's just to supplement the ambient light that already exists.

With this particular shoot the warm coloured walls were bouncing back some warmth around the environment giving an aged aesthetic reminiscent of the old masters paintings which is something that is usually infused into my work during post, in this case hardly any post warming was needed. This is one of those times when the quality of light and the way it interacts in a certain environment is almost perfect, it doesn't always happen but when it does it's a treat and a pleasure to work on an image during post. Lighting diagram shown below.

Potatoes lighting diagram