Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Knowledge... not gear

Or, portrait lighting on the cheap.

The weather has depressed my drive to take pictures for fun. So, instead of showing you a new photo (which I don't have) or drag an old one out of the files, how about a photography lesson? The subtitle of this blog is "Where it's not about the camera". In the past, I have preached that it's a lot more about knowledge than it is about expensive equipment. To do the lighting in these portraits, all one would need is a sunny day and a $4 piece of white foam core. I use a reflector like this only because it's convenient to fold up and carry around.

I keep threatening to write a book called "Everything You Know About Photography Is Wrong". One thing that everybody knows is that you don't shoot into the Sun. Look at this picture of a girl with the Sun on her face.


I like this one a lot better.


I always shoot into the Sun. I love the way the rim lighting gives a halo effect. The back lighting does all sorts of cool things, but you do need some fill light. Your camera manual suggests that you fill with flash on the camera, but that looks horrible. I fill with a reflector off to one side. Anything white will do if it's big enough. A piece of 20x30 inch foam core that you can get at Rite-Aid is perfect. But remember, the sun needs to be hitting the reflector!





People tend to think that reflector fill should come from below, but for these portraits, I think of the reflector (with the Sun hitting it) as the main light, so I want it kind of high and off to one side. It helps to have a friend around to hold that reflector. If you put it on a stand it's just going to blow over. I also recommend using a telephoto lens for portraits. It's flattering for the people and it throws the background nicely out of focus.

10 comments:

Pete said...

Great tip, Rick. And your book sounds like a good idea but I think you're doing a bang up job of teaching through your blog. Not only with tips like this but with your everyday postings of your photographs. It's no small thing to be able to witness a great artist at work.

fishing guy said...

Rick: Those are some great tips, thanks for sharing.

Anna said...

Thanks for these tips! I just did some work with a piece of white poster board and man did everything POP in the image! I loved the way they turned out!

tp lowe said...

Write the book, Rick!

Joanna said...

You write that book and a lot of us will buy it!

Richard said...

I know your blog isn't a "how to" blog, but I especially liked this post. I see photos on your blog all the time and I'm always muttering to myself, "He did he DO that?" I'm a rank amateur hobbyist but with a thirst to learn more. I have a Nikon D70s and I get some good photos, but I'm not very consistent yet. Still have to "think too much." Nothing increases one's appreciation for photography quite like trying to actually do it oneself.

Heidi said...

This is a beautiful post. I know, the word "beautiful" may seem weird to use, but I am sincere. So simply put... you just broke through with this easy tip and we can see the FINE results.

Rick... you write a book and I will buy it.

Rick Lee said...

Thanks for the nice comments everybody.

Pastor_Jeff said...

I'll join the chorus of appreciative and encouraging voices. Keep up the good work!

D. B. Light said...

Nice tip, it's sorta what the old time cinematographers did back in the days of black and white films. They liked to back-light female stars so as to get that halo effect with the hair.