LIGHT WORK

Camera - - CONTENTS - Photograph by Bruce Usher, copy­right 2018.

These pic­to­rial fea­tures are de­signed to help you bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ate how work­ing pho­tog­ra­phers deal with sub­jects and sit­u­a­tions, in­clud­ing some help­ful tricks of the trade. In this is­sue, free­lance pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher pro­vides some tips about shoot­ing por­traits with an ex­tra el­e­ment of sur­prise.

The Pic­ture

TV pre­sen­ter and co­me­dian Wil Anderson pho­tographed at his home in Syd­ney with his pet cats for an ar­ti­cle in the RSPCA’s magazine, AN­I­MALS. We’ve in­cluded the fly­ing cat out-take just for the fun of it and to show that it can of­ten take quite a few ‘misses’ to get the de­sired ‘hit’.

The Pho­tog­ra­pher

Af­ter a long ca­reer as a cor­po­rate and ad­ver­tis­ing pho­tog­ra­pher, Bruce Usher now works as a free­lancer pri­mar­ily con­cen­trat­ing on ed­i­to­rial as­sign­ments for a wide va­ri­ety of magazines as well as shoot­ing for an­nual re­ports and brochures. He is also a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion ProPhoto, pro­fil­ing the life and work of other pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phers.

The Equip­ment

Nikon D2X pro D-SLR with AF Nikkor 20-35mm f2.8 wide-an­gle

zoom used at 20mm to give the nec­es­sary an­gle-of-view and at f11 for bet­ter depth-of-field. Bowens stu­dio flash monobloc.

The Tech­nique

Bruce says that the room was hard to light be­cause of its size and the an­gles in­volved, so he ended up us­ing just one flash monobloc fit­ted with a large soft­box to give a softer, more dif­fused qual­ity of light­ing. Be­cause the cats in­ter­act­ing with Wil was the most im­por­tant as­pect of the im­age, Bruce tried to keep ev­ery­thing else as sim­ple as pos­si­ble, in­clud­ing the back­ground.

How It Was Done

‘Never work with chil­dren or an­i­mals’ is an old show­biz say­ing, but for­tu­nately two of Wil’s cats were rea­son­ably co-op­er­a­tive (the third was very shy and didn’t ap­pear at all), coaxed into po­si­tion by the pro­vi­sion of food. How­ever, the “se­cret weapon” says Bruce was Wil’s ex-girl­friend who knew the cats well and was able to at­tract their at­ten­tion when needed. She was po­si­tioned so, on cue, the cats would look into the frame. Post-pro­duc­tion in­volved cloning out some cat food and a cat toy, light­en­ing the blacks and ton­ing the couch’s tan colour a frac­tion to make it less in­tru­sive.

Tricks Of The Trade

When there are un­pre­dictable el­e­ments in­volved (i.e. two cats), the best ap­proach is to go with the flow and be flex­i­ble, but also be ready when ev­ery­thing fi­nally comes to­gether. How­ever, try to min­imise the un­pre­dictabil­ity which, when work­ing with an­i­mals, means hav­ing some­body they know and will re­spond to.

De­gree Of Dif­fi­culty (Out of 10)

Cats are no­to­ri­ously un-co­op­er­a­tive if they de­cide to be, so they can be quite a chal­lenge if you have a par­tic­u­lar pose or ar­range­ment in mind. You’ll need lots of pa­tience and some creative wran­gling to achieve any sort of a re­sult. Wil Anderson, ap­par­ently, was quite easy to work with here, but we still think this as­sign­ment is def­i­nitely worth a ten.

Can You Try This At Home?

Pho­tograph­ing peo­ple is more fun than you might imag­ine, es­pe­cially when you start­ing ex­plor­ing the things that in­ter­est them and are a big part of their lives such as pets, hob­bies, sports or artis­tic abil­i­ties. In­clud­ing these el­e­ments in the im­age adds in­ter­est and con­text… and, yes, you can get started in your own home with fam­ily mem­bers or friends (plus the pets!).

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