S I M P L E O N E - L I G H T S E T- U P S

Fash­ion pho­tog­ra­pher Brett Stan­ley demon­strates how to cre­ate bold, dra­matic por­traits — with only one light

New Zealand D-Photo - - HOW TO -

As pho­tog­ra­phers, we rely on light to cre­ate our im­ages; with­out it, we would just have black frames. In fact, ‘pho­tog­ra­phy’ ac­tu­ally means to ‘draw with light’. We use light in dif fer­ent ways ev­ery day, and its ma­nip­u­la­tion is what al­lows us to give the same sub­ject a dif fer­ent look with­out mov­ing the sub­ject. Think of land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy: the same scene can look very dif fer­ent over the course of 24 hours, and it’s all down to light. The di­rec­tion, colour, qual­ity, and quan­tity of light are what give ev­ery­thing we see its spe­cific look. Change any of these pa­ram­e­ters, and you change the ap­pear­ance of the sub­ject — which is great, be­cause it gives us loads of op­tions when we want to get cre­ative with our pho­tog­ra­phy! In this ar­ti­cle, I want to show you two very dif fer­ent shots that I took, ex­plain how I lit them, and then give you op­tions for ways to re­cre­ate them us­ing a few dif fer­ent tools.

My pas­sion for pho­tog­ra­phy comes from shap­ing light. I love be­ing able to get cre­ative with it to cre­ate a cer­tain look, and my in­flu­ences for this pri­mar­ily come from cin­ema, in which light­ing is used to cre­ate the mood of the scene. A lot of that light­ing is ar­ti­fi­cial, but set up in such a way that it mim­ics the light that would be there if it were a real scene. For ex­am­ple, the light on an ac­tor’s face that looks like it’s com­ing from a lamp in the room but might be off-camera. This is called ‘mo­ti­vated light­ing’ — it’s fake, but your brain be­lieves it be­cause it seems to be com­ing from some­where that there could be a light source in real life. Shoot­ing at night means that you can con­trol the ar­ti­fi­cial light more eas­ily than dur­ing the day, and in the pho­to­graph of skater Richie (op­po­site page), the main light source is of­f­cam­era right. It could be from a street light, or even the sun be­tween some build­ings, but is, in fact, from a small Speed­light strobe (or flash) mounted on a stand. This im­age was taken at night near the open­ing of a large tun­nel in down­town Los An­ge­les. There was light from the nearby streets, but it wasn’t very in­ter­est­ing or bright enough, and I re­ally wanted to cap­ture Richie in this pose as he wrapped his wrist. I quickly set up my Speed­light with a re­mote trig­ger con­nected to my camera, so that it would fire when I clicked the shut­ter, and put it down the tun­nel pointed to­wards him a lit­tle. I wanted to only light half of him to give the scene some depth, and I used a lower shut­ter speed to cap­ture some of the am­bi­ent light to lif t the shad­ows on his other side. The side light gave the im­age a nice con­trast and bal­ance, while it left the other side of the im­age darker, re­ally draw­ing at­ten­tion to my sub­ject, which is what we want for all our im­ages.


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