I was looking through some new photos today and thought I would share this one and bit of story that goes with it.
So I show up to shoot with the model you see here, Ashlie. As we are looking at some location ideas she casually says “and there is a shop up there with an old car in it we could use if you want”. What she called an old car was a ’69 Camaro 350 RallySport.
As we pushed open the door to the shop, it wasn’t the Camaro that really got me excited. It was the fact that there was a skylight in the shop roof. What is so exciting about a skylight? The answer is right there in the photo. It is the light itself, the soft diffused quality of how it lights up the space.
It has been a little over three years since I made my first attempts at shooting models. As I look back on it, most of the early work was pretty poor. I really had no idea what I was doing. Anything that came out good was typically by accident. I spent a lot of time fumbling around and hoping for good results.
But I have worked hard on it in the years since. I am completely self taught and that included trying to research and learn as much as I could . In some ways that has helped. For example, just learning how to really use the camera properly required some basic technical knowledge to get me pointed in the right direction. Then came lots of trial and error as I tried to really understand what to do with the camera.
But I followed lots of blind leads before I came to one very basic realization. Perhaps it was there in everything I read, maybe someone had tried to tell me, but I couldn’t see it. It was so simple too.
A photo is nothing but light. That is it. There is almost nothing else that matters, just the light. It is the only thing the camera knows; light comes through the lense and gets recorded.
Like any good gear head, I spent time chasing equipment and gadgets looking for better results. I looked for exotic locations, models, wardrobe, everything you can imagine. I would try to force a set up to work the way I wanted it. Yet none of that really got me the results I wanted.
Just follow the light, that is all you really need to know about photography. Yes, there are other things I have learned that help. Getting a good composition is important, things like depth, creating a 3D like perspective. Emotion is good too, draw the viewer into the image, encourage them to look longer.
But the key is this; these things are all fluid. A good creative eye can come up with all kinds of ways to create these conditions. Yet without the light, none of it will matter anyway. A great lighting set up will automatically create some of these conditions for you. Just follow it.
I shoot almost entirely with natural light. It is by far the most rewarding for me. When it is right, it is soft and flattering on the model. Nothing else is quite like it. I have almost entirely discarded any artificial light for working with models, with the exception of some for background effect.
I am particularly happy with the photo you see above. This is straight out of the camera, no editing. The soft light from the skylight creates a warm, even look. The shadows are soft too, contributing to the depth of the composition. There is light in the model’s hair and her skin appears very smooth and soft.
In the photo you see below, I have used a slightly different technique to create similar results. We are now outside in the bright mid day sun. Shooting in full sun hardly ever gives satisfactory results. So what I have done is to move the model under the shade of the trees. But there is something else that really makes the light in this photo special.
We are actually standing on a concrete pad, an old house foundation. In the bright sun, the concrete reflects the light up on her face. This again creates a flattering diffused light. Again this photo is straight from the camera, as is the following one. With just a bit of touch up, we can make the colors and definition really pop out.
It is the same technique I use for all of our garage shots. With the garage door open, the floor reflects the light. I move the model forward or back from the garage entrance to find just the right amount of light. The amount of sun, time of day and time of year make this a constantly changing variable. Here is an example with Sarah May.
In my earliest work, I had some very good models. But looking back, I can see that I did not do a very good job capturing them. So I think I am going to work on getting some of them back again to see if I can improve on the results. Here is one example, a before and after with one of our first models, Alanna.