It’s no secret I love natural light portraiture. Like love, love it. It’s my thing. My jam. My modus operandi. I absolutely love the look and feel, and I love its purity: no imposing soft boxes getting in the way, no umbrellas flopping over in the wind, no cumbersome lighting cords tying me down. I like to travel light, and natural light photography gives me the freedom to do so.
Yet, for all the wonderful qualities that come with natural light, it does have its limitations. And to be honest, lately I’ve been feeling a little boxed in. I figured it was time to expand my creative toolbox, try something new and dip my toes into the world of flash photography. This is why I signed up for a Lighting & Portraiture class at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center. If you missed my previous ramblings about this experience, feel free to follow along from the beginning with my first post in this series, Never Stop Learning.
For this week’s homework assignment, we were charged with creating a portrait using artificial light. The parameters of the assignment were pretty vague and we were allowed to use any source of artificial light we wished – on camera flash, speed lights, soft boxes, heck even table lamps. After seeing several examples of various lighting techniques, I decided to try my hand at ‘hard lighting’ (lighting a subject with direct, undiffused light) to see what effects I could achieve using a single off camera flash. I drew inspiration from the simple setup described in the Strobist’s Lighting 101: Hard Light blog post.
I set up my ‘studio’ in the alley behind my house, utilizing the side of my neighbor’s garage as the back drop. BTW – what is it with me and alleys and garages? They are all over my Studio B Photography senior portraits, they’ve shown up several times in previous blog posts (Comfort Zones, Mother Nature Gets A Facelift) and they are even scattered about my 2013 Project 365. I wonder if I was some kind of vagrant in a past life…
But, I digress… back to the homework assignment:
I utilized the high-sync flash function on my camera to eliminate any ambient natural light, and placed my speedlight at a 45° angle (above) and 90° angle (below) to my subject. As a result, I was able to create two totally different looks using the harsh shadows as key components of my composition.
I have to admit, I think the results are pretty cool and definitely not something I could have easily achieved using natural light. Maybe there actually is room in my toolbox for a little more lighting equipment after all…