Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Classy vs. Edgy

When I was testing the lighting for this set I told Mladenka I felt like this was an exam. I felt like I had progressed to a level of strobism that required me to demonstrate what I understood about controlling light.

In my last post, I mentioned how reluctant I was in the past to shoot with the piano because it was so close to 3 white walls. Thus controlling spill was the biggest concern on my mind for this set. The second most pressing concern was actually creating the semblance of the piano. The piano is highly specular because it's glossy black. You know from
Lighting 102 that you can't light a specular object with just light alone. You must light with the reflection of the light source. Well I didn't do such a good job of that. I had only 30 minutes to set the shot and shoot it so I failed in that respect. Instead, I decided to create the semblance of the piano from inside. Since the top of the piano was open, I shot an SB-800 (on a stand) into the piano to light the "innards". Fortunately this didn't spill much if any light into the black background.

The main light was a 20 degree gridded 22" beauty dish on an AB800. This has become my favorite main light. Not only does it allow for tight light control but also provides the added benefit of light falloff around the edges where the content is not as important. While I could have used a 10 or 20 degree gridded 7" reflector, the light from the beauty dish was just soft and hard enough with control to achieve the edgy effect we were looking for.

Ultimately we created a shot that was both edgy and classy. Mladenka's wardrobe, make-up and the piano all promoted the look and feel for the shot. Thus retouching was pretty straightforward. Strangely however when I say "straightforward" I realize that this means very little to the audience and even stranger, while I know it's straightforward I'm not sure I can put this into words. My retouching process/workflow has changed recently to embody certain techniques that I can't verbalize. Mentally I think I'm making a breakthrough in terms of envisioning lighting and thus highlights and shadows. My basic process still exists; removing blemishes, adjusting levels/curves/color, adding highlights and shadows, but there has been a shift in the way that I do my dodging and burning. When I get better at this I might try and verbalize what I do but it's a little advanced and a little outside my mental capacity to explain what I'm doing. All I can say for now is; it just happens.

Strobist info: Main light is an AB800 in a 22" beauty dish with 20 degree gridspot coming from upper camera left. AB800 in barndoors from camera front right as kicker/rim light. 1 SB-800 on a stand from camera front left shooting into the piano and also providing rim lighting on Mladenka's back. 1 SB-800 in 28" Westcott softbox for fill. Black background literally touching the piano. Oh and I left this out of the diagram but there's a huge piece of black paper taped to the AB800 on the back right to eliminate spill. It's basically an ugly flag.

Camera info: D3, 24-70mm f/2.8G, 1/200th, f/16.3, 42mm, ISO200, triggered by Gadget Infinity (Cactus) V4 with a 98% success rate.

Processing: Lr2 and PS CS3

Model: Mladenka Grgic

Makeup: Mladenka Grgic

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