Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kimberly Fattorini: Darker

I have been pining to do something darker for a while. My struggle with creating something of the literally darker nature is that I'm not sure how dark I am "allowed" to go. Sorry this is going to be boring and technical but this is what I think about. If you're looking for emotional darkness, this is not the post for you.

I have always been drawn to images that are don't have a lot of highlights but instead are lit selectively and with low exposure. Almost to the point where there is no exposure. I'm talking about lots of darkness and maybe just a little bit of "not so dark" but definitely nothing that we'd consider a "highlight".

With this picture, I struggled. I tried to keep it dimly lit. The setup was all for this mood. The main light is a feathered strip softbox (12"x36") that ensures there are no hot spots and also ensures a smooth transition from bright to dark since really it's all pretty dark. A second AB800 sitting in a 28" Westcott Apollo softbox provides my fill light and just a touch to ensure the rest of Kim isn't drowned in darkness. The funny thing is that I think I still "over-lit" the shot. On the back of the camera, it looked pretty damn dark, but when it came into Lightroom it was kind of bright.

Of course, then I had to go and really brighten the hair, parts of hte face, and of course the highlight on her left breast (via the dodge tool). Then of course, I compressed the levels by bringing down the top from 256 to 220 or so. I kept all the darks because I would loose too much detail if I even moved the bottom slider at all. Some color adjustments were made but nothing significant.

The final product is what you see above. Am I happy with it? I'm not sure. I don't know if this is what I had in mind as far as selective lighting is concerned. I think we could go darker still and keep the brights/highlights even darker. I think I'll try my hand at another image later on from this set. Incidentally this picture was a "test shot" and one of the first in this set when I was till "dialing in" the settings on the strobes/camera

Camera info: D3, 24-70mm f/2.8, 1/200th, f/8.0, ISO200, 42mm

Strobist info: See diagram

Model/wardrobe: Kimberly Fattorini

Makeup: Alyssa Fong


  1. wanted to leave a comment on one of your older posts about retouching, but somehow can't...now i'm convinced, magic's in the retouch, not make-up!

  2. I was thinking about doing some dark shots as well, but haven't tried it yet. I was thinking that I would have a softbox or a flash situated somewhere behind the subject at a 45 to 60 degree angle. This would darken most of the front of the subject except for a thin highlight along the edges.

    From there, I'm not certain whether I would like to use a reflector to bounce light off the lightbox or another dimly diffused light source for the barest amount of lightfill.

  3. The question for me has always been a technical one. Most dark pictures that I've seen contain some element of highlights that reach to the far end of the exposure curve. If there's a main light coming in at 45 or 60 degrees behind the subject you will get a highlighted rim light on the subject and depending on your environment might get enough fill lighting as is onto the face. I would undoubtedly put a fill card in front of the subject to ensure more light gets there though...

    But the darkness that I want to create seems to be exposing so little of the subject that there truly are no "highlights". Or maybe that's just my imagination and not necessarily good for a nice shot...

    In your example Thomas, ther