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In the Douglas Kirkland on Photography series, well-known photographer Douglas Kirkland explores a variety of real-world photographic scenarios, sharing technique insights and critiquing the results.
In this installment of the series, Douglas goes on location and shows how to shoot photographs for publications. He begins with a look at the planning and packing involved in an on-location editorial shoot. Next, he shows how to construct a photo that tells a story about its subject. He demonstrates how to light and position the subject and use props to best tell the story. After getting the shot that will be on the article’s opening pages, he shoots documentary photos that show the subject in action.
Finally, he reviews the best images from the shoot and shows how he uses Photoshop to complete his workflow and refine the images. Douglas also shows how the final images were used by the magazine’s art director and describes how editorial photographers must compose shots with page design in mind by leaving space for typography and other elements.
Douglas Kirkland> Here is the situation. I went into Hannie's house and her work area and I realized that I had to make a picture on the level of-- We had to make her look like a Hollywood star because that's what the magazine said they wanted most ideally. They wanted her not only to look like a star, but to feel it good. So I was going to do everything I could to make that happen. First thing I had to do was have the lighting right, however, and it wasn't ideal. And what happened was there was a window in front of the table where she worked and I said let's put a white seamless up there, and there was quite a bit of light coming through it and I had the choice of maybe putting something over the window to stop the light but I said no, let's use what's there.
Let's let that light come from the back from, through her, and but what I realized is all we have is the silhouette there. That's fine, but you've to do something. So this is where the strobe comes in. Bring the soft box on the front. We switched it on at maximum and what happens? We have too much light and suddenly you're not getting the effect from the outside because it was a rather dark day and there wasn't a lot of light coming through it. So what we did was we cut down the power of the strobe and so it balanced, and when it was balanced, then we were able to start making pictures frankly.
I did a number of things here. I had to cut down the shutter speed in order to get the background. I was shooting it only at 20th of a second. That may sound alarming to you, but frankly it's not as a 20th as you might think of it, because the front if you will remember is all lit by the strobe light, which is going at a 1000th or faster. This is the only area that's illuminated by the 20th and I hold the camera quite steady, and I am at f/9, at 100 ISO. But that was fine at this point. But notice the lighting is a little flat and dull.
So what I did then was raised the light and put it on an angle so I have more sculpturing and more form. This is a much more desirable kind of light and in addition to that, I pulled the table further from the background to let it go just a little gray which I like very much. But I did a couple of other things. You'll notice I am still on a 20th of a second, because I want this background to show. It's slightly grayer because I've pulled the table away from the background, and now I am down to f/16.
Why would I want to go to f/16? Because I want what we call depth of field or focus all clear everywhere and I was able to do that by one very elementary thing that we can do with digital photography today very easily. I changed the ISO from 100 to 400. That gave me two stops smaller and all this clarity. And it's all the devices we have available to us and again with digital it's wonderful because you can experiment and try. I urge you to do that because you will make new discoveries and you too will keep finding your way and making your studio wherever you're working.
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