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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 demonstrates how shooting in a studio allows for precise lighting control and consistency. The course begins with a look at the strobes and light modifiers that Douglas frequently employs for studio portraiture. Douglas positions the lights and then shoots a variety of portraits, demonstrating how he works with a model to capture different moods and positions.
Finally, he reviews the best images from the shoot, analyzing the lighting techniques he employed and showing how judicious use of Photoshop can enhance a portrait without making it look unnaturally processed.
Now, since you've seen some of our work, let me show you some specifics. I'm going to start with the dropout white. How do we do this? I teach frequently and one of the questions often asked is, how do you get this dropout white? It's not that complicated. Let me show you. Here's our deal. Here's our subject. You make sure she's comfortable. In our case, she is sitting on a table. She could be sitting on a chair, whatever, or sometimes people even want to sit on the floor. That's secondary. But make sure she's comfortable, and this is your main first light.
We're using four lights really to create this effect. This is the key light, the principal light in other words. That's giving the main light. Now there is a weaker light, it's a fill light that's coming up from underneath just to fill the shadows in. And then in the background, we have these two lights here. They're giving an even illumination on the background. I'd like to put them off umbrellas and just to get that evenness of light. We have the table in about the center, because I want a distance between subject and the background, because I don't want any of this background light to spill directly.
I don't want the light spill directly from those umbrellas under the subject, our subject here, because that would really destroy the effect. So again, very simple. Let's look at what happens. So you come around here and this is the effect we get. We have this wonderful bleached background. It's very simple. so we got our two lights on the front as I mentioned and then we have the two lights on the background which are just making a very even light on the background and giving that dropout white with slightly greater exposure as I mentioned.
Now this is what we get. This is the result and again, it's not just lighting. It's talking with your subject, making changes, and you can have your subject and she must be comfortable, it must be speaking to her. Because your lightning will do a lot of it but ultimately it's your connection with the subject. So here is-- Okay, this is where it gets really exciting! You make a few small changes. You know in your head as you're shooting the pictures that you've gotten it. And then you say to yourself, what do I do a little differently, what could I change? So, in this case, I ask Courtney to turn, turn to the side.
Now, most people, and I've learned this some time ago, you ask them to turn and they'll turn like that for you, not really moving their feet or their seat, and in a moment they pop back. So the thing to do when you ask somebody to do this is actually rotate. I had her rotate on the table she was sitting on. And then we get this look. And that's beautiful, because look. As she looks back over her shoulder, she looks like she's in command. There is a beauty here. This is where beauty comes from, this how we create beauty, and that's the excitement of this kind of photography.
Now the last element here that we do, it's a very simple one again, is just take a fan. Blow a little fan and the key I always tell my assistants is less is more. Don't make it too strong and don't get it so somebody's eyes tear because it's so strong. It's very gentle, just to make the hair blow. A very simple elementary thing to do, but it gives this wonderful look. It's a sense of being in charge here. She looks good and she knows it, and that's where great pictures come from.
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