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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 explains how he works with natural light to create beautiful portraits. He shows how to make subtle changes to the light to improve its qualities and make the most of the environment he's working in. He reviews the images he considers the best of the day and also shows examples of how he uses Photoshop to complete his workflow and finish the images.
So you find natural light just about anywhere and here we have a good example I would like you to join me on. It's simply the middle of the day and we have a diffuser and we have Natalie outside in the midday light, which you'd think, "How can you get a picture like that?" Well, you can. It's very simple how we got wonderful pictures. First, we went up and we put a diffuser up above her, so the light isn't-- the midday light isn't coming right down on her. So we have this diffusion device up there.
What I am doing here is I am using a longer lens to get the soft background and we have a reflector at minimal. But again it's all part of your artists and photographers' creativity, where images come from. So we brought a chair up, because you can't have somebody stand in the middle of nowhere and not have some comfortable spot. So we started by bringing the chair up, I had her sit on it, and then I had her stand up and lean on it to get a variation.
Anyway, the light, again, it is so simple. Just a little reflector into Natalie's eyes, and again, the lens is wide open, and that's why you get this soft background. ISO 100 in this case and 750th at the 2.8, that's the exposure on it with about a 120 mm lens. And again, but it's the way she feels, and as a photographer part of what you have to do is keep her feeling good and that's where the magic comes from. Here is my favorite image actually.
It's all done in that same setup. She is just leaning there, and you want to feel the ambience of everything surrounding, because that is what really is telling the story. And just look at her eyes. And I did unfortunately see that there were a few hairs there, so I used Photoshop to remove them. I use Photoshop minimally. Normally I don't need very much of it or next to none, but it helped in this case, and there is where this image came from as far as I'm concerned.
This is a successful image done with available light in the middle of the day. So let's go onto another place. This was very bright light, and then we're going to go to a place that was quite dark. At the end of the day, several hours later, the sun was starting to set and we went down to a daybed we have in our garden that Natalie could sit in and she becomes almost a different persona, a different individual here, because of the environment, and you do effect and create images that way.
Again, it's using a natural light. The light is very low. Now, I have put my ISO up to 2000, and we can do that with modern cameras like the 5D Mark II I was shooting with, and find little noise or grain. And this is an example of one of the pictures that I did, and using this square light called a light panel, it's an LED device, and I very delicately use this, because it's really about natural light here. I'm just dialing in very minimally a certain amount of light, because I want the sculpting that it provides me with.
That gives me this nice cheekbone look and the great catch lights, again, in the eyes. So again, she is comfortable. I am comfortable. We're talking. And you get images like this. This is the image I fall in love with. I love it because, again, that's the single light that we had to a place where you get this nice cheekbone effect and of course the magic in the eyes. But the key here, the base of it all, is we are working with natural light. Have no question of that, because this is really a natural light picture with a slight delicate fill and that's what we've been talking and working with today, natural light.
There are so many aspects of natural light, but it starts with you seeing it, feeling it, and responding to it. If you have to make any change, make sure it's delicate, delicate. Less is more and this is where the magic of photography comes from, especially photography that I care about, made with natural light.
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