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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.
I am going to be working here with Natalie, who is superb here, and I am looking very much forward to it. Working now with the 5D Mark II. I am going to be at ISO 1000 because at that ISO you don't really have noise or what we use to call grain. I just want to do a picture of you as you are there. Okay. Mandy, just step aside for a moment, yeah, come over here. Yeah, that's cool, thank you. Now, there's an interesting thing here, you see pictures everywhere.
And I fuzz the background, so you don't really see it. I will just do one or two more. You don't mind doing this, do you? Natalie: No. Douglas: This is just because I am enjoying... Actually try bringing your hands, yeah. Yes, that's nice, yes, yes, beautiful. Yes, yes, beautiful, yes, wonderful! See, pictures come from the most unlikely places at times. This is the beauty of available light. You can respond to what you're seeing here.
I'm seeing a very beautiful woman here. That's wonderful! Now, I want to just point out a couple things. I want you to see how I am holding the camera. This is my tripod in essence, my shoulder. I have raised my leg up and I've got it there. I have a long lens here. I am doing this without-- I could have a tripod in here, but I like to be able to respond quickly, but you have to be, on long lens, you have to be very conscious of not having camera movement.
It's the most unlikely place. It looks like you're in a big film studio or something, where you are actually in this little white room. It isn't all literal nuts and bolts in photography. It is same as an artist, who doesn't respond only to what kind of a paintbrush he has and what colors he has set up on his palette at the moment. I can't help but respond to something very beautiful, and there's naturalness about this light. This is all the elements. The light is coming from slightly behind, but then it's reflecting off this white wall back on Natalie's face.
All those elements that are creating an image that, honestly, I tell you, comes from my gut. I just feel it in my chest, and I just feel something I know is special. That's what I saw here. And it's more of a response to what you see and just to tell you, I have worked as a photojournalist for many years, you respond and you're very sensitive to your feelings and then your camera is guided by that often, and that's what's happened with me here.
And my dear. So here we are and this is going to be a picture, which we will do. This was the planned picture. I got carried away when I saw you in the makeup room there. I love this daylight. Daylight, this natural light coming from heaven. The reality is that she looks glorious here, and you look just perfect, just stay there back where you are. Don't do a thing differently than you are. Okay. I am working with a 5D Mark II.
I am on ISO 1000, and actually I don't really need that much ISO. I am going to go down a little. Now, what happens -- everything as you are, your little pinkie seeping in. Yes, yes, yes. Yes, that's nice, that's nice! Yes, beautiful! I love the color of your eyes. Is there a reflector around? I'd like it right here please! Miranda: You want gold? Silver if you have it. Or white, white would be fine, right where my hand is.
Thank you. This is good. Take it out Miranda. See, her eyes are a little dark. When I am up above, I don't have that, but when I am down here now, I need the light into her beautiful eyes, her beautiful light blue eyes. And if you're a shooter yourself, remember that your subject gets the attention. I'm talking to you all because I want you to be in-- lean back a little more. I want you to be in the loop with me, but ultimately it's Natalie and her beautiful hair.
Now, I would like the longer lens again. Now, why did I do this, you might ask? Because I have gotten myself a longer lens and it will give me less apparent distortion. In other words, I don't want Natalie's nose to be bigger than her ears. I want everything to be a very natural feeling. I love that you are laughing at me, yes, yes, yes. We're just going to put a background change.
Thank you. See, the magic of Miranda? Okay, you've got it Miranda, that's fine right there, okay. Yes, yes, beautiful! Yes, beautiful! Okay. You see I have only this leather chair in the background. I am going to throw one more curve. Is Jeremy around or has he gone? Miranda: Yeah. Jere! Okay, thank you. Just put it over the back of the chair, Jere, please, a little piece, because I just don't want to see the leather. Bring your arms in a little, yes, yes, yes. Now, I am cool right now with what I have.
I'm finding so many pictures here, that's what I'm doing. You see, I've got a new picture here again. Black is often a wonderful color to shoot against, strange as that may seem, because it makes people pop out. Through the years I've often done that. I've found this -- again, yes, yes. Okay. Now, let's try something else. Okay, just stay there. I don't know what this is but just hold on to it. Yeah. Okay. I want you guys -- okay, thank you.
Okay, nice! Okay, nice, nice, nice! Give me the Hungarian smile. Okay, nice! Yes, beautiful! Beautiful! Wonderful! Just a second. Odd thing is the shoots go really well, that's usually when I pull my shoes off. Okay, nice, nice, Natalie! Yes, yes, yes. Beautiful! There's a delicate quality that you will see in this natural light image that it somehow engulfs the image differently, the lighting does, than strobe.
Now, I have a great loving for strobe because I know I can always get the picture without fail, 24 hours a day. I know the light will always be the same. There is something more elusive about natural light, and some people, some photographers, only want to work with natural light. They find it's more reliable because you have to-- there is more of a learning process to use strobe light, because you have to learn what all the elements will do, whereas with daylight and natural light like this, you can respond to what you are seeing.
And some photographers never really get past this. I like to have both in my repertoire, and the funny thing is, like in the dressing room there and in here, you see things and discover things you might not create with artificial lights of any kind.
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