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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.
Here we are, Natalie. This is our natural light. You can't get more natural light than that. That's God's light. Have a seat in it. I hope you will feel comfortable. I am just going to mention some of things we have here. We have this tent devices that we have got, because it gives very beautiful light, and we have a black board here, because if you don't have that, it's hard on your eyes. Miranda is going to hold a little reflector over there, like she has done before, and I am going to ask you to sit up a little higher if you can.
And then use your arms and lean over toward me. We have a very unusual spot here because here we are in the Hollywood Hills, and we are on our rooftop at 3:15 on a bright summer afternoon, and we have a nice gentle breeze from the ocean here. We still get some of the ocean breeze here, and the most radiant, beautiful lady in the world. She looks so great. So rest back. Yes, yes, yes. Beautiful! Brush your hair back just a little bit.
Good! Wonderful! I love the pink that you are wearing. Okay. Good! Now, I am on 100 ISO and what I am seeing here in the background is this beautiful blue sky. It's Southern California sky at its best. And roll over toward me as much as you can. That's right. Yeah, sit up actually, sit up, and you can use the chair any way you want. Beautiful! Yes, yes. Wow! This is the place. Now you know it. Nice! Beautiful! Yes, yes, yes.
Wonderful! What we had in the living room, which was very beautiful, was a light sort of beaming through the skylight overhead. Even though it was a soft light, it was directional. Where here, this is light that seems to engulf her, Natalie, from everywhere and she is just beautiful. This is very, very beautiful, and this color, it's a deep blue sky behind her and we retain that sense of blue sky. Now, sometimes we do use flash for this purpose, but in this case I love the softness.
So I am seeing all the right stuff, and what I am seeing also is a beautiful pink top, which is no accident that Mandy matched the lips to. Okay. A few horizontals again. Okay. Just a second. Again, it's all about Natalie at this point. So let's see, how hard would it be to stand up and sort of lean on this thing? Natalie: Stand on this side? Douglas: Like so. Is that doable? I am going to take this.
These are apples boxes we call them. They are standard in the movie industry and they are a specific size and what you can do is you can grab them and you can use them for so many things. Okay. Nice! Nice! Yeah, yeah. Right now, for example, I am at about 80 mm. This is one of the lenses that we call-- that we can do just about anything with, because it goes from comparatively wide to moderately on the long side. We have other longer lenses.
In fact, I am going to be putting on a 70-200. Can you get it for me, Miranda, please? Yeah, stay there as you are. You see now I am watching everything. I love the way you pulled your arms there, you pushed down on. Yes, yes, yes. Look at me, yes, nice! Lean to the side more, yeah, this is nice. Yes, yes. Let yourself go looser. On the other side now. Oh, we are lacking the music. That's what. We don't have any Michael Jackson here. Okay, a little happier. Okay. Good! Now, you saw me doing a certain thing there, because I wanted to get as much sense of animation as possible.
If you are shooting, Natalie is beautiful like she is there, but I was trying to get a picture with more motion, not emotion, because she has got a lot of emotion. I wanted to get another. Now, I am just switching lenses very quickly and basically what I am going to do-- thank you-- is I am in the same place. I am going to go to a longer lens right now. I am shooting at 2.8, at 500th right now, on 100 ISO. I like you brushing your hair like that. Do it again, yes, a little happier, yes, yes.
You see, I am letting Natalie carry this herself like an actress and that's often where the best pictures come from. In other words, it's a device to help somebody be themselves. You don't always want to say to somebody, "do this, do that, be on the point." Now, what happens, Natalie, I am going to try something really crazy. What happens if you do that? Yes, yes, yes, you have created something quite nice there. Yes, yes, yes, I love it. Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful! A lot of nice pictures. A lot of nice pictures.
Give me the wider lens please while I am talking. What I want to do is allow Natalie to be creative on her own, and sometimes what I do is I get something basic, locked into something I know is going to be good, and then I ask her to do something like lean or turn. And what it does, in the course of doing that, sometimes a new sort of invention of picture happens. For example, using what's here, the wind is really blowing now and it's cool, I am taking advantage of it, and that's what we want to do as photographers.
I want you to just go down on the daybed and let's see what we can do there. Okay. Relax. You have been fantastic here. There is a certain point where you know as a photographer that you have it. I am going to suggest we go to one more place. I know on the daybed at this time of day and this time of year it's going to be pretty nice. So let's go down there and we will do some more. Okay. Here we are at the side of our home and we seem to use every inch of our garden or yard, and at this time, around 4 in the afternoon, there is a tree cover and it covers lot of the lights, the sunlight I should say.
That's the basic light, and this is the light we came in and looked at. Let's turn this off for a second. This is the light there. No light. Now, see how Natalie's eyes, how it lights up, we get nice catch lights in the eyes? This is just done by dialing this in. This is called the light panel and we dial it in and get just a delicate sprinkling of light. There is not very much light here. I am using 2000 ISO, which we couldn't have done five or ten years ago in any useable form.
And with these new cameras, like this happens to be the 5D Mark II, but there are a lot other good ones, and they allow you to take pictures where you couldn't in the past. But ultimately, I want to say one thing, it is the subject that counts. And my relationship with her at this time-- beautiful, yes, yes, yes. This is beauty, this is beauty, and beauty can be discovered and found in a lot of different places. There is no absolute and only way. There is a point about a studio. I have a belief that a studio can be anywhere that you believe it is.
I could say we were in a studio right here now. And by moving this light a little, one way or another, I create a different effect, as I am giving her more of a sense of her cheekbone, which is thought to be desirable. Yes, yes, yes, beautiful, just like that. So beauty comes from a lot of different places, but don't feel that if you are not in a traditional photo studio that you can't make great pictures. Some of the best pictures of all time have been made, not in photo studios, but right in your backyard, as we are right here.
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