Join John Derry for an in-depth discussion in this video Comparing shooting methods, part of Lighting and Photographing a Still Life.
- I'm just going to go ahead and start lighting this, so, each time I'm going to hit the flashlight, just before that, I go ahead and I use my remote to start an exposure, and you can tell when I'm exposing with the red light that's on. And I'm going through here, and I'm just creating a number of different lighting exposures, so some of them, the light will be from the left, some of them, in this case, the light is from the right.
Sometimes I'm looking at what the reflections on the vase are doing because I did want to capture some of those highlights to composite together with other exposures. You can see, too, I'm also doing some lighting from directly overhead. The key to doing this, too, is to think about just doing one light at a time, and generally do a few exposures of that particular lighting idea that you have. And at the end of the session, you should have probably four or five, six different good lighting angles as well as a keeper out of each one of those sets that you do.
And those in general will be the ones that you're going to use in the final compositing. The other nice thing about this set up is that because it's very experimental, you don't always know exactly what the lighting is going to do, that instant feedback of being able to look at the display and see what you're getting gives you kind of a build-up of knowledge as you go along. So you get pretty fluent with being able to light it the way you want. The first few exposures are just kind of getting the experience with the particular set up.
I should also note here that this is a bit of an artificial situation, you can see how we have lighting in the back, normally I like to keep the room pretty dark. It doesn't have to be pitch black, you want to be able to see, for one thing, but you do want to keep it fairly dark. So the lighting set up that you see here is actually more aggressive than I would normally do this. I use a dryer sheet as a way to stop down the light on these flashlights as I work with them.
Through experimentation, I can see directly from an exposure if the light is still too bright, I will add a little bit more of a dryer sheet covering to the lens of the flashlight. And obviously the more diffused and the more layers of the dryer sheet you have on there, the less light you're emitting from it. So effectively, I can keep myself from always doing over-exposures that way. If you really wanted to go about this in a systematic way, I would probably just start low to the left, then do a few of those.
Go out, maybe 45 degrees, do a few of those, another 45 degrees, and then finally over to the right. And then maybe do that at different heights, also, angling the flashlight, and you can see before I expose, sometimes I do a few hits with the light just to take a look at what the quality of the light is, based on the angle and distance. And there's an interesting one where I actually change the position of the light.
As I moved, unfortunately, it looks as if I probably got a little bit of a streak on there. That's what I'm trying to do here. Now that one appears to be a way to get a bit of a highlight on the vase. You can see, I'm just checking, that's a much brighter light so these are generally just very quick. And I could see what I was doing there, was I was actually kind of twiddling the light a little bit, so instead of a one exposure at one direct angle, I'm actually moving the light a little bit.
And what that does, is it creates kind of a softened quality, and occasionally you'll see that that light actually has a strobe mode in it, and if I click the button too fast, it will go into strobe mode, which, obviously, I normally don't want. And here I'm setting up to try to get a backlit shot, which can be a bit tricky, because it's real easy to capture some of the actual light itself. And it may or may not end up working. There, again, that looks like it's another bit of a backlit attempt.
Moving the light a bit as I'm exposing, again, what that does is the light gets kind of a dreamy quality, because we're not getting a burst of light from a single position, but it's actually in motion and that changes the quality of the light. Now, this looks like this is where I'm trying to probably get some of those direct reflections off of the vase. So I've got the light almost exactly in sync with the lens itself so it's a straight on light.
I always tend to over-shoot in the good sense that I'd rather have more to choose from than less. And so, when you've got this set up and it's on the tripod, you might as well go for a pretty wide range of shots.