the photoshooter's journey from taking to making


Sometimes just a bit is just enough. A bump up to ISO 640 kept me fairly free of noise and allowed me to use the screen’s glow as my only light source. 1/30 sec., f/5.6 at 52mm.


THE BEST TECHNIQUE is one that does not scream for attention like a neon t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase LOOK WHAT I DID.

Now, of course, we are all messing around backstage, working hard to make the elephant disappear. We all manipulate light. We all nudge nature in the direction we’d prefer that she go. But what self-respecting magician wants to get caught pulling the rabbit out of a hole in the table?

I recently had the perfect low-light solution handed to me as I watched a young designer working in a dim room, and, thankfully, only marginally aware of my presence. “Lighting 101” dictated that, to get a sense of her intense concentration, I send the most important light right to her face.

Turns out, a light tracer screen, in a pinch, makes a perfect softbox.

Better yet, the light from the screen thinned out and dampened after it traveled left past her shoulders, leaving just enough illumination to keep the rest of the frame from falling off completely into black, making the face the lone story-teller. An ISO bump to 640 and a white balance tweak were enough to grab the best of what the screen had to give. At this point in the “gift from the gods” process, you click, and promise, in return, to live a moral life.

Sometimes you don’t have to do anything extra to make a thing look like it actually was. That’s better than finding a hundred-dollar bill on the street.

Well, almost.

What was your best light luck-out?

One response

  1. Just last week, we had a little low pressure system come through while the Fair was in town. This is rare, this time of year, so I had to go, even though I was tired, for I love to shoot the Fair at twilight, with a dark blue sky behind the rides, as they turn on all the lights. A cloudy sky only makes it all the better. But then, I got really lucky, I saw a break in the cloud mass, low in the sky, and I knew that the setting Sun would, ever so briefly, come screaming through the dark clouds. It did moments later, and it was magical! The rides were awash in a golden glow, their lights on, against a dark sky with lots of clouds…… Some of the best photos I have ever taken while at the Fair!

    May 30, 2012 at 11:17 PM

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