Photographers Near Maryland - Window Light

Even if your not anywhere near the mid-atlantic read on there might be a few tidbits here that are useful. For those of you that are close I invite you to check out the very first mini-workshop that I am leading. It's one of my favorite topics - window light. To lay it all out on the table I'm a little nervous. Not because I'm shy or don't know what I want to cover or anything like that. It's because I've never done anything remotely like a workshop in such a small amount of time - two measly hours. I could do an all day-er on the subject for sure. Maybe a two day intensive - my usual venue for such topics.

I am doing two sessions December 14 back to back for the first time - it's sure to be a bit of an experiment as I consider it open to some fine-tuning. My game plan is not super-scripted and there will be no powerpoint sit down slide shows. I am going to hit every topic that's in the Window Light Field Guide and maybe shoot two or three shots of the each scenario myself. Those two or three shots will definitely be variations in point of view and exposure choices for sure. After my couple of shots the plan is to let each participant loose on the scene with some personal guidance based on what they want or need.

I'm a firm believer that the best way to internalize this stuff is to do it. That's the whole point of this mini-workshop series is an opportunity with some structure to actually make images, experiment with a few different ideas, and take away a few things that you might not have thought about before.

Okay - with the December 14th mini-workshop out of the way I'll share a couple of thoughts that I had yesterday while doing some quick and dirty testing of the location. A place I have never shot one single image before. Normal for the most part with walls a few notches darker than your average domicile. I was shooting tethered into Aperture 3 on my super-slow first gen 11" Macbook Air. Get this part - I was shooting 14-bit RAW with the Nikon D600. Useable but a bit slow - about 9 seconds from shot to full render on screen with a histogram. No big deal for a workshop as I am sure my chit-chat will be way more of a hold up than the render speed.

The tether setup applied one default adjustment - the box stock Aperture 3 black and white conversion. Not a preset just the untouched black and white control block. Lightroom has an equivalent. No noise reduction - obviously no lens corrections. No contrast or curves. Nothing. If you ever wonder why I poo-poo all of the amazing digital corrections stuff that Aperture 3 doesn't do or have such a blasé attitude towards the ultimate noise reduction or whatever happens to be better in terms of post processing look no farther than the image at the top.

Great picture? Nope - I wasn't even paying attention to my un-willing victim. Carly - the only person around with no makeup in her au natural state chucked in front of the camera wearing her sweats. I was only interested in checking out the shooting conditions in various rooms. Happened to be crazy overcast - translation very very dark. In case some of the participants show up with slow zooms I wanted to get a feel for what they would experience in terms of aperture/shutter/iso. This shot was at ISO 3200 f/3.5 at 1/160sec. Of course hand held but I didn't have to shoot it hand held. I could have shot it at ISO 200 or whatever with a tripod or possibly even a monopod. Here's my point - if I can get out of the box results with this IQ without lens corrections, noise reduction, and whatever else comes along why the hell would I dogmatically base my choice of tools solely on the availability or best-est-ness of those particular features?

That stuff is pretty far down my list of why I would choose a default working environment. Then again I know my needs which is more on-point. Arguments over particular features of any given camera, gear, software, etc. are really not helpful if you don't understand your particular needs very well. More important than all of that crap is the light. This particular image is way more interesting in terms of the lighting setup than what gear was used or software did the RAW conversion. It's probably closer to lighting conditions you might see in carefully setup studio strobe scenarios than the actual conditions where I made it.

Let's break it down real quick - shitty picture is my fault. If I bothered to make more than one careless shot I would have fixed my camera work but the light itself is almost perfect in a lot of ways - as in studio perfect. The reality is this is gear-free no lights, no reflectors, nothing but a subject and a camera. Special room? nope I could make this exact image from a lighting setup perspective in about 90% of typical rooms I walk into. Actually the room was quite messy. See the crap at the bottom of the frame? Lighting ratio? Damn close to the age old optimal go-to starting point of 3:1 - meaning the fill and key light relationship is about text book. Nice soft key light, another soft hair/rim light of about equal brightness. Placement and elevation of each - pretty much textbook.

I'm not selling anyone on any particular recipe - this image is a ringer of sorts. A demonstration of how flexible any given situation is if you just look at it the right way instead of what may be the first thing that comes into your head. Of course with the same windows you can make all sorts of pictures that have completely different fill ratios, contrast, and even background tonal relationships. Here's a smattering all with the exact same wall color and windows shot within a few seconds or minutes of each other.

Okay they are all more typical window light higher contrast kind of thing. Let's lower the contrast to varying degrees and play with different lighter toned backgrounds instead of a darker background you see in the first two above. Same room, same walls, same window, same shitty careless camera work by yours truly. The background tones have everything to do with the lighting ratio not me switching out some sort of actual background paper or anything. Me monkey around with setting up a background stand and a big heavy cumbersome roll of paper if I don't have to? No way. As you can see I couldn't even bother to hit the shutter button a a reasonable point.

Okay enough. See why I'm going to struggle with the two hour thing? If you are close to baltimore come on out. As an added bonus you'll get to see me shoot a model I've never worked with before that should be fun - yet another thing for me to stress about. Oh almost forgot - why two sessions? The first one will be focused on portraiture the second one will be focused on fine-art figure so they will cover the same ground from a lighting perspective but will have a bit of a different bent on usage and my 2¢ on how different the two subject treatments are.


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