Single Primary Light Photography, Still Life and Portraits, Evening in Paris

January 09, 2012  •  Leave a Comment
Lighting is an utmost essential ingredient to a good photograph. Beyond the very basic need of enough light to take a photo in the first place, lighting contributes to color, mood, atmosphere, ambiance and drama of a photograph.  Certainly, you need a suitable subject, composition and technical skill to form the basis of any photograph: The better each of these areas the better is the photograph you produce. Yet, with the same subject matter and composition, changing the light will often dramatically alter the photograph from ordinary to very good, from snapshot to excellent.  This is true whether the subject matter stirs smiles, tears, joy, revulsion or basic curiosity in the person looking. 
 Please, No more!
 
Of course, I have learned that some people simply have no interest in any photos anyway, anyhow unless possibly of their kids.  And, everyone with a camera and able to put on a Thanksgiving Dinner has a photo of the table, a photo always a must to take but never seen again. If you love photography, this is a "to live with".  Some people simply would always rather do something else than see your photos! I know that is nuts but is reality.
 
HOW I DEFINE SINGLE SOURCE PRIMARY LIGHTING
Obviously, outdoor shots are single source lit...by that single source we call the Sun.  That light is quite varied depending on surroundings and nature of the sky at the moment.  In an open wide expanse of flat land the sun would seem more single source. In a city it is still a single light but reflections abound from built up surroundings.  This is natural light and is not what I am concerned with in this post. We are at the mercy of weather and time of day when shooting outdoor photographs, even if we do help it along in some ways. Timing and a good eye are needed for truly fine outdoor photographs.
 
A night in Paris no one remembers

 

Today, the single source primary light is a single artificial light.  For the photos shown, the light was a tactical flashlight by Surefire™, a very bright little light designed to hold next to a defensive handgun in target acquisition or used in emergency to temporarily fog the vision of an adversary.  I use the light because it is bright enough to cover a long distance in the woods and able to illuminate the deepest shadows easily.  The price paid is quite short battery life.  Why do I have only these photos to show today?  I used the Surefire™ flashlight to play with light bright enough to allow photos with only a sparse amount of ambient light sneaking into the hastily rigged up "studio".The next day I got out of bed all excited(it doesn't take much...and yes, I do have a life) to try more photos. I set up the studio again and put out expertly selected subjects  Camera ready...all set, turn on the light!  It was yellowish. A pack of new lithium 123's should arrive at the door any day now.
 
 
A flashlight? What camera settings did you use?
The bright flashlight made it possible to rather easily take photos inside with a tripod to prevent shake from a slow shutter.  Settings were based on ISO 400 (digital equivalent film speed) and that meant all I had to be concerned with was how open was the lens(F stop) and how quick was the shutter.  The  general settings were in the range of F/4.5 to F/8 at shutter speeds of 1/30 second to 1/50 second. Surprisingly, the faster shutter speed was at  F/8.  Remember, light power goes up or down very quickly depending on the distance the light is from the subject.  The 1/50 second shot had the light quite close to the subject.  The camera was set to aperture priority and I chose that to start.. If my choice of aperture did not give a good start for a particular artistic effect, I switched to manual and varied the aperture or shutter as desired. With digital, the viewer gives a quick idea of the ballpark where you are playing.  Film? Now I have a clue how to shoot the same photos using film. Had I started that way a lot..yikes..I do mean a lot of film would have been wasted trying for different effects. I won't be shooting film, anyway.
Nevada.
Whitehorse Turquoise and Tabasco for the Bowl of Beans
 

The photos are only a few examples of things to do with a single source primary light.  When the batteries arrive I will likely do more. Then we move on to single studio strobe if space permits, including basic but neat portrait work.
 ______________________________________________
 
Set-up for these photos:
  • 1 White matte finish pull down windowshade
  • Camera (a digital slr in these shots)
  • Sturdy tripod
  • Tactical or other bright small light
  • Subject matter to photograph
  •  
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Thomas Haynes is a photographer working out of Clinton, Tennessee, a city just north of Knoxville. His photography is often of a fine arts direction but as in this post, his love of nature takes him again to the Clinch River Raptor Center, a rehabilitation and educational not-for-profit organization.. Visit Thomas and see more of his photography at  Facebook

 Contact Thomas to discuss photography you want done. 

 

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