Saturday, August 30, 2014

The High Key Portrait

Creative Overexposure

Backgrounds are critical to photographic composition, For portraits, the background should be clean and uncluttered. Any recognizable object can distract from the subject. 

In the studio, the portrait model is placed in front of smooth, featureless paper or a patch of evenly-colored cloth. But when we shoot on location, we need to select our backgrounds carefully.

If we can't find a featureless background on location, we still have options. There are techniques that will render a background invisible.

Consider placing the subject in front of a brightly illuminated area. When you expose properly for the subject's face, the bright background area will be overexposed. 

Normally, we want to avoid overexposure. But every possibility has a creative application, even one that's typically thought of as a mistake.

a photograph demonstrating high key portrait lighting by daniel south
High Key Portrait Lighting

When overexposed, the background looks washed out. Details disappear into a soft blur that surrounds the model with a halo-like glow. I find this technique to be particularly effective for models with light hair.

Special thanks to Victoria, a lovely young model who was energetic, pleasant, and hard working.

 Nikon D700
Lens:     Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR

Light happens.  Be ready.  Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2014 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Big Apple Snapple

How Did I Miss THAT?

We can't see beyond the frame of a photograph. We can't see what's off to the side by angling our head a bit. The contents of the frame are fixed forever. Their placement requires thoughtful consideration.

A composition is strengthened when we highlight important elements and exclude items that might distract from the theme of the image. But there are always challenges when shooting in a dynamic environment. 

Some objects are too small to be seen in the viewfinder. We notice them only when we blow the image up to a larger size.

Other items "get in the way" while we're shooting. We have no choice but to include them in the frame as tastefully as possible. If we wait, recompose, or attempt to switch lenses, we'll miss the moment altogether. 

But there is a certain magic to photography that drives us to face these challenges and work through them. 

street photography in the theater district new york
Big Apple Snapple

I spotted the man in the red soccer shirt crossing the street. The large blue bag on his cart contained cans and bottles. People gather bottles from trash cans and recycle them for cash.

If we were painting the scene, we would plan the placement of each element in advance. By contrast, a photograph can contain surprises. Oftentimes, those surprises are serendipitous. 

Anyway, there he was with his bright red shirt, his big blue bag, and his long gray beard. I made a quick decision to photograph him against the busy backdrop of Broadway.

I took a look through the viewfinder and thought, "Wow! There's a lot going on here!"

I verified that my shutter speed was fast enough to freeze the man in motion.

I focused on the "LEFT TURN" street sign to prevent the camera from focusing on some distant object. 

I saw the theater and the scaffolding in the left, the delivery truck and the man standing on the right. There wasn't much that I could do about them, but I felt that the two sides balanced out. I made a decision about the height of the camera based on the vertical lines in the scene, and I pressed the shutter button.

From decision to exposure, about one second had elapsed.

Now for the surprise! I was subconsciously aware of the "Snapple" sign while shooting, but I didn't notice the red "Apple" sign on the left until I saw the image on my computer. 

And there they were! A nice little Apple/Snapple duo hanging out in distant corners of the frame, each balancing the other nicely: Apple and Snapple in the Big Apple. 

Just another day on the busy blocks of Broadway! All that for a guy crossing the street with a bag of recyclables.

 Nikon D800E
Lens:     Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G AF-S

Light happens.  Be ready.  Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2014 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved