Look For - And Light - The Details

I have said it before, and I will say it again: Always look for details when shooting your assignments. Beyond that, a little light goes a long way in cleaning those details up.

Last week I had an assignment to shoot these ladies who make Rosary beads (by the tens of thousands) to send to the troops deployed overseas. Visually, we are talking 20-25 people sitting around in a room stringing beads.

Not terrible, but not a lot of variety, either.

In a situation like this, I will typically set up my flash immediately in an umbrella and stick it in a corner somewhere. That way it'll be ready to grab and use when I need it.

After shooting a few different angles of the ladies working with the beads, I wanted to grab a detail shot. This is when having the flash preset in an umbrella really helps.

As usual, no rocket science here. The shoot-through umbrella becomes a huge light source when positioned above and behind the strand of Rosary beads that I used as a detail. They were already sitting on the table. Didn't move them or anything.

The light from the umbrella becomes a huge specular highlight reflected in the black cross, which provides a nice tonal contrast to the Jesus figure depicted on it. And the beads reflect the large highlight, which reveals their shape in the photo.

As an added bennie, I can now work at f/16 - a crucial difference, compared to f/2.8 when working in the macro range.

As you can see here, both the quality of light and the depth of field suffer when the same shot is taken without the off-camera flash.

This shot will not win any awards, no matter which way it is shot. But lit, it gives the designer a strong, graphic detail with which to work. In a pinch, they might even design the page around the lit detail and use a shot of the ladies working as the smaller photo.

It's important to remember that the payoff to using light consistently is that the it raises your quality level throughout the entire range of the pictures that you are called upon to produce. Which is a good thing.

NEXT: Spring Arts Guide


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Anonymous Paul Cypert said...

So true about getting details. Sometimes though using such a large lightsource with a small item can make the image a bit flat. I've seen cool things from using a couple different smaller light sources to give things a bit more drama or tension. This is particularly true in food shots.

April 02, 2007 12:23 AM  
Anonymous cameron obscura said...

...yet another reason to have a white umbrella in your SSOCLK instead of a silver one. Kudos on a well-shot photo. Go, brain, go!

April 02, 2007 12:34 AM  
Anonymous Andrew Smith said...

David, can you show us what you did for the main picture? If this was any of the papers I freelance for they'd have wanted all the women gathered together for a group shot, but I'm guessing your paper will accept and prefer something more creative. I'd love to see what you did!

April 02, 2007 12:44 AM  
Blogger bmillios said...

I noticed the colors were significantly different in the lit vs. unlit photos. I'm guessing the true color was black?

April 02, 2007 2:47 AM  
Blogger Peter Bryenton said...

Thinking about how the print layout might appear is a helpful way to produce shots.

This is a very good column, thanks.

Peter Bryenton

April 02, 2007 3:33 AM  

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