Monday, January 12, 2009

Photo Lesson - Create Morning Light

Assignment: Morning Breakfast

(This lesson is from my old Texas Glamour site - and originally written in 1999. It shows just what a pro had to go through when shooting real film. You needed a polaroid back to see what was happening before shooting rolls of film. Digital gives almost instant feedback, but still this lesson is valuable.... )

During a recent shoot with model Kristi Daniels, Lauriel had an idea to shoot her while seated for breakfast. The house we borrowed for this shoot had a perfect breakfast nook, but a few problems existed:

#1: By the time we got to this specific shot idea, it was well past morning...
and #2, it was a gloomy rainy day,
and #3, this breakfast nook has no morning sun anyway!

The task fell to me (Lauriel didn't even consider this..) to create a morning scene.

Well, it's easy if you've had training and experience in film lighting, and apply a bit of common sense.

Morning sun is soft, filtering into a scene, giving a sense of comfort and serenity. The best lighting for this is a broad source off to the side. I didn't have my large 4x8 silk frame, so I improvised by testing one lighting scheme with Polaroid and then making adjustments.

First, I placed two umbrella lights to the right side, with some rip-stop nylon to further soften the light. Not bad, but not what was needed. I added a light outside the nook's window, as the outside was showing up like night. We let the house owner's huge dog Cerebus into the garage, so he wouldn't chew up the light, and I aimed the bare light towards the window from a downward angle.

This Polaroid shows that result. Better... but not quite there. I pulled one umbrella back several feet, and kept the one umbrella scrimmed, as the light was casting two shadows and not quite soft enough. The outside light was direct through the window, more like a street light in a bad neighborhood, than morning sun. I went out side, removed the storm screen, and replaced it with a sheet of rip-stop nylon. This brightened the light enough to overpower the window blinds, creating a glowing effect, as the last Polaroid indicates.

Then final adjustments were setting the F/stop down another 1/2 stop to f/8.0, and I gave the camera to Lauriel to shoot away.

Such on-the-spot adjustments is made possible by several factors: Having a Polaroid to proof the scene, years of training and experience, and not saying "Oh, this is good enough".... Further fiddling with a polarizer would have eliminated the window's reflection in the glass table, but I did not have a filter for this particular lens with me.

Here's the final result. Certainly appears like morning light to me....

You can fake sunlight at anytime if you keep in mind the sun is simply a very bright point source of light. Adjust or eliminate any visual clues to what time it really is, and you can shoot night for day anytime. Film makers do this all the time.