I lost count, but I’ve been visiting a Purdue class this semester to demo/teach some small flash techniques and lighting concepts. This particular class meeting was left open ended, but Min Park, the instructor, told me about the project they were working on: going from concept to final image. Apparently one of the students (Allyson, who would be our subject) wanted to explore an ‘overwhelmed by technology’ concept with a bunch of wires — but I didn’t have a bunch of wires. So below is my take on the consumed-by-technology part…albeit a very literal interpretation and not really a ‘concept’, but hey. This was a lighting demo.
We started the class with the concept, then I talked them through the shot step by step. Once in the hallway location, I coaxed all of the steps and decisions back out of them ;)
Here is the final image:
If you couldn’t tell, I wanted to show how students get engrossed in their phone while the world passes them by. We’ve all been guilty of it. Of course, this is a lighting challenge in a number of ways. I wanted to show the light from the phone (which isn’t enough), show that she’s holding a phone (which would otherwise be a silhouette), have enough ambient to show people walking by (but not too much to overpower the subject), and of course actually show the motion of the passersby without having motion blur in the key light (rear curtain sync, tripod, etc.). Whew!
Here is our setup series:
On the left we’re just getting the composition down (at 24mm) while working in some motion of the other students. I think we hit 1/4 second shutter speed. You don’t want them to be a complete mushy blur — but still look like figures. In the middle image, we turned on the key light, which as you see below had to be ETTL corded to the camera. We tried to hide it well, then cloned the floor in post. On the right, we’re starting to deal with color a bit and fine tune the power/distance of the key light. In post, I tweaked the overall WB to get the key light just right (a tad cool for a digital screen, but not too much) and let the hallway fall where it may.
So the caveat here is that the key light is not the phone, but is actually a 580 EXii sitting in front of her phone — and the phone has a crinkled piece of white paper to help kick back the light into her face. Working with the placement of the phone and the angle of her face was a challenge, and we settled on a ‘texting’ expression (happy, smiley, conversing through the phone) instead of our original ‘surprised’ expression. The last bit to add was an accent light to highlight her phone ands a bit (a gridded LP 160 that has an optical sensor built-in). Here you can see the setup a bit more:
Notice the zip-ties used to hold the flash up :P Probably not necessary once we got her hands up in the right place — she could’ve held it? But you also don’t want to drop your $500 light on the floor!
OK, so that setup took most of our location time, but I brought another experiment to try: bubble wrap as a key light. Something I found on Twitter. I had some of this small-bubble wrap around the house, and it’s great because 1) it’s free 2) it’s light and collapses 3) the small bubbles both give it structure as a tube, but also catch/redirect/diffuse the light as it screams through the tunnel. I binder-clipped the end to ‘catch’ the weaker light at the end (which is a few stops weaker than at the point where it leaves the flash head), and this also flattens out the surface of my light, as relates to the subject. I had never tried this before and was still surprised that it worked this well:
If you want to learn more about lighting and small flash in particular, sign up for our workshop on Sept. 22 or individual lessons with me.