Sunday, November 15, 2009

From White to Black...

About a month back I did some shots for a local yoga studio. They were straight up shots - pure white background using natural light for the subjects and just a bit of flash on the background to make sure it was indeed pure white. I was very pleased with the results! You can read about it and see some of the pictures from the shoot here.

A few weeks ago I did another session with Sasha Bahador who is an amazing yoga instructor and beautiful person. You read more about Sasha on her website. For this shoot we wanted a bit more mystery and not such a sterile, clean look. This time I choose to shoot on a black background and light just the subject with flash.

Black is the opposite of white. Duh. I know that sounds dumb but with a white background we need light to make sure it's not a yucky greyish colour, and, we need a lot of light if we want to make it pure white. For black we have to do the opposite. If we want it pure black we have to be carefully not to allow light to spill over it. Seems easy enough but it can present some challenges. My lighting setup was fairly simple, a Canon 580EX II flash on either side of the subject shooting through an umbrella, triggered with MicroSync remotes. To keep light from spilling on to the background I kept one half of the umbrella cover on, which worked well. And, when called for, the lovely Jen hand held another 580EX II to act as a hair or separation light.


Most of the pictures where done with a 580 EX II on either side of the subject but on occasion one flash would fail to fire and we would get a completely different look. At first I considered it a "problem" and quickly fixed the issue but after reviewing some of the pictures, it turned out that we liked the look. It gave the pictures more of a dramatic appearance. For a whole series I turned off one of the strobes so that only Sasha's face, torso, arms, etc were lit and let the lower half of the image fall in to shadow.

Sasha brought a beautiful sari with her that we tried desperately to work in to the pictures. As a background I did not think it worked very well. Either it was lit too much or too little - overwhelming or underwhelming the image. Eventually, after much play we finally found a few ideas that worked. For one shot we used the sari as a background, splashed a bit of light on it and made it slightly off centre from the subject. It added a nice bit of interest in the background. I queued Sasha through a few experimental poses and I was able to capture some playful, candid looks.


We continued to play and one of the final shots turned out to be my favourite.


Every time I pick up the camera I learn something new and this shoot was no different. I received a gentle reminder that sometimes the best pictures come from a bit of luck, play or experimentation. It's easy to get too focused on one outcome or idea and miss so many other beautiful opportunities - stay flexible. Another important lesson was to take the odd break from shooting, pull some pictures up on the computer and see what is working and what is not. I did that a few times and instantly we came up with some great ideas and found certain poses that we wanted to work a bit more.

Keeping taking pictures and keep learning.

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