The Roving Photographer


Saturday Light: Cheerleader

Running behind as I try to get back on track with everything, so despite being a week late here’s the photos from last weekend’s outdoor shoot – you know, the one where I managed to mangle several pieces of gear through a combination of high wind and low temperatures.  Yet through all that I had a willing model – a cheerleader nonetheless – so it wasn’t all bad.

The simple truth is that I’ve been away from active shooting for almost two months now and it’s driving me insane.  So rather than keep feeling lousy about it, I’m trying to live intentionally and am booking models for each weekend that I can moving forward into spring.  The point is simple – use the camera, use the lights, nail down all the elements, and do a little experimenting so that when I get the next client gig, I don’t feel like I’m all thumbs.
This session was inspired by a photo I saw in the latest issue of Popular Photography.  I’ve long admired this style of portrait lighting.  It’s dark and edgy, offers a lot of creative lighting control, and seems to be popular right now.  Does that make it overdone?  Maybe – but people have been using Rembrant lighting since, well, Rembrant, and nobody complains that’s overdone.
Pop Photo was kind enough to provide a lighting diagram, which I modified somewhat for my own setup, both out of necessity and creative liberty.  For starters, I’m using Speedlites instead of mono blocks.  And lacking a ring flash, I went for a shoot-through umbrella for fill lighting.  My whole setup was positioned much closer as well, since I’m packing fewer lumens with the Speedlites.

All in all, I got it mostly right.  The biggest problem was that the back light was too close to the model – it needed to be several more feet back, and it really needed to spread more, so some of the light hit the grass. Without that spread, there’s a distinct lack of dept to the photos, which bugs me.
Aside from that, I didn’t underexpose the ambient enough, despite being at 1/200 and about f/9.  I was able to easily fix it in Photoshop (learned some cool stuff about selections – more on that soon), but ideally it should have been done right in camera.  The solution there, I think, is a faster shutter speed.  How, you ask?
For starters, over clocking the sync speed.  Yes, flashes stop syncing properly at 1/200 on the 7D, but since I’m using dumb wireless triggers, they will still fire at faster shutter speeds.  There’ll just be a dark bar on the edge of the photos where the exposure isn’t synced properly.  And my response to that is, so what?  Shoot a little wider than usual and crop that part out, and I get the a bit more speed and the lowered ambient that I need, without trying to squeeze more power out of the flashes.

This last photo here may very well be over done, but I’m still pleased with it.  It represents the first step in a new direction or me – the direction of finally having a better handle on Photoshop.  Up to now I’ve been confident in my basic image adjustments, but I stop shot of adding anything to photos, or crossing the line into digital art.  But I picked up “The Complete Guide to Photoshop Layers” a while back and have been working through it.  (Actually, I skipped to the final chapter to make this image.)
This isn’t the sort of thing that I expect to do often.  I it’s good that I know how to do it.  And even if my feelings are a little mixed, the model loved it, which means that other clients may like having it as an option on some of their prints as well.  So it’s one more service I can offer to set myself apart and above from the rest.
Keep checking for more in this series of weekend shoots – I’ve got some cool ideas coming.

Brent Pennington

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