Sara Tomkins models at McDade Park in Scranton, PA, on the evening of 10 June 2012.

You’ve seen some of these photos before, in Tuesday’s OM-D portraiture review. But I wanted to go back and share a few more images from the session as well as pick up the Saturday Light series. It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these, because it’s been a while since I’ve had a portrait shoot to share.

Because this session was a mix of things – equipment test, gear review, and skills brush-up – there’s a few different things going on. I started out working with the ambient light. We were in the pre-sunset hour of golden light and it would have been a shame to waste it, so we left the strobes in the car and used the light and a reflector.

Sara Tomkins models at McDade Park in Scranton, PA, on the evening of 10 June 2012.

I’m using a Fotodiox 46″ reflector here, with the white/gold sides in use. This is still a relatively new technique for me but has huge potential in any situation where there’s some direct light flying around (and a convenient VAL). I also took the step of taking a custom WB measurement, using a WB target I picked up off eBay. The calibration seemed great with the white reflector, but with the gold a little to much warmth came through that I had to back off in post.

The reflector worked well in open light for fill, but was especially great when I asked Sara to sit on a rock in the shaded portion of a birch grove. It worked out just right that the one opening through the grove let us bounce a ray of light back onto her face. It was like planned studio lighting without the plan…or the studio.

Sara Tomkins models at McDade Park in Scranton, PA, on the evening of 10 June 2012.

Later, when we lost the direct light as the sunset, we switched to flash work. Since last year’s shoots, I’ve been thinking about how to improve my portrait lighting. Not that I was unhappy with it, but Mandy mentioned to be a couple of times that she thought my lighting style was a little too even. By which I mean that it was soft of “full frontal lighting,” with even fill that didn’t leave a lot of shadows or gradients. There’s a time and place for that kind of lighting, but used outdoors it can look a little fake, or at least too studio-ish.

So I’m making a plan to try and keep things more dynamic, at least for the next few shoots. And with dynamic comes “simple,” in that I’m going to stick with a single active light source + a combination of passive sources.

In this case, the active source was a single YN-460 II speedlight with a white shoot-through umbrella. But I also kept out the reflector as a passive source, positioning it somewhat opposite from the flash to bounce part of the light back as fill. It’s a great compromise, since the bounced light is relatively weaker and provides fill without completely lighting the shadows. So the lighting gradient is maintained and the photos have a little more of a natural look, a little more drama, than the studio glam method.

Sara Tomkins models at McDade Park in Scranton, PA, on the evening of 10 June 2012.

Amid the actual work, we did make sure to insert some silliness. It’s requisite on any shoot. Can’t go home happy without a good Nixon pose, after all!

Sara Tomkins models at McDade Park in Scranton, PA, on the evening of 10 June 2012.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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