Tag Archives: lighting

How to make a high key portrait

Low contrast lighting can be interesting, too.

A low contrast lighting situation is often called ‘flat,’ and there is a reason for this. Low contrast means there is less difference between the darkest part of the photo and the lightest part of the photo, resulting in a relatively even distribution of light. The resulting image for an even lighting situation is low contrast.

Flat or low contrast photos rarely register as interesting to our brains because contrast is one of the principles that make images attractive.

We create contrast with color, as in the photograph below. The color of the tree limbs and trunks and the grass in the background are darker than the color of the dried grass. Rendered in monochrome, this photo has high contrast because of the color in the original image.


Contrast from dark and light colors.

We also create contrast with light and shadow. In the photo below, the darkest darks are almost black, while the lightest lights are very bright due to the strong sunlight streaming in the window. The high contrast makes it an attractive photo.


Bright light creating high contrast.

How do we create attractive low-contrast photos?

High key images are very well lit photos. However, we can still create some contrast in a high key image, using both color and light.

How to make a high key photo in camera

As soon as you find a light source, in my case a North-facing window, position your subject so that the window is perpendicular to the subject and to your camera. This gives you a side-lighting situation which gives you a gradation of the light from one side of the subject to the other, and creates the 3D effect on your portrait.


Overexposed in camera but with side lighting to create soft shadows.

Your camera settings should be toward overexposure. Don’t worry about losing some detail in the highlights. Instead, hold on to the medium shadows so that you will be able to create some contour in the portrait. I overexposed this portrait by three quarters of a stop.


Contrast using bright light from a window.

Although the lighting is mostly bright and made brighter in the image captured with the overexposure, if you position the lighting so that you still hold on to some shadow, you can create a high key photo with some attractive contrast.

Processing a high key photo

Here is a video explaining how to process a high key image using Photoshop.

Here is another video explaining how to process a high key image using Lightroom.

High key images can make your portfolio a little more interesting, and high key images give you the opportunity to experiment with how much you can push the exposure of an image without losing attractive lighting.


Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the orange RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
6 Ways to Start Your Photography Hobby
Easy Way to Dodge and Burn Photos without Destroying Pixels
5 Myths about Creativity a Photographer Should Bust
Does Gear Really Make You a Better Photographer?
10 Small Things that make a Big Difference in Your Photos



June Fifth featuring Natalie Glebova copyright Aloha Lavina 2011. All rights reserved.

From Idea to Image Part 2: Lighting Clothing

When it comes to light, I hardly ever make it up as I go along.

Lots of things require forethought when you’re planning a shoot. If you want to make sure that your resulting images are folio-worthy and you make them in an efficient way, you’ve got to plan how you get those images. Few planning steps are as important, nor as exciting, as planning lighting.

Light, as they say, makes the photograph. But within the tenet of “make good light” are some details that could make the difference between an image that is OK, and an image that is dramatic and expressive.

Start with the question, What are you lighting?

If you are showcasing clothing with your image, it’s important to know how to light clothes. This sounds strange, but it’s quite true that the nature of the lighting can create an image of the clothing that sends a message: this is good stuff.

Get to know your subject.

It’s important that you see the clothes before the shoot, so you can plan the lighting. I make it a point to have several meetings with the client before the shoot, to see the fabrics, to feel their texture, to get a sense of how they will show up in an image when lit.

Two things affect the lighting of clothes. First is the color of the clothing versus the color of the light, and second is nature and intensity of the light.

Show off the color when lighting colorful clothes.

If you’re lighting clothing with vibrant color, it’s advisable to make the light bright so in the image it is reflected in the color of the clothes. For this image, I wanted the yellow and mint to punch through the image. I also wanted to minimize the wonderfully textured background, so it didn’t take away from the focus of the image, the dress.

June Fifth featuring Natalie Glebova copyright Aloha Lavina 2011. All rights reserved.

Copyright Aloha Lavina. All rights reserved.

I placed a large, soft light camera left, big enough to light the whole dress from the left (as well as the model’s beautiful face). To light the right side, I placed a diffused smaller light, just enough to punch through the shadows and create some dimensionality in the portrait.

Make a white dress glow.

Lighting a white dress is slightly different. We all know that white is all colors of the spectrum reflected back to the eye, so white is itself a lighting tool. That means if I bounce light off a white dress, I get some reflected lighting from the garment itself.

For this image, I knew that the model was fair with light hair, the dress was all white, and the location had dark wood, but had these wonderful narrow windows that provided some directional light. What I needed to do was one, light the dress, two light the model, three, balance the backlight from the windows with some light in front. Knowing the situation, I brought three lights for this portrait. I wanted that dress to glow.

Irina Lysiuk in Khoon Esmode Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011. All rights reserved.

Copyright Aloha Lavina. All rights reserved.

The first light was a soft, large light for the model’s face. This light was at camera right, simulating a window. To balance the bright back light, I punched a couple of lights below, with a large diffuser to soften them, right at the model. All that light swirled around and mixed up for a softly lit portrait that looks like it was lit with window light. But the dress glows.

Planning lighting for a shoot begins with the subject. Then, you have to go through some lighting solutions for the subject, and finally, pack the right equipment and then set up the lights according to your solutions. With this simple process, you can ensure that the idea you started with is lit in a way that turns it into the image you had in mind.

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
From Idea to Image Part I: Planning
How Different Lenses Help You See Creatively
Finding Good Photos Where They Hide

Up next: From Idea to Image Part 3: How to Make it Up as You Go
Join me to find out what happens when you have to shoot without prior information to help you plan!

good light copyright Aloha Lavina

Light is the Thing

Make sizzling portraits tip # 4: Make a portrait in good light.

Portraits resonate more with a photography audience because people seem to prefer looking at photos of people, and also because most people alive these days are visual learners. That means we prefer to see things to make sense of them.

A long time ago, when radio was the most common mode of entertainment, most people preferred to learn by listening. Now with more than half a century of television, the advent of the internet and our ability to produce multimedia, we’ve reached an age of visual references. But with this new profile of the average audience member, photographers also have a new challenge. With the countless choices to look at or watch online, the photograph has to really stand out for it to be noticed.

We could start with content, by making a portrait that has interesting elements.

But content will only go so far; after all, there are sites online which trap attention by titillating their audience. What the photographer needs is great content and fantastic light.

great light copyright Aloha Lavina

Good light helps your photo create impact. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Light is still the thing when it comes to photography. Without dramatic lighting, a photograph doesn’t achieve as much impact.

Here are five tips for achieving great lighting in a photograph without it costing too much.

1. Shoot at the right time.

Sunlight remains the most beautiful lighting a photographer can get, and it’s free! Scheduling a shoot in the early morning or the late afternoon can do wonders for your portraits.

good light copyright Aloha Lavina

Shoot at the right time to get good lighting. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

2. Use a reflector to fill in shadows.

I’ve talked about how side-lighting makes a portrait dynamic. But at the times of day when the light is best, it also has intensity in one direction, and positioning the subject so he or she is lit from one side produces strong shadows on the other side. Placing a reflector in the shadow side can fill in these shadows and bring out detail.

3. Control the light indoors using a window.

Indoor portraits are great because you can do these any time during the day. Even though the sunlight has become harsh in the later part of the morning, during midday or the early afternoon, you can control window light by positioning your model at the right spot near a window. If you really feel that the light is still too contrasty and the shadows are too deep, you can diffuse the light simply by covering the window with a white sheet. This in effect makes the window into a huge softbox, softening the light and the shadows on your subject.

portrait at sunset copyright Aloha Lavina

A window can help you control light. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

4. Control the light outdoors using a shelter overhead.

When shooting outdoors, especially when the soft light of early morning has been replaced by the harsh light of midday, you can still shoot some amazing portraits. Looking for something that you can use to shelter the model—a roof, a tree or awning. You can even use a hoodie or a hat. As long as the model’s face is in the shade and you are in the light, what you will get is a shooting situation where you can control the light on your subject. (You can even act as a reflector by wearing white to the shoot.)

5. Learn how direction and intensity affect your images.

With a lot of practice, you too can spot good lighting for a portrait by paying attention to direction and intensity, and how these affect your photos. Starting with the basic lighting situations, you can then move on to experimenting with tough lighting, such as high-contrast lighting and backlighting.

Light still reigns as the most important ingredient in a portrait. Without good lighting, a portrait is just a photograph of a person. Using the right lighting, you can make a beautiful photograph that stands out.

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
10 Cliches a Photographer Can Believe
Making Expressive Portraits
Concept is Everything
Using Location to Make Your Portraits Sizzle

10 Things a Photog Can Learn from Golfers
Be a Photographer, Not a Lens Changer

product photography rings jewelry lighting

Take Risks and Improve Your Photography

Someone once said that disequilibrium is a sign of learning.

Defined as an unbalance, disequilibrium hits a photographer when there are new skills demanded by a shoot. Often, it’s scary to face something that you have never photographed before, and you scroll through your head looking for something familiar, but those familiar things you find only serve to produce shots you’ve done before.

How do you make images that are new?

The answer might rest in deliberately putting yourself in a new situation, shooting something you have never before tried.

product photography watch lighting

I learned how to use homemade diffusers like white A4 paper. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

As an autodidact, a self taught person, I have found that the best times to learn something new is when a shoot stretches me. I purposefully, when time permits, try to set up a shoot that has a skill set different from what I normally shoot. Making images with new challenges brings new scaffolding that you have to scale, pushing you to the limits of your old knowledge and giving you opportunities to gain new knowledge.

I learned how to light portraits. I’m most comfortable lighting people. When I hang out in coffee shops, I even automatically start looking for good light for people’s faces, and I’m constantly on the lookout for good portrait lighting in natural settings.

But sticking to one kind of photography, especially when it becomes second nature, is setting yourself up for being stagnant and not growing. If you want to improve by learning new skills, you’ve got to take a risk and stretch yourself.

product photography orange juice glass black background

I used a black poster board as a background. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

So I tried to light and photograph small things. Granted, there is something ‘old’ in the challenge: I already know the basics of how to light something for a photograph. But there is a fundamental difference in the way you think when you’re lighting a person versus lighting a small object. The ratio of subject size to light source is different. When you’re lighting stuff, the small things, the light source is much bigger than the subjects. So you’re going to have to learn new ways of controlling the light to make some good images.

When I made these images, I learned some fundamental things about how to use light shapers. I used white A4 paper to diffuse the light from the flash units. I relearned how distance affects the intensity of the light on the objects. And one of the most interesting things I learned is how the angle of the light can create unwanted hotspots in the objects.

product photography rings jewelry lighting

I learned about angles of light. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

The images don’t really excite me. I mean, there must be a lot of people out there who can light jewelry and watches better than I can. But that isn’t really the point. The point of the whole exercise was the process of learning. By taking a risk and shooting something I had never shot before, I learned a lot about lighting.

David duChemin talked about taking risks, and apart from how it applies to how we approach life, I think it also applies simply to how we get better at something. Without taking an extra step toward what we don’t know, we may never know. And being able to know might be a risk worth taking.

What about you? What risk will you take with your camera this week?

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
See How Easily Your Photos Can Create Impact
Making Expressive Portraits
Five Variations on a Theme: Shooting Silhouettes
10 Things a Photog Can Learn from Golfers
Be a Photographer, Not a Lens Changer
Cut the CRAP–Just Take Pictures



Let Shadows Speak

Dynamic lighting in a photo begins with direction and quality of light, but it doesn’t stop there. Part of the effect in dynamic lighting is where the shadows fall. You know that rule in physics that says ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’? This tension also works in photographic lighting, except that we could rewrite the rule as ‘for every light there is an equal and opposite shadow.’

So controlling the light means controlling the shadows. This effect can create lighting that is dynamic, three dimensional, and eye catching.

We can learn basic lighting conditions, whether in a natural setting like in travel photography, or in a more controlled setting like when using strobes or window light. To add to this wonderful skill is the ability to read the stories that shadows tell.

Telling stories with shadows is a great way to learn dynamic lighting. When we can learn to see where the light falls, how much it falls off and in which direction, we can start designing images that tell stories.

Where you stand to take a photo affects where light and shadow fall in the final image.

The photo of the two people was lit using ambient light, light from broken walls and holes in the ceiling of an abandoned mansion. There was light coming from above both the woman and the man, and the shadows falling around them framed the shot. If I had moved a little to the left, two things would have happened: the man would have been out of the line of sight of the 50mm lens I was using, and the woman would have had less shadow on camera left. Positioning the camera where it was, I was seeing the way the shadows would frame the scene. Moving around is one way of controlling the direction and amount of shadow in a photo.

Pools of light and pools of shadow create drama in this image.

Another vantage point that was deliberate was in the next photo where the model is below the camera; I was standing on a ledge in another broken building. The light was coming from camera left, through a broken wall. The harsh midday light created deep, dark shadows around and beside the model, making shadows on the wall, and forming pools of shadow around the path she walked. The mystery created by the shadows gives the photo a story telling quality I would not have achieved if I had the whole scene lit up.

Paying attention to shapes created by shadow can make a shot dramatic.

Lighting a scene, we know, doesn’t need to be complicated. In this shot of some Indian fashion, I only had a high window to work with, and a distant doorway some 300 meters behind the model. I found a place where the window light would directly shine on her face and side. Having done this, I also saw that the curvy geometric shapes and their shadows in the image complemented the pose and dress of the model, so I played up the shadows by underexposing the background and using a small aperture. The slower shutter speed gave me a sharper take on the dress plus created a three dimensional image. Controlling the settings to augment shadows in a shot is another way of allowing shadows to tell part of the story.

Telling a story with a photo doesn’t just depend on where light illuminates and what it illuminates. Where the shadows fall also speak stories.

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
All You Need is a Window
Let the Light Inspire You
The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity
11 Ways to Build a Better Photo
10 Online Resources for Photography Enthusiasts
How to Stay Creative


All You Need is a Window

As well as an inspiration on photo walks, light is easy to find at home. All you really need is a window. At any time of day when there is light coming through a window, you can use it to create a beautiful side-lit portrait. To make a portrait with side light, position the subject parallel to the window, like in the diagram below.

A lot of painters use window light.

Beautiful side light creates classic lighting for a portrait. The shadows created on the side away from the window make for dynamic lighting because the shadows actually show the contours of the subject—essential for a three-dimensional effect.

A floor to ceiling window camera left created this creamy lighting on model Chloe.

My friend DJ posed beside a window and his long hair made a 'rim light' effect with shadow, too.

If you’re looking for inspiration this week, try some photography at home! All you really need is a window.

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
Let the Light Inspire You
Photography Doesn’t Fix Everything
The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity
The Man at the Window
11 Ways to Build a Better Photo
10 Online Resources for Photography Enthusiasts
How to Stay Creative

Let the light inspire you

Everyone who’s been through grammar school knows that photography comes from the Greek words for “light” and “write.” In a word, photography is writing with light. But for those of us who write with light, sometimes two things can happen. One, we focus more on the content of the photo—the elements in it, what the image “means.” Two, we have days when every thing we point our camera at says, “Blah.” These two things may not seem related, but maybe they are.

Take landscape photography, for instance. I’m not a landscape expert or one who shoots a lot of landscapes; most of my shots are portraits. But I like looking at landscapes, and I just came across this article at Digital Photography School saying “Shoot the light, not the land,” and how the light is really what makes or breaks a photograph. I tend to agree—the landscapes that have dramatic light are the ones I fave on Flickr or comment on in other forums. Light turns me on.

Which brings me to my second point. I think on days when we feel like the camera is bringing us blah, we should look for the light.

Light on a bunch of dead leaves can make the scene look alive.

That means the content doesn’t matter. We look for pockets of light that drape over a forest. We search for streams of light across mundane objects, like a chair at a driving range.

Light streaming from the side can make an uncomfortable iron chair look quite inviting.

We wait for the sunset to reflect its light on clouds above a pond with a rock sitting in it.


Dramatic light reflected on cloud reflected on a pond can make even a rock look magical.

Light is what inspired the first photographers, and light should inspire us now.

How about you? What’s your love affair with light?

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
Photography Doesn’t Fix Everything
The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity
The Man at the Window
11 Ways to Build a Better Photo
10 Online Resources for Photography Enthusiasts
How to Stay Creative

Shooting the Most Beautiful Woman in the Universe

It’s dark inside the bar, except for a few bare bulbs emitting a feeble orange light. Miss Universe is here, and I have to shoot her in brilliant Indian couture.

I love the dark location. It means the camera is only going to see the light from the flashguns I’ll use. Sometimes, you can blend ambient light with strobe light, like in this shot with a brilliant blouse in deep red with gold embroidery. There is a bare light bulb just above the most beautiful woman in the universe, and it’s mixing in with the main light I have firing with a diffuser on from camera right.

She is soft spoken and humble.

Other times, it’s good not to have too much ambient light. Controlling light from flash gives more pop to a photo—more saturated color, more detail. When you’re shooting people, for example, closeup with flash, it seems every pore on their face is visible.

Off camera flash, small and portable, have been catapulted into star status among photography enthusiasts by The Strobist extraordinaire David Hobby. I chose flash units rather than buying a studio set because the flashguns are easy to carry around to locations away from my small home studio. These flashguns are versatile, accompanying me from shoots in a tropical forest to a tabletop where I shot jewelry.

While the makeup artist Hilde Marie Johansen is working with Miss Universe 2005 Natalie Glebova, I am working with Bianca Kirn, a young model working out of Bangkok. The outfit is an orange and bright pink variation of salwar kameez, a three-piece set worn in the day time. I want the color to pop, so I use a high shutter speed to kill the ambient light from the bare light bulbs. To light Bianca, I use one light on a lightstand above her, attached to a softbox—essentially a black box with one white side through which the light comes out soft and diffused. Another flash gun provides fill light—just a little burst of light to fill in the shadows on the fabric.

Brilliant orange and pink on Bianca.

Later, Natalie comes out in a beautiful lehenga choli, a traditionally red outfit worn by brides in the Northern part of India. This lehenga is ice lemon and turquoise,  so lovely on Natalie. To light Natalie, who is already very tall and is standing on a staircase, I have to prop my lightstand on three bar stools and tie it to the rail of the staircase with a couple of bungee balls—these nifty little elastic bands with large plastic balls at the end. The main light is the softbox on the lightstand camera right. Two other flash guns provide fill, one below the camera for the dress, and another camera left for the shadows on the model.

Although a celebrity in her own right, Natalie is very down to earth.

We shoot six outfits, and the last set is with a white salwar kameez with fringe made of 19 meters of fabric. To show off that fringe on the skirt, I ask Natalie to hold the skirt beside her. To light this shot, I place the softbox on camera right and the fill light three yards on camera left, zoomed to 85mm. The great thing about the flash guns these days is the zoom function. Some flashguns can zoom up to 200mm; this means the light is stronger coming out of the unit, and it can be thrown a long way.

Natalie is one of the classiest famous people I have ever met.

I could have been there all night, shooting away. It didn’t matter what the light outside looked like, or what light was available on location. There was a way to make light, and this is always, always a good thing.

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity
The Man at the Window
11 Ways to Build a Better Photo
10 Online Resources for Photography Enthusiasts
How to Stay Creative

Beginner’s Guide to Light

At some point in their journey, people with cameras begin to photograph light instead of “look what I saw.” Light is the main ingredient in the mix of elements that make an image. Content, composition, technique will all pale if the light isn’t “right.” But is there a “right” light? Here are some common lighting situations that could help you create compelling shots. Practice looking for them, and you will see your images increase their wow factor.

Back light

Dancer with rim light, Bali.

Back light is when the light source is behind the subject. This means that it is directly in front of the camera, with the subject in between. The photo of the dancer sitting was lit with two windows behind him, lighting him like a halo around his head and body. This line of light around a subject is called “rim light,” as it creates a rim of light outlining the subject. To shoot this kind of shot, I had to use exposure compensation, overexposing to making sure I had a balance between the bright light I wanted to capture, and the man’s features.

Backlit spools of thread at a weaver's shop in Burma.

In cases of really bright light behind the subject, like in this shot of colorful spools of thread in by a window, the patterns created by the light and shadow make for an interesting picture.

Front light

When the light is right in front of the subject, it is easier photograph, but if the light is directly in front of the subject, it may result in a ‘flat’ photo. ‘Flat’ lighting is light that evenly spreads on the subject. I try to avoid this because it makes a photo look two-dimensional; it is the shadows in a photo that create a three-dimensional effect.

Dancers putting on makeup, Bali.

In the photo of the dancers putting on makeup, their light source is directly in front of their faces. I could have taken the shot with the light behind me, but I broke away from that and instead focused on the mirror one of the dancers was holding. My thinking was, the composition was more interesting with the dancers echoing each other’s postures. But most importantly, the light from the window was reflected on their faces into the mirror, and the mirror’s image was thus well lit for my camera to capture.

Top light

Light from above of course is quite common. When you travel, mostly the sun is your light source, and most of the day the sun is right above your subjects. So it’s important to know how the light from above will affect your images, and what you can do to minimize the shadows that the sun from above will invariably create in your subjects.

Early mornings and late afternoons are great because the sunlight is more orange; the angle of the light is also more from the side, especially at sunrise and sunset. But also in the hours right after sunrise and the hours just before sunset, the light is not as harsh as in midday.

Man asleep in his ox cart at midday, Burma.

Having said that, though, one of my favorite shots from Burma was taken at around 11 am. This man was sleeping in his cart while his oxen were grazing. The shadows were harsh, but it worked because the content of the photo made for a good contrast. To get this shot, I had to close my aperture to f8 and used exposure compensation to get details in the sky and the immediate subjects in front of me.

When there is harsh light, like in midday, I look for subjects who are under a sort of shelter. When there is a covering above the subject, the harsh light does not create equally harsh shadows on their faces.

Girl in pink hat, Burma.

Shan woman at a temple, Burma.

Both the photos of the woman in the turban and the little girl in the pink hat were made around midday, but both were under a kind of shelter–the temple roof for the turbaned woman and her pink hat for the little girl.

Side light

This is my all-time favorite kind of light. Side light is light coming from the left or right of the subject. It was used by the masters of painting–Rembrandt used side light in his paintings to give the picture a three dimensional effect. When the light falls on one side of the subject, the other side is in shadow. The shadows are what give the picture a 3D look.

Monk at old wooden temple, Burma.

The monk walking past old wooden doors shows how shadow and light can create the contours that make the subject seem three-dimensional.

Sunrise and mist, Bhutan.

In the early morning shot of a misty scene in Bhutan, the side lighting created by the sunrise gives us a sense of the overlapping hills and the thickness of the mist.

Like every skill, seeing the light–its direction and quality–takes practice. But with some basic knowledge of lighting situations, any person with a camera can practice the right skill and do what photographers do: capture the light, and make it look fantastic.

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity
The Man at the Window
11 Ways to Build a Better Photo
10 Online Resources for Photography Enthusiasts
How to Stay Creative

Shooting a Graphic Novel

When Bangkok based Actor Chris Wegoda sent me the script for “The Kill,” I got really excited. The story itself is simple: betrayal, friendship, conflict, murder, regret, mystery. What really got me excited was the chance to shoot with a still camera a series of emotive scenes that would normally require video to work. So my creative problem was, how do I light and direct a photoshoot so it looks like a movie?

We shot the scenes after three weeks of planning and preparation. The shoot itself was at just two locations, one a room with a shower, and another a parking lot with a grungy wall. The rest was portable flashes and the excellent work of three actors–Chris Wegoda, Stephen Thomas, and Faye Nightingale.

The whole shoot took about seven hours, from 5 pm indoor scenes to midnight for the dark scenes.

One of the photos from the shoot on a "movie poster."

Shooting this graphic novel taught me a lot about lighting. I used four SB-900s bare, to visually create the harsh feeling of the story. I used a lot of rim light when possible to outline the characters against the dark backgrounds, like a comic book would. In postproduction, I processed the RAW color file before converting to monochrome and adding a yellow filter to give it that motion picture film look.

And since it’s Christmas, go ahead and DOWNLOAD the graphic novel for FREE from this link.

The Kill A Graphic Novel