Sunday, June 15, 2014

See the Light Series Vol I: Modifier? What Modifier? by Mark Kitaoka

Over the next three months I will be covering the use of various types of modifiers. This month I'm going over the use of NO modifier. What?! I know that soft boxes whether they are strip boxes, octa banks, or rectangles are very popular, but sometimes not using any modifier can give you a very dramatic look. Prior to any shoot, my clients and I have a discussion about the 'mood' of the final image, what they envision and what I propose. Let's go over a few examples...

Creating your own shadows

One of my clients wanted some behind the scene images of the shop where they build sets for the stage. Upon entering the facility I discovered the usual 'shop lighting' - ugly fluorescent lamps in the ceiling and no windows...ugh! I wanted some drama to the scene, so I simply found one of their ladders, placed it 30 feet away from the person I was photographing and mounted a single Canon speedlite on a light stand behind the ladder turned off the overhead lights and took this shot. The resulting harsh shadows made for a more visually interesting and dramatic image. 

Indoor Sunlight

My clients occasionally want the look of sunlight, but shooting outdoors isn't possible due to weather or for a variety of reasons. So I use a bare bulb method to replicate sunlight and give the final image a very clean outdoor look. In both of these examples I simply placed my studio strobe about 12 feet in the air without any modifier. In some cases the client wants a shadow, in others just the harsh light of 'daytime.'

Harsh Conditions, Harsh Modifier

OK, so I DID use a modifier for this one, but it's a VERY harsh modifier. Conditions often dictate what I use and for this one the weather conditions were horrid. The roof of Fort Point at the southern base of the Golden Gate Bridge often produce HIGH winds which swirl like a mixer at about 25-30 knots! The distance from the talent to where I could place the strobe is about 45 feet. So I used a Retro Laser reflector attached to an Einstein strobe. The modifier is used primarily for sporting events like basketball games to illuminate players near the net. It produces a very harsh and adjustable focused beam of light.

Harsh artificial light has its place and don't be afraid to use your Speedlite or strobes without any modifiers. You may be very pleased with your results. Have fun experimenting and creating your visions!

Do you have questions about the methods described above or want to see a tricky lighting situation discussed in our See the Light series? Let us know in the comments or contact us! 

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