Reflections – Surface

So you want reflections, but under instead of on your object?

Mirrors – Shoot into or on mirrors is an amazing technique which not only gives reflection but adds more light to the scene.

Plexiglass – Being reflective yet it is not as strong a reflector as the silvering coat of a mirror. So while providing a great reflection, it will not add light to the scene as would a mirror.

Besides plexiglass comes in various colors. Take a minute to search the options manufacturers offer in plexiglass color.

Plexiglass can also add a density to shadow and reflection unlike other translucent materials. It is one of the most versatile materials I know of within the uses of photography.

Glass – A great reflector as the mirror and not as direct in adding light to the scene as plexiglass, glass itself in a great surface for reflections. One drawback to using glass is that it is fragile. That is only a drawback if you intend that your pane of glass remain intact throughout your photo shoot. Some photographers will use reflections in broken glass which brings up a whole new realm of ideas.

Water – Perhaps one of the most powerful, difficult and predictable substances on the earth, is also one of the cheapest and most accessible substances to capture reflections.

Considering the weather and time of year when planning a photo session is a good idea, even if only to verify that your annual day of rain is not schedule in the same day.

Possibilities are only as limited as my imagination! I love the study of light! Have fun as you learn and grow!

A parting thought: “We only have this moment once to enjoy, so I choose to enjoy it with this foundation; faith, on which to build the structure of physics as I soar into the realm of freedom, liberty and true creativity!”

Back Lighting

Back Lighting in very broad terminology can be used to describe many different photography styles, however it speaks directly to the way that the light illuminates the subject. We will not have the space in this post that would be required to discuss all of these options, but I will provide a list of shot types for you to play with and perhaps we will be able to return to discuss them in more detail at a later date.

Back Lighting is exactly what it sounds like, putting the part or all of the lighting source behind the subject to highlight their outline in light. In using light this way it is possible to capture silhouettes; Wash-out or over expose the back ground (giving a different appearance to the location); Add an infinite amount of light around your subject without making a harsh contrast in shadow and Vignetting. All of these options have more to do with camera settings than lighting, although lighting is still required. So enjoy your time playing with these things; now we will work more on the theory and practical work of Back Lighting.

Necessary equipment:

  • Reflector
  • Flash
  • Studio lights
  • Soft box
  • Bright light source in the background (it is cheaper to work with multiple light sources)
  • Tripod
  • Remote Shutter Release

Setting up your camera for success.

  • High aperture
  • Low ISO
  • Moderate shutter speed (1/10th – 1 second)
  • Prime focal lens (50mm optimal for portraits)

A slow shutter speed is not required for any reason other than to make sure the subject is properly exposed rather than the background. Feel free to shorten the shutter speed if you have enough light to do so. Obviously I know a small amount about photography, but just because I know something does not guarantee that I know everything. So play with you camera settings and have a ball getting the best photos you can!

Using A Flash

It is not always easy to evaluate the proper amount of lighting for photo composition. Because of this I notice a lot of people use the built-in camera flash to compensate when pictures are too dark.

I do not want to be seen as a “kill-joy” or “professional guru” when I write this, but here it goes: “It is better to leave your built-in camera flash off and use an added floor lamp or other “natural” lighting for proper exposure.”

Adding light does not mean you are required to use oodles and gobs of lights, rather to concentrate the cumulative light on your subject.

Here are some suggestions on concentrating light.

 

  • Take a strand of clear miniature Christmas tree lights (150+ bulbs) and lay them in an orderly “heap” near and partially under your subject. This creates a warm glow of light on your subject.
  • Set-up the shot in-front of a window facing the sunny side of the house and use a reflector to reduce the harsh shadows behind the subject.
  • Using a light-colored bed sheet provides a uniform background and at the same time reflects some light to reduce harsh shadows made by the light source.
  • Use a reading light or floor lamp, positioning it toward your subject for more direct lighting. If it is too harsh, diffuse it with a thin piece of fabric or white reflector. (NOTE: Be careful of colored fabrics so as not to unwittingly color your subject the wrong shade of purple!)
  • Flash lights are another good option for adding light. They may also need to be used in tandem with a diffuser.

The reason that pictures turn out  better 99% of the time without the built-in flash is this: The flash is too close to the camera lens giving the wrong lighting angle. Thus using other forms of lighting prompts us to find the best defining angles for our subject.

This is another reason that professional photographers will turn their hot-shoe flashes to bounce off of a surface near the subject.

It is important to have fun while experimenting with lighting and do not feel pressured to use conventional equipment!

A studio set-up

Creating a studio background sweep for that “all professional” look is not that difficult. Your attention should be drawn to the object or subject of interest and not the lighting or set-up of the shot. In other words be sure that you lights are pointed directly at your subject and not slightly off to any one side.

Setting up your own studio does not have to be complex or involved! The basics can get confusing if they are not properly explained. I will post some pictures of my studio set-up with unusual equipment so that you can get a visual understanding of how it can work and improvise with your own set-up.

Equipment list:

2 lengths of 12.5 feet of paracord, 1 pane of 8″ x 10″ glass, fabric background sweep, Prop for glass and jewelry (cleaning pen cap and a 2 inch ring box), over head structure (Be certain it is sturdy! I used 2 securely installed ceiling light fixtures), tripod, remote shutter release, 2 soft light diffusers, 2 lights, camera and a good macro lens (as well as the obvious batteries and memory card).

I began my studio construction with an over head structure that would hold my background sweep and a light.

I began by taking a length of paracord, tying an overhand knot in the end and inserting it between the wood of the light fixture (pictured on the left) and it’s diffuser. Thus with the pull of gravity and the light weight pull of hanging objects it will be caught in a “pinching” hold.

I used this same technique for each time I made a contact point with the light fixture. For knots that were not at the ends of the paracord I used the overhand knot on a bight.

Be creative while playing around with methods of friction because friction properly applied is your best help and not destructive!

Friction, as illustrated on the left, is holding the light in one place along the paracord. The paracord is looped around the open end of the stand making it easily adjustable along the support line and providing way to  adjust the placement of light on the object.

It rarely is a good idea to have hard light shining directly on the object or subject, so I removed the reflective outside of photo reflectors and used the white fabric of the reflector disk as a diffuser. Again I used the convenient open end of the stand from which to hang the reflector disk. The reflector disk must be pulled back so that it covers the “shooting area” where the object or subject is placed. I used a straight pin to gather the reflector disk fabric around the power cord, nicely covering the shooting area of the background sweep.

A note of caution: Be careful of hanging anything heavy on the line. The weakest part of the over head structure in this set-up is the diffuser.

We have discussed how one of our lights is set-up, but there is another light that needs to be set-up at a lower angle and portable to figure out the best position to illuminate the facets of the piece or person in focus.

Let me introduce the “chair mount”. If you are familiar with lashing techniques I used the square lash to secure the light to a chair back making sure that the power cord for the light was long enough to reach any place the light may need to be positioned.

Having extra paracord from lashing the light to the back of the chair, it conveniently became the securing point for the reflector disk.

Now that the studio is ready for some of the smaller details, an 8×10 inch piece of glass (clean from dust and dirt) is a nice addition to reflect an object. Bring in you camera, tripod and objects to photograph and begin to play with object position and camera perspectives. Take your time with the first piece being sure you have properly set your cameras white balance, ISO and shutter speed to properly show off the beauty of your photo’s focus.

Have fun and  be creative, because fun and creativity will make a better statement than perfect professional rigidity.