Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Light Up My Life!

Balance of light is the problem, not the amount. Balance between shadows and highlights determines where the emphasis goes in the picture . . . - Elliott Erwitt

Nothing lights up the lives of a young couple more than a newborn child. The same can be said for the proud grandfather too, so when my friend John Kazmierski asked me to photograph his daughter Katy's adorable son Jacob I knew the pictures had to be special.

As photographers we know everything we do begins with light. After all, that's what our craft is all about -- translated from the Latin, Photo means Light and Graph means To Write. We're trained in the studio to experiment with ratios and fiddle with multiple light schemes thinking this is it -- the more light you have, the better your results will be. Under most circumstances I completely agree but there are unique situations when less light can actually mean more.
Photographing children on location usually involves a cramped working space offering limited lighting options -- Jacob's shoot was no different. Setting up in a narrow vacant bedroom, its width prevented the placement of a second light but at least its depth provided some space for manuevering. One main light (an umbrella) is all I would use and it was positioned as far from Jacob as the walls would allow and set slightly left of center and pointed at mid-background on its lowest output. I'd shoot with a telephoto zoom lens at a low aperture and focus on tight portraits to maximize the light falling on Jacob's face. From John's report, I achieved success as Jacob, Katy, and father Chad Emmert all we're happy. Sometimes it doesn't take a lot to light up a life!
. . . success in photography, portraits especially, is dependent on being able to grasp those supreme instants which pass with the ticking of a clock, never to be duplicated - so light, balance - expression must be seen - felt as it were - in a flash, the mechanics and technique being so perfected in one as to be absolutely automatic. - Edward Weston

Note: Special thanks to friend Gary Zimmerman for painting and providing the gorgeous blue background for these portraits. Gary custom produces hand-painted photographic backgrounds and can create one to your personal color specifications. Inquiries for Gary Zimmerman Backgrounds can be directed here.