Kellie Bieser creates fiery bokeh with the Profoto A1
When I photograph my kids, I want to capture more than just their faces. I want to capture a glimpse into who they are. I want to create images that reflect their personalities and that let me hold onto a piece of their unique character at each stage of life.
Facial expression, composition, body language and processing all help me achieve this goal, but my favorite way to connect to the emotion of a moment is with light. For me, shaping and manipulating light and shadow is what provides the most immediate, emotional impact.
In this portrait of my daughter, Annie, I wanted to convey the fiery side of her personality. (And since she’s a pre-teen, there’s plenty of “fire” in her these days!) But, I also wanted to show the beauty of her discovering her independence. I wanted to express the wonder that is watching her grow into herself. To make all of that happen at the same time, I needed some pretty spectacular lighting.
For this shoot, I positioned Annie at the edge of our garage. This allowed the natural light outside to illuminate her face. Because the garage was in shadow behind her, it naturally faded to black, giving me a perfect blank slate for my background. To create that warm, fiery glow behind her, I outfitted my Profoto A1 with an orange gel and aimed it at her back to create a warm rim light. However, I found that by itself, the halo of orange around her wasn’t translating to the fire idea I had in mind, so I went back to the drawing board.
For the first adjustment, I wanted the light to hit more than just the edges of her hair and clothing, so I tapped my favorite assistant, Jim Bieser (who also happens to be my husband), to help magnify the light.
Next, I wanted to add some texture to the background. For this, I had Jim toss some fake snow (available at any craft store) between Annie and the Profoto A1. As the little pieces of translucent plastic floated down behind her, the Profoto A1 fired. The powerful orange light bounced off the snow, creating sparkles of fiery bokeh behind Annie that make her look defiant and magical.
Tips & Tricks
TURNING CHALLENGES INTO AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE BEAUTIFUL IMAGES.
- USE THE SPACE YOU HAVE. Don’t have a studio? You don’t need one to create beautiful images with beautiful light. I just pulled the car out of the garage to create our studio for this shoot.
- AIM THE FLASH AT AN ANGLE BEHIND YOUR SUBJECT to create beautiful rim light. I like to add magnetic dome diffuser modifier to the Profoto A1 to soften the light and let it spread out beautifully around my subject.
- ADD TEXTURE BETWEEN YOUR LIGHT AND YOUR SUBJECT to exaggerate your back light. Fabric, paper, confetti – use anything that can catch the light and create more visual interest in the background.
- THINK OF LIGHT AS A WAY TO COMMUNICATE EMOTION. Deep shadows can be mysterious. High-key images can feel more lighthearted. The way you illuminate your subject can tell the viewer as much about them as anything else in the frame.
- GELS ARE FUN AND VERSATILE WAY TO ADD COLOR TO AN IMAGE. Play with different hues and try combining them for unique results.