Nashville lifestyle photographer Tara Herron on using light to enhance emotion.
In 2015, I gave birth to a baby girl named Halle. She only lived 11 days in the NICU before she passed away. After this tragic event, I turned to photography for healing. For this photo of my family, I wanted to show the limbo we live in: We long for a reunion in heaven with our loved ones but also relish in this beautiful life on earth. This image is meant to convey a feeling of somber longing, as well as a magical element, as if the viewer is on a stairway to heaven.
To enhance the emotion in the photo, I used window lighting and added strobes. I took the image in my master bedroom because it has a blank wall large enough for a full-length portrait. The window off-camera to the right of the frame provided wonderful directional light.
To amplify the natural light, I used the Profoto B10 with a 2x3 OCF Soft Box to create wrapped light so that more details were preserved in our faces. I used the color temperature to match my scene. I love the 2x3 soft box for portraits because the light falls off the subjects so beautifully, and it really mimics natural light. I also wanted to direct light onto my dress to give it more dimension. My vision was to create an ethereal look, as if I was floating among the clouds, so I brought in the Profoto A1 and set it on the step I was standing on.
On set, I do everything myself. For this shoot, I used a time-lapse remote, setting the B10 and A1 to TTL on the same channel. I’ve found that the B10 and the A1 are both portable and versatile. They are the powerhouses that help me bring my vision for a shoot to life.
To add an additional layer of celestial “magic” to the images, I added a couple of fog overlays to the bottom of the image in post-production to mimic a cloud, and help blend the overall edit. I had to extend the canvas to get the right composition. I also added a dust overlay to build up the depth. The moon was necessary to complete the composition. I originally had us centered in the image but since we were looking off to the right, I changed the overall composition to guide the eyes across the plane of the picture.
The most challenging part of this shoot was getting my children to follow my directions after I had my lights and focus set up. Getting everyone to look the right way at the right time was hard, since I was also in the shot, but I love the final image. I love my son’s sweet face and my daughter’s little legs coming out of her big tutu. This image is such an honest representation of me and what I feel in my heart for my family.
TIPS & TRICKS
TURNING CHALLENGES INTO AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE BEAUTIFUL IMAGES.
- IF YOU ALREADY HAVE AVAILABLE LIGHT, point your off-camera flash (OCF) in the same direction as the light so it looks natural. For this shoot, my goal was to enhance the directional window light. If I put the OCF in the opposite direction, it could have made the image appear “flashy” or not believable.
- USE A SOFTBOX TO SOFTEN AND DIFFUSE LIGHT. I used the 2x3 softbox to wrap soft light around our faces and lighten shadows.
- IF YOU'RE USING A B10 CONTINUOUS LIGHT, set the temperature of your OCF to your scene. This will help make the transition from natural light to flash more seamless.
- CHANGING THE HEIGHTS. Take advantage of the small size of the A1. You can place it anywhere to get an extra punch of light. By standing over it, I was able to add more depth without adding more work.
- HAVE YOUR SUBJECT LOOK INTO THE LARGE LIGHT SOURCE. The light will fall more evenly over the face, especially if you are working with multiple subjects in the frame.