Light is essential to photography. It’s how our cameras see.
But light can do so much more than simply illuminate the scene. It can add emotion. It can define our subjects. And it can set the tone for how we want our audience to interpret what we have created.
When I add light, I am always looking for ways to make that light as impactful as possible. These simple tricks are my go-to setups when I want to add drama to any scene.
Underexpose the background
Bright sunshine-y days are lovely, but sometimes I want to create light that is a little moodier. This is when I choose to underexpose my background and use a light to properly expose my subject.
In this shot of my daughter on our driveway, I loved the dappled light coming through the trees and her serene expression as she held her freshly picked wildflower bouquet. But to have her properly exposed with natural light, the whole scene just kind of felt flat and boring.
So, we employed her big brother to hold a B10 with a 2x3 Softbox attached to her right. I slightly underexposed the whole scene and then used the B10 to add a gentle short light to her face.
The result is a scene that looks much more dramatic to match her more serious expression.
Create hazy backlight
Shortly after we created our dramatic wildflower shot, my daughter started twirling in the middle of the yard (as little girls tend to do when they are wearing a twirly dress!). Of course I wanted to capture this scene as well, but the setup I had just used wouldn’t have matched the more carefree nature of her activity now.
Instead, I wanted to create something a bit dreamier. I envisioned the light making the scene feel somewhat like a memory rather than an actual photo.
To make this vision come to life, I used the B10 again. But this time I outfitted it with an orange gel and positioned my new light stand (my husband…it’s a family operation over here!) behind her and to her left, just outside of the frame.
I set my exposure properly for the scene and then added the light to create a hazy golden light that mimics golden hour sun. The result is an image that feels a bit cinematic in how it portrays this classic childhood scene.
Create a black backdrop
I love a simple studio portrait in front of a plain black backdrop…except I don’t have a studio and don’t have space in my little house to have a big seamless backdrop sitting around all the time!
This is when I let the Inverse Square Law help me out. The concept is simple: the closer your light source is to your subject, the less of the background will be illuminated. The farther your light source is from your subject, the more that light will illuminate the background.
When I wanted to get a more dramatic portrait of my daughter without the environment in the frame, I knew that I could employ this concept to make it happen. I simply positioned her in front of our garage (which was relatively shadowy) and then positioned the B10 with a 2x3 softbox very close to her, just out of the frame and to her right. In doing so, the power of the light hitting her was so much stronger than the light hitting the background that everything around her faded to black.
I love how the simplicity of this black background makes it so that all of the attention falls on her and the contrast between the light and dark creates a natural drama that I find to be breathtaking.
Creating light allows me to change the way my camera sees a scene. When I want to add drama, the Profoto B10 makes it easy.
Learning how to create beautfiul light can completely changes the way you view photography. Join Kellie Bieser, in association with Profoto, for a unique hands on workshop geared toward the natural light photographer. We are currently filling up spots in Portland, OR and Los Angeles, CA. Join us for this exciting oppurtunity.