Catherine shows you her tips and tricks
Tips + Tricks
- The size of the source.
- The distance from the source to the subject.
A Chimera softbox increases the source size of a concentrated, artificial light source such a strobe head. It offers a controlled, diffused light that provides visual radiance and a balanced gradient of all 256 nuances of gray. Softer lighting produces flattering luminosity and subtle wrapping of light around your subjects.
Not convinced? There is a host of reasons to include Chimera’s in your gear bag. For instance, harsh lighting leaves distinct marks on imperfect skin, whereas soft lighting minimizes unevenness.
Positioning a grid accessory on a softbox allows you to ensure that the subject, and not the background or other extraneous objects, is lit. Directional, soft light achieves a slimming effect, as graded shadow and highlights optically shave off excess.
In short, softboxes afford photographers maximal control over a shoot, and Chimera’s lightweight, portable, and durable equipment is an industry-standard product that has been an essential component in my gear bag for years.
The use of artificial lighting allows for more flexibility as a photographer. Although natural lighting is undeniably beautiful, it ultimately limits your control over the background. For instance, when I’m shooting indoors, a subject might have alighted upon the perfect position in the room for the window light to beautifully illumine the cheekbone and clavicle. A perfect shot, right? Not so fast. At the same time, that subject could very well be standing in front of a door bearing a garish ‘Exit’ sign overhead! A prime example of optimal natural light, but a less than ideal background.By employing artificial light when on a shoot, I can expose directional light onto a subject–no matter where she or he might be in the room. This allows me to pick the best location for the quality of composition, while consistently maintaining optimal quality of light. You, too, can have optimal lighting and an optimal background, without being constrained by location or time of day. Please send me a link to any images you would like to share where you were able to achieve gorgeous lighting and a fantastic background due to artificial light.
Since getting my feet wet with manual camera settings, I’ve honed-in on some tried-and-true methods for making the most of my new-found manual mania.
1) 5d Mark II Works for Me (Unless It Doesn’t): Perfect as it is, the 5d Mark II shutter drags across the capture sensor when you set the shutter speed at 1/180th of a second and faster–resulting in only a partially lit frame. Conversely, the 1DS series offers an iris-leaf shutter that captures completely lit images at any shutter speed.
2) Sharp Shooter: If you’re a quick shooter, it’s best to invest in a high capacity strobe like a Profoto 1,000 w/s monolight. Not only does it offer the obvious advantage of more power, it also recycles much faster if you don’t have your strobe set on the highest possible power setting.
3) Saucy Strobe: Because a strobe emits all of its light in a single burst, whether the shutter speed is fast or slow doesn’t matter. The amount of light that the capture sensor receives from the strobe remains constant regardless of the camera’s shutter speed. The desired light level from the strobe will still be retained. For instance, when shooting with strobe in a moody environment, drag the shutter to preserve the low-level, environmental ambient light. The strobe will expose your subject and the longer shutter speed with capture the ambient-lit background.
One of the many highlights from my Spyder3 monitor calibration video tutorial. See below.
How I expanded my aperture priority horizons to include manual camera settings.
For the past decade, I’ve enjoyed a long, monogamous relationship with aperture priority settings. My modus operandi is a 3.2 aperture and 1/100th shutter speed. I thought I’d spend a lifetime with AP–and then came along my new lighting director with his off-camera flash units in tow. What I love about my Canon ETTL is its camera flash auto-metering–it’s been years since I touched my light meter. But the incorporation of detached strobes into my photographer’s toolkit necessitated dredging up the light meter from the (well-organized, neat-freak, immaculate) recesses of my lovely San Francisco Bay Area studio. Once my lighting director and I began experimenting, however, I realized that working in a manual setting is a blast–it challenges me to see in deeper, more nuanced ways, allows me to exercise more control over my photography, and provides increased consistency with my images. It’s also easy.
The digital camera exposure viewing capability coupled with the histogram allows me to take test shots, make adjustments, and modify my exposure using a basic conversion chart. Although I don’t rely exclusively on manual, folding it into my repertoire has expanded my skill set. I feel more confident and empowered as a photographer. Considering making the great leap to manual settings? See my forthcoming Lighting Journey blog that provides some hot tips for photographers old and new, released next Wednesday, July 14.