How I got the shot.
Notes on an editorial photoshoot using one speed-light.
Making the shot took planning, a lot of planning. Planning for the weather, selecting the right equipment, pre-planning the light set up, and of course communicating with a reliable team.
This shoot took place on a cold, and windy April afternoon. In fact, it had just finished snowing an hour before we began to set up.
The only reason I was able to avoid this obstacle was by planning around the storm. I used an app called WeatherUnderground to help me plan for the shoot. The app is fairly accurate when it comes to light conditions and predicting when storms will begin and end.
So here were the obstacles. We had uncontrollable weather conditions, constant shifts in ambient light and temperature, and being that we were on private property we had to move fast in order to avoid the police or any neighborhood concerns. This meant guerrilla style photography with minimal equipment. Thus the challenge of conducting an editorial photoshoot with just one speed light.
My gear included:
I have been wanting to do an editorial style shoot for quite some time. So I gathered some friends together who graciously agreed to let me photograph them. I was fortunate to have friends on hand to support me with the set equipment and make up artistry.
There was really only a few minor challenges. How do I conduct a professional quality photoshoot with one speed light and no studio space?
Here is How I Got The Shot.
"Making the shot took planning, a lot of planning."
The setup was actually very simple. We planned for the shoot to start around 4pm. This was ideal because the sun would still be high enough in the sky that it would provide a great area of coverage, soft shadows and low contrast. It was also low enough in the sky to create a subtle warm glow. We taped the seamless backdrop to a brick wall on the South side of the street. Most photographers would suggest shooting on the North side, but in this case we chose the South side because it was cast in shadow. Taking photographs of subjects in shadow is great because it not only keeps the sun out of their eyes, but it also provides for more consistent ambient light. As an extra bonus, the shadow side of the street generally provides less pedestrian traffic during cold weather.
Being that I wanted to use the sun as the ambient light to camera right, I made sure all of my equipment was set to the opposite side. I took a few test shots with the speed light turned off and metered for the back drop until I reached the exposure I needed. In this instance it was necessary to reduce the shutter speed to 1/60th of a second.
Now that I metered for the ambient light, it was time to add the speed light and use it as the main light for my subject. Using the speed light also negates any concerns one might have shooting a subject at 1/60th of a second. Taking photos with a dedicated speed light will enable you to freeze your subjects in place.
The silver reflector positioned below was also used to fill in any additional shadow cast beneath the model. This also added a subtle catchlight in the model's eyes while illuminating the image as a whole.
"to make art, it doesn't take much more than the will to make it happen."
Truth be told, this shoot could be done without buying a seamless backdrop. You don't really need to purchase a speed light or reflector for that matter. You could make this very same photoshoot just using a piece of foam core, aluminum foil, and a nice sunny day. I guess what I want people (myself included) to take away from this is that you don't need to break the bank getting that new lens or new camera. I used my Sony camera and 50mm lens because that is the equipment I have. Photography is an art form that belongs to everyone. It is as accessible today as pen and paper. Just know that to make art, it doesn't take much more than the will to make it happen.