A couple of years ago I got the opportunity shoot in a local cinema’s luxury screening room. As testament to my recent post about when working for free works I shot some images of the cinema foyer while it was bustling for the management and in return my “payment” was a days access when it was quiet. No money, but a no brainier!
On to the image.
Quite a simple lighting setup here, just 2 Elinchom Quadra heads with standard reflectors and 30 degree grids. One firing directly at Jen, the other at the seats further down along the row.
Looking at the EXIF data, you can see I was at ISO320 and down to 1/50th for my shutter speed the let some ambient light in to the shadows. My aperture was at f8 for no reason other than that’s what power my lights were set at from the last set up and we didn’t have long before the next film showing!
This shot was taken back in 2011 and (fortunately!) I’ve learnt a lot since then. I didn’t notice at the time, but now when I look at this image all I can see is the wooden table from the seat behind sticking out of Jen’s head.
It would have been so easy to correct in camera. I could have ducked slightly to hide it behind the seat next to Jen, I could have moved to the right slightly to hide it behind her head or I could have even angled my lights down to keep the next row in darkness.
Another weekend, another show at the NEC and another two days under horrific artificial lighting.
The most popular way to work around it and get some good photos is to use on camera fill flash as you run and gun. But as each hall has a different flavour of lighting, you don’t stand much chance of gelling your flash to match so everyone’s shots tend to look the same. You see ringflash adapters, variousbrackets and all manner of Tupperware to try and avoid the rabbit-in-the-headlights bare flash look but I decided to even further and make it through the weekend flash-free!
The 5DMkII is pretty happy at high ISOs so I spent most of the time at or above ISO1600, wide open on either my 50mm f1.8 or my 24-105mm f4. As the backgrounds are so varied in the NEC, I found centre-weighted metering was the best bet.
If you read this blog though, you know I can’t resist a bit off off-camera flash in a bid to get something a bit different.
This is Jen with a Nikon SB-28 on about 1/8th power in the passenger seat firing toward her head. Without that kick of light, the interior of the car was pure black and her dark blue outfit just blended in.
Then we have Michelle lit by what looks like a big softbox camera left, which in reality is a full power SB-28 bouncing off a white trailer on the neighbouring stand.
And then there’s Sara and Kirsty with Podzilla, the Santa Pod monster truck. Dozens of other people got basically the same shot, and while they did, I ran around to the back wheel, placed a flash and came back to quickly grab this. Natural light from the skylights you can see in the background acted as the main while my flash provides a bit of a kick from behind.
I wasn’t lucky enough to have any secluded barns to shoot in this time so it was a case of making the best of a bad lot. And at car shows, it’s a very bad lot – even when your subjects are the Sextons Direct / Ripraw girls!
You’ve got cluttered backgrounds, harsh mid afternoon light and crowds.
First of all, I toured Santa Pod looking for a location without people, cars or fairground rides lurking in the background. Luckily Santa Pod is out in the middle of the Northamptonshire countryside and backs onto some open fields and I was able to find this on the edge of the showground.
I chose this partly for the view but also as facing in the this direction the sun was be coming from behind the subjects – about 2 o’clock from this view. This way, the girls weren’t squinting into the bright light and I’d be able to add my own soft, diffused light from camera left.
Which leads nicely onto Problem Number 2 – the harsh sunlight. As it was coming from over the left shoulders of the girls it served as a nice separation light which, if I under exposed the background slightly, would make them really ‘pop’. But that would also leave faces in shadow, so out came the lighting.
Working in manual mode, I set my 5D MkII to sync at it’s max sync speed (1/200th) but in order to get some detail in the bright sky I was having to shoot at f/10 which meant needing to drive the flashes hard. So hard in fact that in order to keep a decent recycle time I had to gang 3 SB-28 at 1/2 power though a single shoot through umbrella. Think Joe McNally‘s speedlight tree on a budget!
With lights and locations sorted, it was time to bring on the car and the girls. This always draws an instant crowd at car shows but due to the location, apart from a few passing cars, the onlookers were behind the camera.
And onto the results. Well worth a bit of location scouting and 5 minutes of set-up I think.
Big thanks to Chris for the loan of the car and of course for the girls for doing their thing in front of my camera.
As Zack Arias said in his recent 3 day extravaganza on CreativeLIVE; a studio is any place with a floor and a couple of walls where you can control the ambient light. That includes a barn on an agricultural show ground in Peterborough. Ladies and gents, I welcome you to “Studio J”
I’d shot in one of these barns before so I had a fairly good idea when I got there what I wanted to try. A quick word with Chris, driver of the Skyline and shepherd of the SextonsGrid Girls, and everything was set.
The idea was to cross light the car with slashing hard light coming on from 45 degrees camera left and right but keep the girls lit softly with a more central shoot through umbrella.
Here are the results:
Thanks to the Emmas, Gemma, Jen and Chris (And sorry to the other Gemma! I’ll get you next time!)