Less light is sometimes better

Actually made some portraits late last week, business images to be used as needed for online and magazine articles.  Straightforward lighting and poses to result in a basic professional appearance.  It got me to thinking about non-traditional portraits, such as Weston’s famous bell peppers.  How would I make fruit look dramatic?

I’m starting with the most basic thing I saw at the store – kiwi.  It’s got a nice surface texture, pretty uniform color and a classic shape.  Importantly, it’s not shiny!

First, the standard portrait lighting:

Gives a little dimension to the rounded surface, a highlight here and there, with a lighter background to help the subject stand out in the image.  Not very exciting, though.

I moved the light around a bit but just wasn’t getting the contrast I wanted.  Since I don’t do much studio work I’ve never invested in the bevy of light modifiers available to broaden or narrow the lights.  Also, although I wanted drama I really didn’t know what I was looking for so playing around with light position and intensity was interesting but not goal-oriented.  So, instead of a lot of light, how about just the right amount.

Lightpainting consists of turning off the flash units and using a penlight and long exposure to essentially put light right where you want it.  The camera only “sees” the light you provide at the spot you put it.  Granted there’s lots of trial and error in a dark room but the results can be much different from manipulating strobes.  And it’s not just light on the subject that works – light elsewhere can be important as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALiterally, you paint your image with light.  Subject, background, shapes, key lighting – anything you want to highlight as a way of making a dramatic presentation.  And once I see something like this, I realize it’s the look I was searching for.  Now I know one way to reach this composition.  Maybe I’ll tackle bell peppers soon….


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