by Damian McGillicuddy Published 01/02/2010
The final consideration given to the lighting plan is the fill light. In this example I have chosen to use the natural ambient daylight to serve as my fill. Normally that would just require you metering the flash exposure, for the purpose of the example let's say it measured f8 and then metering the ambient light. For the purpose of the example again let's say that the ambient measures 125th of a second at f8. To balance the illumination it's as simple as setting the flash to output to f8 worth of power and set the camera's controls to 125th of a second at f8...et voila, total balance. In this case though I required something a little more dramatic. By setting my shutter speed to a 250th of a second I underexposed the ambient illumination by a stop allowing the surroundings to subtly darken and offer more visual contrast between what the 'pool' of flash-created light touches and the natural ambient daylight illuminating the rest of the scene. So there you have it, lighting that is simple and straightforward from compact, portable units with enough power to dominate the sun!
Assuming faultless camera and lighting craft, THE most important thing in any image in my opinion is the concept and the narrative. No matter how technically correct an image is if it doesn't have depth of narrative, have visual interest and capture the viewer's attention, it fails totally as a picture for me - you must want to view it and have the emotions stirred, whatever those emotions may be.
This is why I put so much thought into narrative, styling and propping of my images. I'm sure some of you will be shocked to learn that in reality I didn't pressgang a feeble old lady into holding my key light for an age. She is in fact, the beautiful other (or better) half of one of my business partners - the canny yet stereotypically craggy, crusty Scot, Mr McB!!!
The point being that we had to source the mac, head-scarf, shopping trolley, flats, etc to style and transform Ellen into the rickety Mrs Miggins. In fact the dapper bloke holding the light to camera right is Ian (Mr McB) - told you he was canny, he volunteered to model to save on the talent fees!
If the truth be told one of the hardest things to achieve on this shoot was to get sufficient numbers of 'people' to walk into the shot. Isn't that typical, when you don't want extra bodies in your frame the blighters 'Pop up' from everywhere. When you need them it's like rounding up fog!!! Oh the trials and tribulations of professional photography; unbelievably this was a day that the races were on in Chester...there were wall-to-wall people, they just needed heavy persuasion to go where I needed them. Once lights were rigged, tested and measured, my number one assistant Steve (or the sorcerer's apprentice as he cutely refers to himself) was sent off up the street, tasked with finding people and sending them on down.
It often amazes me what tiny details need to be covered in order to complete a successful shoot. More often than not they are not even photographic in nature. I stack the odds of success heavily in my favour by working with friends and colleagues who are part of a tight-knit, strong and capable team. It may be my signature on the print but the results really are a team effort greater than the sum of the constituent parts. I would strongly urge all photographers to develop a cogent, supportive network, even if they are not strictly 'staff', as it makes the result a far greater certainty.
So, there you have it, the first phase of the commission finished and in the bag. A strong concept, planned out properly and executed professionally with the right team behind you; utilising fantastic equipment will always give you a slightly easier task. By the time you read this I'm fairly certain you'll have at least seen this, the first image from the commission, in various photo mags. I hope you enjoyed viewing it as much as we enjoyed shooting it. Do yourself a BIG favour, if you're in the market for new lights, take a look at these babies from Elinchrom, they really are top!
If you've enjoyed being along for the ride you can follow me on some of my photo shoots at www.damianmcgillicuddy.com. You're always welcome to pop in and see what I'm doing, with whom I'm doing it and where, how and what with, it's being done! Of course you'll also find me in the pages of Imagemaker but nothing would give me greater pleasure than you stopping by at The Societies' Convention and chatting with my team and I, face to face, for a while.
Until next time...
There are 214 days to get ready for The Societies of Photographers Convention and Trade Show at The Novotel London West, Hammersmith ...
which starts on Wednesday 17th March 2021