A couple of common themes for portraits in the last week. I did a lighting class last weekend and found while doing the more controlled, constructed lighting was interesting, I was still spending more time playing around with the ambient and trying to accentuate the lighting in the location. I'm not sure if I just don't really have the imagination to see completely contrived lighting, or I think really, I'm just not motivated enough to want to create it all from scratch. I do like finding the interesting light already available, then trying to build on that. I did some shots using strobes and adding in lighting, but I was still mostly working with the light I could find. One that I like was where I replaced the existing light with a strobe to essentially mimic what was there already - but being able to shoot at a much lower ISO and smaller aperture. It was in a hallway with a bare bulb hanging in the ceiling (below right) and I liked the light quality. With some help I put a strobe and a small softbox up in the same place, getting very similar light but slightly less harsh. A grid over the softbox helped control the fall off and edges, to shape it a bit more. I'd picked this hallway for the blocky green and orange wall paintings and thought it'd play well with the checked dress the model was wearing. All that I think works well, along with the lighting - but I struggle with posing a full body. That's why so much of my photography is tighter head and shoulders shots - fewer limbs to position and deal with.
Another theme has been shooting using windows and mixing in the daylight with the available indoor light, playing with the mixed colour temperatures that you find around those edges. Eric Ogden has many portraits shot with the window actually in the frame, blowing out behind the subject and I tried a bit of that with the portrait of Amanda above. Just put the meter on center spot to ignore the background and shoot for these - nothing too clever going on. I like how the outdoor light turns slightly blue when her skin is balanced for the indoor light - made a bit stranger by the fact we were in a predominantly green-walled restaurant which added some unique colour casts to the shot. I also used an old idea of shooting through glass, for the second shot of Kevin, above, using the neon lights in the bar we were in, along with an empty, slightly dirty pint glass in front of the lens to create the coloured flare.
I've also been thinking about and cropping nearly all the shots over the last week to a square format. I've been shooting with that crop in mind and just seeing how it works for me. I doubt there will be a Hasselblad anywhere in my near future but that different crop has been interesting to work with. I'm blaming looking at Mark Tucker's portraits for that particular influence. I don't think it is something I'm going to keep doing much longer but it was interesting to try adding another arbitrary constraint into how I was shooting for a short time. It certainly changes how you arrange things in a frame.
Another shot, (below) was lit using the available light and the modeling lights of the alien bee strobes that we were using. I'm not sure that that really counts as using the strobes properly, but any light that's available counts. the modeling light is low to the camera right, balancing with the wall light fixture. This could be another example of me only being able to see what the continuous sources give well and not having enough experience to predict how the brief strobe will act, but I much prefer working with the continuous light sources - it seems to suit my biases and process. Maybe I should be thinking about video more!