Tuesday, August 26, 2014


We just got back from California where we taught "the technique" at two PPA Affiliates.  We started in San Jose at PPSCV - Professional Photographers of Santa Clara Valley. Then a week later we went to the wine country in Santa Rosa and we did an evening program for PPWC - Professional Photographers of the Wine Country - followed by a workshop the next day, on location at Judy Tembrock's marvelous home/natural light studio/winery.

f4.5   1/80   ISO 1600                              f4.5   1/80   ISO 1600                                 f4.0   1/80   ISO 1600

These first three images we did at the PPSCV seminar, in San Jose at Kelly Park, a real test of doing natural subtractive light portraits in very low light. I had to use 1600 ISO for everything!  This is definitely NOT the time of day, nor the level of light I normally use for my clients, the sun was literally setting as we did these. 

The image of the little girl, on the left, was done in the picnic area surrounded by tall trees, thus giving us mostly top light. So, I had Kathi use the gobo (black flag), on the left, to break up the flat light while I managed to capture the last of the glow in the background as the sun left this area.  Going to higher ground, for the center and right images, we had better light in this more open area--with a patch of sky on the right and some trees on the left that created a natural gobo to block light giving these images a nice dimensional quality.

Next Stop Santa Rosa Wine Country!

Our evening program for PPWC was so well received that 20 photographers signed-up and paid for our next day workshop.  We were told that it was the biggest class they had ever put together and was also a great fund raiser for the association, that was very exciting for us!

They decided on a morning workshop--not my usual time for outside portraits and it was totally overcast--so we started with a lesson on natural window light interiors using Judy Tembrock's really nice studio with its great wall of windows on one side. The lesson I wanted to impart here was how I use reflector fill, and when I don't, depending on the distance between the window and my subject. The main point being: the closer to the window the less reflector fill is needed on the subject.

  f4.5   1/60   ISO 800                                  f4.5   1/400   ISO 400                                 f4.5   1/160   ISO 400
The image on the left, done by window light in the studio, the model is about 18 inches from the window with NO reflector fill.  The dim room is acting as a gobo creating a nice shadow on her face.

Taking the class outside to do my specialty we still had total misty overcast sky. Nothing but flat light!  It seemed that this whole teaching experience was going to tax my technique everywhere I went!  At least there was enough light to go back to my usual ISO 400 for outdoor portraits. So, the middle image was done with a gobo (black flag) on the right creating a nice shadow on the model's face.  However, since she was seated on the ground, and most of our light was top light, I had lost the light in her eyes. To correct this I showed the class that all you do is raise your camera height to about 5-feet and have the model bring her chin UP to your height and raise her eyes up slightly until you can see catch lights in her eyes clearly.

In the image on the right our model was placed on the home's porch. To maximize her light we have her out against the railing. No black flag was needed here since the interior of the porch itself created a pronounced shadow side on her face.  The last thing I did before I tripped my shutter was to move further under the porch to align that nice greenery behind her head and create strong Short Lighting on her face for more drama.  I like short lighting.

As usual, if you have any comments or questions don't hesitate to ask…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz; MasterPhotographer, CPP
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

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