Tuesday, March 17, 2015


to create a natural three dimensional look not possible using flash.  Most photographers using flash outside end-up creating unnatural looking and/or flat light on their subjects. 

It's out job as artists to create dimension in our subjects. Artists do this with the contrast of light and shadow. The great artist Leonardo daVinci wrote: "The artist who can make his subject appear to be in relivo (made to appear to have elevation, with depth and dimension) is he who should receive the greatest praise!

So, the alternative I offer, instead of adding light, is the subtractive natural light technique--also called negative fill. This technique is simple, costs you WAY Less in equipment and most importantly the results are far better--than adding light to an outdoor scene when there's usually more than enough ambient light!

To accomplish this you block unneeded light on one side of your subject with a Gobo or a Black Flag.  I use Natural Gobos on groups and if there's no natural gobo nearby I'll use a black flag on individuals.

The natural gobos I look for, when I scout outdoor locations, are mostly a stand of trees for groups (it can be one tree for an individual) or you can block light with a hedge or a building--anything that can create a shadow side on your subject's face.

In the portrait of this girl I placed her on a rock right next to a stand of trees on camera left. Then I turned her towards the light (a big patch of blue sky) on camera right.

 f4.5 at 1/250 sec., ISO 400, Lens @ 160mm

Time of day is critical for this type of portraiture and it's no accident that I choose this location.  I always look for a location where, at about two hours before sunset, there will be light in my background.  In this spot the sun is setting over her right shoulder creating a nice kicker light on her hair--a bonus I don't always get.  The most important priority though are the trees near the open sky.  In other works…THE LIGHT IS AT THE EDGE OF THE FORREST.

The most common mistake I see other photographers make is to go marching INTO the forest, presumably looking for shade or a neat tree, and end up with dull flat light and then they resort to flash! The sad part is they usually walk right past the spot where there was great light on their way into the forest!
f7.1 at 1/100 sec., ISO 400, Lens @ 120mm

We did their family portrait in the same location.  Rotating my set-up, the lighting isn't as dramatic on their faces--which is common on groups--but you can still see a soft shadow side on their faces.  What sells this as a wall portrait is the setting and the colors and the light.

Using this technique creates portraits that are natural and three dimensional.  The methods I use for negative fill are organic and appeal to me in their minimalist style. Give this technique a chance; I think you, and more importantly your clients, will be thrilled with the result.

'Til next week…as always if you have questions don't hesitate to ask. I'd love to see your results…post something you have tried.

Author:  Jerry W Venz, PPA Certified Master Craftsman
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

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