"Photo Failed It to Photo Nailed It!" #2: Add lights to add drama to a scene

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From time to time here on my blog I'll run a post: "Photo Failed It Photo To Nailed It!" The concept is twofold:

1) I'll share a pair of pictures, along with tips, that illustrate how you can nail a shot;

2) You'll see that with a little effort - and sometimes by using accessories - you can turn a snapshot into a great shot.

This post: Add lights to add drama to a photograph.

Above is a failed shot from the shoot. The picture is flat and boring for two main reasons: boring and flat light and a boring pose. What's more, the background is overexposed.

To nail the shot, I . . .
• took an exposure of the background (a painted background) and then set the exposure exposure compensation to -1.
• used two Westcott Ice Lights – one positioned near the windshield and one positioned over the sunroof - to add shadows to the scene. Shadows are the soul of the photograph.
• directed the model and then moved in closer. The closer you are to the subject, the more intimate the photograph becomes.
• added props (sunglasses and cell phone).
• tilted my camera for the "dutch" effect.
• applied the Duplex filter in Nik Color Efex Pro. (All the plug-ins I use are listed on my Save on Plug-ins page.)

My camera/lens: Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 24-105mm IS lens.

As you can see, it did not take a lot of effort to nail the shot.

If you like model/people photography, I have a few 2015 photo workshops that you may enjoy.

Explore the light,

On Safari with the Canon 5D Mark III. Day 3: Serious About Portraiture? Get Series About Controlling The Light

We've been back a week (almost to the hour) from our awesome adventure to Kenya's magical Masai Mara with our good friends Jonathan and Angela Scott - known and respected around the world as "The Big Cat People."

One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to Willima Pere's Village, where I took this portrait of Alex, who, to me, looked like the coolest dude in the village.

Portraiture is all about light and shadows - because light illuminates and shadow define, topics I talk about in my KelbyOne class on lighting.

The light in the portrait on the right is flat, so I think the portrait falls flat.

The portrait on the left has, to me, not only more light, but more life.

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I added the light (brightness, color and contrast) by having our guide/driver/new friend, Simon Sitienie, hold the Sunlight side (as opposed to the Gold side) of the reflector in my Rick Sammon's On-location Lighting Kit and Tote so that the sunlight bounced beautifully onto Alex's face. The kit also contains a diffuser and speedlight diffuser.

Readers of my blog know that my favorite lens for on-location portraiture is the Canon 24-105mm IS lens.

I like the flexibility that this lens offers when it comes to composing a portrait, as well as its sharpness.

Stay tuned for more images from our visit to this village, and scroll down for more posts in this series.

Here's a fun shot of Simon checking out Jonathan's Canon 200-400mm IS lens. I used my 200-400 for most of my wildlife photographs on the trip.

Explore the light,

P.S. A special "thank you" goes to Governors' Camp for making our stay on the Mara, well, perfect.

The Most Important Accessory for Outdoor Portraits

When I give a seminar on making outdoor portraits, I suggest using a reflector/diffuser kit – the single most important accessory for the outdoor portrait photographer.

Sure, a speedlite is a valuable accessory, and I have one with me at all times. But if you are on a budget or want to travel very light – and can take ONLY ONE accessory – the reflector/diffuser kit is the way to go.

What? You thought a leaf blower was the most important accessory? Well . . . it can create a beautiful "wind in the hair" effect.  :-)

Reflectors and diffusers enable us to control the light – turning bad/hard light into good light. I used a large reflector, like the one pictured above, to illuminate the model in the opening image for this post. The reflector filled in the shadows on the models face created by the harsh sunlight. It also added some nice catch-light to the model's eyes.

Quick Tip: When using a reflector, the subject often becomes brighter than the background – so you need to meter the scene carefully.

Above is another example of how a reflector enhanced a portrait. Below is a behind-the-scenes shot of me using my Westcott Lighting Kit and Tote.

Quick Tip: When using a reflector, tell the subject NOT to look at it: the reflected light can be blinding.

Diffusers soften harsh light.

Above is an example of how a diffuser turns harsh light into pleasing light.

Above is a behind-the-scenes shot of me using the diffusion panel in my Tote Kit.

All the gear I use for my on-location portraits is listed on My Gear Page. For more of my travel portraits, check out my World Portrait Gallery.

One final Quick Tip: Always respect the subject. Respect the subject and the subject will respect you.

My next model shoot is in NYC on November 4th. All indoors, but we'll use reflectors and diffusers, as well as Westcott Ice Lights, Spider Lights. Speedlites, too.

Learn about light on-line with my KelbyOne classes.

Explore the light,

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Keep Portrait Lighting Simple - And Save a Few Bucks on My Home Studio Speedlite Starter Kit

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I like to keep portrait lighting simple. Very simple. For example, for this portrait, inspired by Vermeer's paining, Girl With a Pearl Earring, I used only one Canon Speedlite in a Westcott Apollo soft box.

I used that softbox because it has a recessed front panel that lets me (and you) direct the light and shape the light on the subject.

I used the black side of a Westcott light modifier to darken the shadow on the shadow side of the model's face.

Careful lighting made the subject stand out from the black background.

My friends at Adorama have put together a cool speedlite accessory kit at a cool price that you can use to make dramatic portraits in the comfort of your own home - and on location. It includes the softbox, light modifiers and light modifier stand that I used - plus a sturdy background stand and larger background (which is way better than the piece of black material that I pined to my bookshelf. Just add your speedlite.

Here are two quick portrait tips: One - If you want an interesting portrait, don't light the entire face. Two - Keep in mind that the camera looks both ways. When you are shooting, know that the mood, energy and feeling that you project will be reflected in your subject's face - and eyes.

Above: See, you don't need a pro studio to get professional looking portrait. I took my Girl with a Pearl Earring image in my home office.

Here's a quick tip on all lighting: Shadows are the soul of the photograph.

Explore the light,

KelbyOne - the one place for my two most popular on-line classes

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KelbyOne is the home for my two most popular on-line classes: Composition - the strongest way of seeing, and Light - the main element in every photograph.

These, and all my KelbyOne on-line classes, are listed on my On-line classes and Video Page.

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I am shooting a new KelbyOne class, which will feature some of my Africa photo safari images, next week. Stay tuned.

Explore the light,