Lulls, gels, and panic

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It’s been a lazy week. I haven’t touched my camera in four or five days. That’s not terrible, since I had about a thousand photos to go through from the Christmas and New Year break. Next week, however, is going to be an exciting one, photography-wise, but I’ll get to that. In the meantime I’m playing some catchup on editing, taking it easy and preparing for the future.

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As I mentioned earlier, Abby and I went to visit my folks and sister over out East over the New Year and hey gave me Joe McNally’s The Moment It Clicks. It’s full of useful information and spectacularly lit photographs, along with advice and explanations of how he made the shots. The photos are great inspiration for learning how to light in more intricate and creative ways, and the terse explanations are great inspiration to learn how to write more gooder. While I don’t really know how to make my writing better, at this point ( I probably just need to do it more, before I can start to refine details), I do know a few things I can work on in terms of photography. McNally talks a lot about gels (a ‘gel’ is a transparent piece of plastic you put over the flash to color the light, like this) and how to use them. I have some gels and I’ve used them before for dramatic effect, but never as a way to correct for the ambient light, a mistake I now regret.

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How the photo would have looked if I gelled my flash.
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How the photo ended up looking.

The poorly corrected photo on the left is sort of what the picture should have looked like, without that terrible blue halo of sloppy color correction. The problem here is that the skin tones are fine, but the background is this awful yellow color, so everything ends up blending in together. What gelling would have done is it would have made all the lights in the room the same color, including my flash, allowing the camera to correctly compensate for the yellow tint and balance out the white. But as it is, there’s nothing i can do, unless I really want to spend hours editing each photo from this batch. Or just go black and white.

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Flashes are designed to mimic daylight - plain white light - and are great for that. What they can’t correct for is panic. I only had about 30 seconds to make this photo before everyone froze and became substantially less smiling. In my panicked state I didn’t think to tell Abby to step back with the flash, so the shadows are harsh and look very much like this photo is strobe lit. A step back would have scattered the light, making the transition between dark and light more gradual and natural looking. Oh well. Next time.

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Speaking of panic and natural light. Puja was doing a photoshoot and I volunteered to assist. We talked about how I will bring my light modifiers and about another shoot I’m going to do. Our communication got jumbled and Puja thought that I was bringing remote triggers that could work on her camera. I was not. I did bring my giant reflector and Puja came through like a champ working it and a single on-camera strobe. It’s nice to see professionals do their thing. It all comes down to staying calm, working with whatever is available, and being flexible. In sharp contrast, I was so focused on staying with the plan and emulating a softbox, I even rigged up a snoot (like this but out of paper) to try and bounce some light off the reflector. Fortunately for everyone, Puja vetoed all of that and we made do with natural light.

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Next week, I get to be in charge of a shoot. I’m shooting interiors for a marketing campaign at work. I’m excited and terrified all at the same time. The good news is that I’m fairly well prepared for this, having been practising my lighting techniques and really taking the time to look at light. But there are always hickups. Wish me skill and let’s see how I do.