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Learning on your own…

Hello y'all, long time no see... The weather is not that great here, it's cold, we have a curfew so no random photoshoot outside after 6 pm! The past year, I have spent most of my time at home like a lot of you. And for someone like me who loves to shoot on location, it's hard. Thankfully, we can still work here in France, even with us, photographers. I just have to find the right locations that are still actually open. Even those who are, don't want to bother welcoming photographers and filmmakers so that doesn't make things easy, especially when our art is our bread and butter. But I won't complain, my ball is still rolling, and we can only hope for the better and in this world full of negativity, let’s be positive.

Something I've been doing a lot recently is trying to find new ways to use light and trying to find new fun tools to make my life easier on the job. I don't have a location, I don't have a model, I ain't got much room at home, but will this stop me from learning, from exploring new things?

I've done very few self-portraits before, and that's a shame because it's the cheapest way, to play around with ideas and concepts before considering making them on a larger scale. You don't need much room and you just need an effective way to make the camera focus on yourself, compose your shot, and fire without being behind the camera. There are multiple ways to do that. There are now several brands that offer their own software, that lets you pilot your camera from a laptop. But these days camera apps have become better and much more stable and much faster to use. I used the Fujifilm camera remote app before, for shots where my camera was out of reach, in order to avoid standing on a stool and breaking my neck.

I can create better images with the composition I have in mind every time even when my camera is rigged up high, attached to a boom arm. For Canon users, there is the canon app called "camera connect" and I will only talk about these 2 because they are the only apps I've used extensively. With these apps, you can change all your settings, ISO, aperture, F stop, set your focus, and of course, fire your shot. You can also review your images, zoom in on them, so no excuses, you can test experiment with things on your own...and that’s exactly what I am doing right now! My self-assignment that day, was “color”, and to make things simple I decided to use led lights and not any led lights. I used the PavoTube 30C RGBW LED Tube and the almighty Forza 500 (you don't need that kind of power for what you are about to see, so keep that in mind) with a bunch of accessories. Why led RGB lights and why these ones? One big advantage is that I am all alone, and seeing live what the image is going to look like helps a lot. The Pavotube is also great because one light is not super expensive (compared to what I usually use at least) and these big ones have super long batteries that allowed me to shoot for multiple hours without being plugged in. I chose the big ones because I needed the spread and softness. They are RGB W lights so theoretically you can do pretty much any color combination with them. And this helped me so much while I was doing my tests and deciding which colors I preferred for my future projects. All the following images were slightly modified in lightroom, sometimes just a simple curve and a few tweaks on highlights contrast and saturation. I played with complementary colors and if you don't know what that is, basically, it's when two colors oppose each other, giving you maximum color contrast.

I then tried analog colors or shades and tones that are nearby. And I mixed them with white light and then opposed cold and warm color temperatures. I also added a white bounce on the table in front of me, to pick up some of the light and slightly raise my shadows on the bottom half of me to keep a bit of the detail. Another white bounce was added on some shots in front of me too when needed.

On these last images, I used the fresnel and barn doors to shape my light with the NANlite Forza500

On this final portrait, the Forza500 was used with the Parabolic 120 and a grid as a top light. This is one of the setups I would use if you want to minimize the shadows on the face, a setup that is usually kind and flattering for people's faces because it doesn't show all the flaws of the skin. I used to find this way of lighting very frontal and a bit boring… but I had to try! For that kind of setup, to draw attention to the eyes, you have to create a catch light in the eyes, even if you have tiny eyes like me. So I simply added the 2 Pavo Tubes in front of me, set at around 1 or 2% so that they didn't affect my scene too much, and just gave me the needed reflection of light visible in my eyes.

So what colors and setups do you prefer? I have my personal favorites, and we are only scratching the surface here because there are tons of things you can do with these. Before going any further, I will try some of the setups I made here but… on an actual model and we’ll see if all this training will help me on this next session. I will create multiple episodes with these led lights by NANlite, down below the lighting gear I used:

  • NANlite Forza500 + Grid

  • Fresnel Nanlite FL20G + Barn doors

  • NANlite PavoTube 30c + BArn doors and eggcrate

  • Lee filter gels

Do you use colors in your portraits? What do you use? RGB lights or colored Gels? Tell us in the comments below! I will try to be a little more present in the following weeks, so until my next post, take care, and have a good one!


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