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Learning the hard way!

Behind-the-scenes video feat. Nina Queiroz Da Silva

This one wasn’t easy, and it’s strange because I’ve done so many images like these in the past, so this should be easy for me now. I struggled but figured out a way to go through the session, but when looking back, I regret some of the decisions I took that day. Was it a lack of preparation? Maybe, but on the plus side, I finally have an example that will help me tell you why I hate sharing my camera and flash settings, so let's dive right in:

Do not expect anything new here. This is my typical dance session in an unusual place… not so unusual after all, as I see a lot of photographers creating images like these now. I wasn’t the first, and will not be the last, and I am glad others are creating their own.

I had in my bag the Fujifilm GFX100s, the GF20-35mm, and the GF250mm lenses. I was able to bring the Godox Parabolic P158 paired with the GODOX AD1200pro, and just in case had the AD600 pro and AD300pro. I had a wonderful ballerina, Nina Queiroz Da Silvza, my beloved assistant Marlène, and an amazing location. I’ve done shoots in so many museums and churches before so what could go wrong?

Nina Queiroz at the Eglise du Gésu (Toulouse - France)

Fujifilm GFX100s + GF 20-35mm f/4 R WR

1/125sec f/4 ISO 500 at 20mm

Maybe I haven’t worked in a such poorly lit environment in a long time. I didn’t bring the right tools to light this place, and so I was worried I wouldn’t be able to use my wide-angle lens and create the images I had in mind.

We wasted a lot of time with the first images. I realized only after a dozen attempts that I was looking at my scene the wrong way. I then decided to shoot at an angle and things made a lot more sense. I used 3 lights right away. The AD300pro was hidden behind the altar, and the AD600 pro was used to light the background. My main light, the AD1200pro, and P158 were placed on the same axis. was on the same axis to keep the shadows coherent.

Nina Queiroz at the Eglise du Gésu (Toulouse - France)

Fujifilm GFX100s + GF 20-35mm f/4 R WR

1/125sec f/4 ISO 500 at 26mm

Last year I made a special session for Fujifilm inside the Capitole de Toulouse, and although the light coming in from the windows wasn’t great, it was just enough for me. I wasn’t forced to go too high with my ISO and found the right settings to capture a few movements. I’ve seen other photographers shoot there, and a lot of them made the same mistake. They use a flash to light their subject, and once they get the exposure for their model, they end up completely losing their background. Sometimes, you don't have that many options, you have to raise your ISO if you don't want to have a heavily under-exposed background. The only portraits made at the Capitole that I saw online that worked, were those made without any artificial light, just using the light coming from the vast windows. This is the reason why I often tell beginners to deal with the ambient light first, and add the flash after. The problem I faced with this new location is that there are no windows, and no light coming in at ground level. Everything was coming from the ceiling, and it wasn’t enough.

So I narrowed it down to 3 options:

  1. Let's assume I have all the accessories, I can try to use multiple flashes to light the entire place, and my model and make it in one shot.

  2. I don’t have enough flashes or the right ones, so I have to shoot my model and my background individually and probably merge multiple photos in photoshop.

  3. I find the right balance between ISO and shutter speed depending on what I want to capture. Use a slow shutter speed as much as possible and maybe favor static shots, in order to keep my ISO as low as possible.

You will notice the added color in the dress and the added width. This was my intent from the start, but I thought we would be able to do it without merging multiple photos for the dress. To give you an idea of how we made this, here is an old Behind the scenes video, that used a similar technique: Rediscovering this contemporary dance photoshoot.

Nina Queiroz at the Eglise du Gésu (Toulouse - France)

Fujifilm GFX100s + GF 20-35mm f/4 R WR

1/125sec f/4 ISO 1600 at 20mm

The problem with the 3rd option is that I still had to raise my ISO to at least 1600, risking a bit of noise in my images (not a major issue with the GFX100s). Plus this meant using all the practical lights there, and I realized too late, that they created multiple shadows on some shots, with different light temperatures. Such a beginner mistake!

Nina Queiroz at the Eglise du Gésu (Toulouse - France)

Fujifilm GFX100s + GF 20-35mm f/4 R WR

1/125sec f/4 ISO 1600 at 35mm

To sum it up, I did a horrible mix of all 3 methods when I should have favored option number 2 based on the accessories I had with me, even if that meant more work in photoshop. Instead of using my lights creatively, this time I was fighting for each scene to find a simple way to have decent exposure and a workable image. Some of these images are more convincing than others, but you know what? I have no regrets, I still enjoyed the experience, because I learned a lot during that session.

I even got to play once again with the GF250mm lens for a few portraits. The first image down below is my least favorite, due to the light being too visible on the chairs on both sides. A flag or two could have helped, or a better light placement.

Nina Queiroz at the Eglise du Gésu (Toulouse - France)

Fujifilm GFX100s + GF 250mm f/4 R LM OIS WR

1/125sec f/4 ISO 1250 at 250mm

We cannot be at the top of our game all the time, and it’s ok. This experience will most certainly help me with future projects. To conclude this, stop asking other photographers for settings all the time. You will never work in the exact same conditions, you won’t have the same weather, model, location, light, and so on… If you just apply a recipe we hand to you, you will most likely end up with a horrible image.

I never use the same setups and settings for each of my shoots!

Go out there, take your camera with you and shoot. Try new ideas, run some tests, and don't be afraid to fail. This is still the best way to learn!


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