Shoot: One Light, Single Subject
So let me introduce you to my good friend and former student and co-worker Chris Coe. Let's give it up for Chris Coe. (audience claps) Thank you. And I will say this, I don't know, you probably all have some photo friends, right? You have photo friends? Yeah? I would say, like, make a commitment to their vision and artistry, you know, and they make a commitment to yours, and you're gonna be a better photographer if you have an assistant. You know, I couldn't really do today, or I'm not as good a photographer without one. Certain situations I have to not have one, sometimes it's kinda nice to be solo, rogue, you know, going out there with my little speed light, doing my little thing, but in certain situations where I have to shoot tethered and I just can't be in many places at once. So he helps my job work a lot better, and I do think, you know, Einstein said this great thing, "You can't solve a problem "with the consciousness that created it." Right? Many times, I get stuck or boxed in...
to a spot, right? And I don't know how to get out of the spot, you know? I have these blind spots, maybe stuff I know, and dude's gonna help me figure stuff out, you know? Period. And don't be afraid, like if you get a big job, don't be afraid to get somebody who knows more than you. A good boss, let's talk about boss. A boss, dumbest person in the room, right? Good boss, surrounded by smart people. Like my friend said, "You know, I'm working for this guy, "I know more about photography than he does," I'm like, sounds like a good boss. He's like, "What do you mean?" I'm like, no, you know, this guy, that's what you do. You know, you don't wanna, so, get somebody who knows more than you, not that Chris knows more than me, but, (laughs) no, I'm joking.
Just a little bit.
So, we're talking about the inverse square law. Let's get that light on, Chris. Let's just talk a little bit about what we're using, right, in case you wanna know. Pro photo D2s, right, some model lights, all built in here, AC powered, capacitors up here, a thousand watts, really powerful. What is a speed light? How many watts does a speed light have?
(Audience member) What?
Watts, does anybody know? No, Anybody know? Yeah, maybe we get one of our producers to look it up. I would imagine it's about 200 watts, right? Maybe 300 watts or something, if it's, 200 watts. So, a very powerful light. We're just gonna take some really beautiful pictures of this foamcore. (laughs) Oooh, oh boy, okay. So let's just get that really flat an perpendicular, Chris. Get that light on, and just pull it back like maybe a foot.
Right about there?
Yep, thanks. Yep, turn that model light on, please. Alright, so now there's this little air remote that comes with it, right? And we're a big advocate of the light meter. Can I see your light meter for a minute, Chris?
There are many teachers, and I know they billed me as an expert, right, like I'm a lighting expert. I don't know, I'm a guy who's had some experience lighting stuff. You know, I teach lighting, so I might be considered an expert, but I never want to call myself an expert, because I don't feel like I have all those technical pieces that the experts have, and I don't think you need them. But I do believe in this. I've seen, I've been watching Creative Live, and what's cool here is you can see many educators. Some are gonna tell you to throw this thing out, right? Other guys are gonna tell you to use this thing. So I think there's as many ways to practice photography as there are people in this room. I can't tell you my way is the right way, but this is the way I use. I'm not gonna say, you don't know about light if you don't have one of these things. But if I want to know what my electronic flash is doing, and not just guess, it helps me get there quicker, right? So, do we have one of these? Anybody use one of these? Thank god, thank god, thank you. Alright, cool. I don't know how to work without one, so, I think if you've learned to work without one, it might be easier. So it's just gonna read the electronic flash for me. That's what it does, in case, you know. I imagine if you got one, there'd be its own video that you could rabbit hole, you could go down and learn all about this, it could be it's own episode of Creative Live, but we're just gonna talk about it in a general way, if that's alright, is that alright? It's cool with you? Good, thanks, alright. Gimme a pop, Chris. 16.8 now, wonderful things, I can change to increments. We're shooting 100 ISO, in case you're wondering. Why are we shooting 100 ISO? Anybody wanna guess? Pardon?
Low grain, good quality image, we're in the studio, this is as powerful as the sun, right, we want the best quality image, dada dada, there's a million reasons. So this can just incrementally change, which is great. Once more. Okay, set it to 22. You can also set it on the Capture One. We're also shooting tethered to Capture One Pro, which is just what I like to use, it doesn't have that little bit of lag that LightRoom has, I don't know if you shoot tethered to LightRoom. When you're teaching, that little bit of lag, is, my patience, I'm not very patient, you know what I mean? Alright. So, we're 22 right here. And let me just frame it up. Just put this in the middle so I can focus on something. Alright. Alright, thanks. Alright sweet. (whistles) 22. Let's just, gimme some more pops, just so we can talk about it So right at the edge here I got 22, about 16 here. 8 and a half, 5.6, 4. Those are just numbers, but we'll just see how that looks. Just gonna fire one. We're live here? Cool, great. Alright, looks a lot like those weird illustrations we're looking at before right? So we got light exposed well here, right? This is good exposure, giving me a white, you know? At F22, so F22 here and as it goes left to right, it goes to 5.6 and I don't think you can. You really gotta get to know those numbers, I almost think it would be stupid if they were, they're tattooed in my mind, seared into my brain. And that's why I talk about the difference between learning and knowing. They need to be in you, a working part of you, like committed to your muscle memory. Like when the dancer goes to do the pirouette, she's not, "I'm gonna do this pirouette," it just happens. There's that sort of commitment we need to make here. So, 22, 16, 11, 8, 5.6, 4, I'm so afraid I'm gonna mess em up after I just talked about how they were seared in my mind. (laughs) Alright. They're inverted, I think I feel like I should do them the other way around so they go this way but it would be confusing. Let me do that. Right on, so just so we're looking at, this is the edge of the board right now, right? It's coming from here and going to there. So that's what we're looking at with the light very close. Just for the record. 5.6 is where it ended on the other side. Do you have the light meter? Just wanna check that. Give it me again.
Point it at it.
Oh it's about F4, okay, great. Right. So over the course of that foamcore we have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 stops of light kind of falling off left to right. Now what we're gonna do is just double the distance of that light. Does that feel,
Is it about double?
I'd say it's a bit more than that.
Alright. Give me a pop there, Chris. 2.85, 2.84, 2.8 even. Okay, so just shoot one at this.
2.85, so that's like, what number is that?
2.85? Call it 3.5.
I'm gonna call it 3.2.
You got it.
Alright, coming this way. Cool, just put them up side by side. So we're just looking at how light moves, how it operates, how it behaves. So a bit of review for some stuff, is this helpful? I don't know, I always think it's helpful to see and begin the conversation here, right? So we had, in the next picture, right, this is very close. And this one actually goes 2.8 this way, I don't know how to draw this but it's not really working. It's only falling off, see how it's falling off so evenly here, right? 'Cause it's only one stop difference left to right, right? So as the light moves farther away, it falls off much more evenly. Right? Here, very close, gonna fall off very quickly. And this is really how the base of how we control light in the studio, and we'll look at this with a person in a second and how it might work and operate for you. But it's key. It's key. So let's look at it with a person, and then we're gonna look at it with a group, and we're gonna look at just how it haunts us, how it annoys us, how it drives us, sometimes, crazy. You with me? Driven mad by the light. (laughs) In fact, why don't you come up, you wanna model? I forgot your name.
Alex, yup, come on up, bro. Right here, Alex, over the trap door. (laughs) Alright. Let's just move that light around, pretty close to him. Could you give me a pop, Chris? 8.3, let's just come down a couple tenths on this. One thing that's really nice about this light is I can trial tenths of a stop, so I can get incremental on it. Pop me again. I get F8 even, right, so I've got some pretty bright light on the side of his face. Turn towards that light, and turn back. And I do think a good part of working with strobe is really just looking at your modeling light, see how it's falling, that's what they're gonna help you with. Sometimes, one way I connect with a subject, you know, there's a lot of ways. I'll just be like, pretend I'm a mirror, you know, and I'll just turn my head with them, and we'll look at each other, right? We're kinda doing this monkey-see, monkey-do thing. I don't, kinda connects you in a weird way. Or I'll connect with them, I'll get in here, I'll be like, how you doing, Alex? I get in their animal space, I kinda invade them a little bit. I don't know why I do that, but it's kinda, just look at that light, make sure it's where I want it. Yeah. So we're talking f8 even.
Camera's set to f8. What's beautiful is Chris is setting my camera in the Capture One program. He can fully control it, so when I pick up, because I've got a lot on my mind here at Creative Live, right, you know what I mean? F Stops, bus stops, you know, it's kinda maddening. So Alex, move into that light a little bit? Can I get a half apple box, please? Yup, cool, chin up a little bit? Down a little bit. Okay, is it hard on you? Are you squinting?
Yeah, it is bright. Uh huh. Great, grain face, ice grill. Chin up a little bit. Yup, cool. Great. Alright, so we're on that screen, sweet. So we're just looking at raw, hard light. We're looking at how it behaves, how it moves light to dark, how it relates to the background, right? He's on a gray background. Is that all looking exposed well and everything? I can't really see. Yup, it is. Okay, alright, great. You know, that gray background, when we look at it, it's considerably lighter than it looks right now. Correct? Right? So if we were just gonna bring this light back, and Chris, bring this light back really far. Yep, lemme clear some space for you.
Is this pointing at you? Take a look. Yeah, I'll eyeball it, too.
A little this way, yeah, perfect.
Yup, cool. And we're probably gonna have to go up a bunch on that, so get that apple box back there, and go up on that.
I'm gonna also make this f8 even-steven so that it's consistent. I do think a part of when we do all these experiments, like if everything changes all the time it gets a little confusing, so I just keep the angle of the shot. And again, I don't know if we're like, making bangers right now or shooting lights out as much as we're just looking at light, okay. So you might be thinking, like, why didn't shoot five frames of him? Why didn't he try to make a good picture? We're just looking at light. Alright, you with me, Alex?
Let's go up three numbers, four numbers on that. Can you go up one more stop?
And a half stop. Alright, f8 even. It's at f8.2 if you could go down a little bit.
You got it.
Gimme once more. Sweet, okay. And you know, I'm not, like, hitting Alex in the nose with this thing, you know what I mean? I hate it when, if my assistant's doing this job and he's like, let me read the light, that's just bad etiquette. I'm sorry, Alex.
Yeah, is that alright?
You wanna hit me in the face with it a couple times? Alright (chuckles). I don't know, just be mindful of people, you know, or you might say step out. So you don't wanna just punch anybody in the face with the light meter. Or maybe you do. Maybe that's gonna help your picture. So I've got my little half apple, since I'm a shorty, right, helps me get right with Alex here. This is still f8, uh huh, good. Keeping that similar angle with your head, shooting a little bit straighter. Back a little bit, yup, cool. He's staring at me, he's giving me the game face, that's great. And let's just throw these up side by side. So it's really hard to believe that these are the same light, right? Can you come over here, Alex, and just take a look? It's just not looking at all the same, right? You with me, you know? What's different, just the popcorn machine what looks different. How the picture on the left look?
Much harsher, how?
(Audience) Dark shadows.
Richer shadows, right? So you're gonna get that contour and that shape, and that richer volume with the light closer, okay? So mistake number one. Biggest mistake I see people make if you want a game-changer. Yes, you're writing it down, thank you! Everyone just puts their lights too far away. You know, like I think that's mistake number one. Sometimes you have to, right, there's always gonna be an exception, if I want to light a big area, I'm gonna have to pull my light far away to light a big area evenly, it's gonna have to happen sometimes. If you want a little mood, a little volume, a little texture, a little bit of attitude, maybe we want to light with some attitude, huh? Yeah. Right.
So the farther the light is or the closer the light, I'm not talking about specific light or brand, does it affect the quality of the light?
Absolutely, and this is a great question, 'cause this is our mantra, this is I think everything you need to know, this inverse square law and this other theory. You may have heard this before. The closer the light, the softer the light. So this ain't your first rodeo, Doug, huh, you been here for a couple, right? So, the closer the light the softer the light. The farther the light the harder the light. The bigger the light, the softer the light. The smaller the light, the harder the light. And we're gonna look at this. So this is a very hard light source, very point source. The sun's a very point source really super far away. The sun's so far away it's never gonna change, if we go from here to here, it's never gonna be like, f16, f11, f8, f5.6, right? 'Cause it's so far away. It's just gonna get f16 all day, right? So this is the thing. Closer the light, softer the light. That one confuses me, I think, when it's closer it should be harder, right? No, it's not like that. 'Cause when it's close it's bigger in relationship to my fat head here, right. As it goes away it becomes smaller in relationship to my head. And this is things like, I know it might seem a little slow right now, but we're gonna heat it up, into one of my specialties, you know, I photograph groups. Who's photographed groups? Okay. What's a pain in the heieny about photographing groups? Just shout it out. I'll repeat it for you. What's that?
Even lighting, right. So the inverse square law because a pain in the butt. And what else is a pain in the butt with photographing groups? Where to focus?
Shooting an individual as an individual, and getting them to be a group is tricky.
Yeah, to be a group. And that's easier when you have real groups. I'm gonna form a group today with you guys, right? So, we'll just do that, but when they have a little bit of chemistry it helps, when they clown around it helps, like, you know you shoot Metallica, those guys are like, playing air guitar. Wow, I didn't know Metallica played air guitar, but somehow air guitar became cool again once I saw Metallica playing air guitar. So, you know, they're doing that, they're clowns, they really put it out there for you. So that is a challenge, getting them to interact. What's challenging about photographing groups? There's other things.
Depth of field.
Depth of field, sure, okay.
When some of them ruin it on purpose.
Oh yeah, when they don't cooperate, yeah, when they just make weird faces, kids, okay, sure. Other things I think are challenging are composition. How do you compose them, right, how do you make it less static, have more dimension to it. You're a musician aren't you? Did I read that in your thing?
Uh huh. Music background. Were you photographed a lot as a, yeah, take the mic.
As a musician, I wasn't necessarily getting the shoots you were talking about, I was more like the live performance, we were getting a lot of those. I did do a couple photo shoots but it wasn't on the level of the stuff you were showing. But in my experience, photographing groups, the hardest thing is lighting, in my opinion, just because unless you can get it way above everyone, and way back, you're gonna have hard shadows no matter what you do.
And god forbid anyone has a different skin tone, you know what I mean. A lot of the stuff I do is at night, when I bring the flash out, just to make it, like you were talking about grittier, and stuff gets complicated quick.
Cool, yeah, that's a good point, and that's a key, we're gonna look at that today, it's like, getting the light up and in. So boom stand is key in photographing groups.