Q & A
Pick one of the questions if you want.
I would love to ask you one or two and people in the room, if you guys have them too, feel free to get ready. One question that a couple different people voted for, "How do you control color temperature when light painting between the ambient light in the room and the light from your flash?"
Okay good question. I didn't touch on that but another thing that's in my bag that I didn't put up here to try to keep it simple is I have a pack of gels and I've got them for all different color temperatures. So whether you use a color temperature meter or you eyeball it and you know like, "Hey, these are fluorescent lights and I need to match them to the temperature of the hot light." I can gel the hot light, I can put a blue gel on there, err more towards white if they are incandescent, I can match it, I can put an orange gel on there. So it's always gelling light, and then sometimes it I don't match it very specifically. In this case, I did not match i...
t because I like the warm light on the ground rather than a bright white light which would be correct for the, I think these are actually LEDs. So there was minimal color-balancing involved, I think they were pure daylight LED. So what I ended up doing was, I left the hot light set at warm, almost incandescent to give those aisles a kind of warm, you know when you're in a theater and you see the track lighting, it's always warm, on a plane, in a theater, in a movie theater, I wanted to leave some believability in there. So, it is a judgment call. I mean there is correct, and I believe convention would say if you're using flash in fluorescent light you want to use a gel to balance them together. But sometimes you can take some creative liberty like I did here and I kept that warm, inviting kind of feel up the aisles. Again, it depends, it's a judgment call. I personally use gels. I've done it so much at this point that I don't need a color meter, I had one and got rid of it. And I just have CTO gels, CTB, plus-green, minus-green, magenta, the whole nine. And I've got special effects color gels for when you have the really funky lights. So, the must-have is gels.
That's perfect. And do you use different lights, Jason M is wondering, do you use different lights to paint chairs versus aisles? Are there certain like, and I'll add on to that, do you use, if you know you're going to be reflecting off a metallic wall, will you use a different light than if you're shooting, er, lighting up a couch, something like that.
It depends on, kind of the, on the amount of area I have to cover, really, because with a hot light, I can use a long exposure. And I can walk, like, 15 feet and get the whole thing and not get any fall-off. Whereas with the flash, if you're familiar with the rule, the inverse law of squares and how it pertains to flash, you're going to get a lot of fall-off. So, it really depends again, it depends on the effect I'm going for. I knew I wanted a long, consistent light for these pathways, so again, I took a 10-second exposure and just walked back, made sure there was no fall-off. If I were to stand at the end of the theater and try to blast it with light I'd have a big hot spot up at the top and it would fall off towards the bottom. So it's just a matter of trying to keep it consistent in terms of replicating a lot of small lights over a large distance rather than a huge light just blasting a flash on them.
Perfect. And we'll ask one more about these lights, and then Lorenzo, it looks like he's got mike in hand. We have LTLilly16 who says, "If you have multiple lights and light stands, any reason not to do an exposure or layer where you're lighting multiple sections of say, all the seating at one time?" So, do you use one light at a time intentionally, or is it just because you don't want to carry multiple or don't want to set up multiple?
No, I like to use one light. It depends on the situation, of course, but in this context, I like to use one light because I knew that I was going to be kind of finessing it in post. And you can have more control if you have, you know, rather than trying to control five lights at once in one exposure, why not do 15 exposures and vary it a bit and then when you get back to the computer you can play around and see what you like the best. So, I do it piece by piece, you know? And on location, I try this and then I try that, and then in post, it's like, does that look good? Or does that look good? And you can't really get that with 15 lights that are, sorry, with one exposure with five lights doing it all at once. I mean, there may be people who do, I like to take my time and kind of pick and choose what I like, and I find that using one light let's me focus on one area at a time.
Yeah, I noticed that you had started painting with the GL-1 hot light, one of the aisles or whatnot. How did you know that you needed to paint this, is that why you were tethered to the, what is it, the CamRanger?
You just saw that you needed to lighten that up? So do you do that a lot, as far as like, go back, kind of like shoot tethered?
Yeah, exactly. As I'm painting with light, I see instantly what it looks like. As soon as the shutter closes, bam, wifi sends the picture over so I can see do I need more? Do I have to do it again? And it might take four or five tries to get it right, but the beauty of that is that I can see instantly. You know, maybe ten years ago, I wasn't light painting ten years ago. I don't know, it was probably ten times harder because you couldn't really see what you were doing instantly. The beauty of the CamRanger is that it lets me work quickly, efficiently and alone. Not that I'm antisocial or anything, but I don't have to worry about 15 people waiting for me to get it right over two hours. I can just see, okay, I need that, I need that, you can see instantly and get instant feedback with the CamRanger and you can see what's working and what's not on location and not, you know, waste your time messing around with 20 different things, walking back to the camera. You know, I can see and basically say, "All right, I've got it, I'm done," and it just took. So, does that make sense?
Yes. And you were saying, not to say that you are antisocial, but how big of a crew (laughter) how big of a crew did you use when you actually did this job?
This was me and one assistant. And that was too little. Now you look at this, and you say, "How are you spending two hours on this on location?" And the amount, like, you can look at this, and you have to magnify everything you are doing. It is walking up three flights of stairs to fiddle with the lights. It was still under construction, they had just finished it. I had to holler up to guys with ladders, like, "Hey, get out of there," you know? There were people coming in and out and trying to do electric work and everything. So, and it's not like it's a house and it's a small room and it's easy to control that. I mean, this is a big space, and to change anything, what I wish I had was maybe one guy throwing the breaker down by the camera, telling me what looked good and one guy upstairs running around who could change the lights upstairs so you know, there's lights upstairs on a breaker, there's lights downstairs on a breaker, so I'm running back and forth, I'm sweating like crazy going around this place, even with an assistant, and his job was mostly to clean up and you know, say, "That looks good," or I would say, "You know, alright, three, two, one, exposure" he would flip the breaker, I would do light painting at the same time. So I mean, it's a lot to think about in a big place like that. So that was one assistant. Long answer, I know, but. (laughs)
When Omar Vail and a couple other people went on location, how do you decide how many exposures are enough? Do you go through and make a list before shooting?
I do. I actually keep a checklist with me. Or, I did, I don't really do it anymore because it's been kind of committed to memory, but I don't think there's anything wrong with overshooting. Pixels don't have to die, you're not wasting money on film. I generally, at this point, I generally just do you know, three or four brackets, or three photos in one bracket one or two stops apart. The more experience you get, the more you'll know what will work. I know how much, how much, latitude I have in post to bring back highlights and to bring shadows up and add light. And so when I was starting out, it would be many, many more. I spent, you know, a few years experimenting with this stuff until I really figured it out. And um, I mean you just got to play with it. And then once you know what looks good, you'll get that feeling. It's like the same thing when you're shooting sports, so you're shooting, you know, cars or something. And like, that decisive moment, bam! You know it. You see it on the camera, and you're like, "That's it right there. On to the next thing," you know? But you'll know, you know? I mean, in this case, I think it was, I probably turned all the lights on and did one bracket sequence and then I started messing with the breakers. Again I thought, "Hey, that looks really cool, that's a good idea, maybe that'll work," and then I piece it back together in post. The answer is, it really comes down to how much experience you have and how much time you want to spend on it. But there's infinite options for shooting any room, so.
Great. Maybe just a couple more here. We've got one that just came in from MHarris that's similar to what we were just talking about. "Do you already see the final image in your mind when you assess a space? Is that how you decide what to light? Or do you just assess areas of space that you determine need lighting adjustments and then assemble it and find it in the final, uh-
In some cases, ah, it's really, really nerdy, but I'll walk up to something in the middle of the day and I'm like, "I see it, I know what it's going to be, do not argue with me, this is it." (laughter) I know what it's going to look like before I even put the camera down. In other cases like this, this isn't a job that I do regularly, and I really had to think about, you know, not only on location what I wanted it to look like, but back at home, I was like, "What am I going for here? Do I want to do moody? Do I want it to look like a theater? Do I want it to be dark? Do I want it to be bright? How do I want the eye to flow?" So this one had a lot of variables. But yeah, sometimes I do walk into a scene and boom, lightswitch. That's it. This is happening. We're lighting it, we're shooting it, we're staging it. And I just know where everything has to be and it takes fives minutes, you know? And sometimes it takes hours. But yeah, I hope I answered that question.
That's great. Carleen and somebody else asks, "How do you know what permanent fixtures and devices you can remove without making the picture less believable." Is that a conversation you have with the client? About like, "We need to remove these bars, we need to get rid of these fire extinguishers"
Versus "keep these."
That's a great question. In most cases I mean, there are, you know, there are kind of like industry-standard practices. Like, they have to put fire extinguishers in, but no architect wants fire extinguishers in their photos. I feel comfortable going ahead and taking things out like that. For example, if I were shooting real estate, I know that ethics are a big concern there sometimes. I will ask the client, you know like, "How far do you want to take it? There are power lines, are we taking them out?" In some cases, the client will say, "No, we have to leave those in," so I'll leave them in for the delivered files and if they go into a portfolio, I'll take them out. It's a good conversation to have with a client, and I always say, "If at any time we're shooting," and they're, you know, it's kind of an interactive process. They have an iPad, I have an iPad. They see what's going on, they can zoom in. And they can say, "Hey, I want to take out, you know, I don't know, the vents in the ceiling." Okay, no problem. I just let them know, like, "If you see something that you don't like, ask me, we can take it out." I've done, I've replaced entire views. I've taken a house from, you know, suburban-tract land, and put it in the mountains. It all comes down to who the client is and what they want. And in some cases, like, you know, it's a developer, and it's just a model house, but they can't build it where they want, so I've literally cut it out, moved it, and put it in another scene entirely. But yeah, it's something that I ask all my clients, like, what are we removing, what are we keeping. But as you shoot more and more, you'll kind of realize a lot of certain clients want the same thing. You know? So, just ask whenever you, and no one ever gets offended if you ask, "Hey, do you want to take out the XYZ?" So.
Great. Last question, and then I think we need to move on, Lalani DuPres, "I've found that some clients don't really notice when you're correcting perspective in PhotoShop rather than paying a lot of money for a tilt-shift. Is it really necessary for a tilt-shift in these Photoshop-heavy days?" 'Cause that's, I mean, a tilt-shift lens is an expensive lens in general,
It is. and a lot of people are getting concerned about "How do I go about getting started in this if I don't have the money to put down for that?"
Is it necessary? Can you talk just a little about tilt-shift versus Photoshop?
You can definitely, I don't want to say it's necessary. I have dropped a tilt-shift onto a concrete floor and watched in slow-motion as the lens shattered in front of me. "Nooooooooooo!" (laughter) It's happened twice, (laughter) and I'm embarrassed to admit that. But in case you're wondering, the front element on a 17mm tilt-shift is $230. (laughter) But yeah, you don't, and what happens when that happens, I get out the 17-40, or the 24-70. And yeah, you can correct it, and you can shoot down and correct the verticals in Photoshop, bring them back in. But the problem is, it's not so much that clients don't notice, because you're right, they don't. It's really when you're faced with a composition that is really tight like in a cityscape, when you up against, you've got buildings on one side and you've go to shoot this hotel on the other, you need to go way up. No matter how much you want to tilt it up and pull it back in Photoshop, you just reach the limits of the lens and the camera. You can only go so far. I mean, it's totally fine, like, to go down that much. No one is going to be upset about that. No one's going to notice. I don't think anyone's going to pick nits about it. But when you're out in a tight spot and you have a conventional lens and you have to shoot like this, you're going to loose all the ground you're going to have to stretch it way, way out. So there's kind of a point of, of no return where a tilt-shift, I think, is absolutely necessary. But for most situations, I mean yeah, you can squeeze by with a conventional lens. And then the other thing about tilt-shifts that I love is that you can do a stitched panoramic with them without distortion. Say I'm shooting a building here, and it's a high-rise or something. If I had a conventional lens I would look up and everything would fall over this way, or down that way. But with a tilt-shift, I can go straight ahead and get the base, right, of the building, and then I can shift up and then it just goes up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, and I can get the very top of the building. And then in Photoshop I can stitch it like a regular panoramic two shots together and then I have this whole building with no distortion top to bottom, and it's really like a 45 megapixel file from one lens, so it's really pretty amazing what you can do with them. And like I said, you can squeak by for as along as you want with a conventional lens, but I think it does a disservice to yourself if you're going to do this day-in and day-out to not have the tilt-shift and have that ability to be flexible in tight situations. So that's, I mean, if anyone wants me to go over other Photoshop techniques within this file, I'd be happy to do so. If you want me to redo something so you can catch it again,
Do we have anything to look at in Lightroom?
In terms of Lightroom, I stick to the same few adjustments. Let's see. Here's the file, straight out of Photoshop. All I really do is I do a little bit of shadow, a little bit of clarity. And then sometimes some saturation and vibrance. I kind of like a muted look, I don't like a loud photograph. I like the soft, quiet, understated, you know? A lot of people like the loud, saturated, "in your face" kind of look. I don't really go for that. I mean, I really don't use anything outside of highlights and shadows, clarity, vibrance, and saturation. And, you know, it's pretty simple. There's nothing, like, Photoshop accounts for the bulk of my work. Occasionally if I'm feeling lazy, I will use Lightroom's clone tool, you know? And just let it do its thing. What I don't like about it is that it's not easy to undo, whereas in Photoshop you work in layers. In Lightroom you kind of have to keep track in your head where you are. My Lightroom workflow is very, very basic. I know some people get very into it, but I'm mostly a Photoshop guy.