Monday, January 24, 2011

Light At The End of The Tunnel

Ok, after taking a long break from this blog because I figured no one was reading it, I am back to toss out a few new articles and see how it goes.  Thanks to those that did post, as it motivated me to give this another try.

Right now I need the kick in the confidence, where later you can get lazy about commenting :-)

The images I selected for this article are from October, and of course that means Halloween and all of the sweet locations that come about during that time of year.  The next few articles will come from a haunted house I worked in around the Green Bay, Wisconsin area.  Each is quite different but they all share one common element; they are all shot with speedlights.

Posing & Setting
In this particular venue for testing neck-hairs had a hallway covered with painted lath board.  I really liked all of the leading lines created in here and knew it would make for a fun shoot.  If you can create triangles or use angles to create leading lines you should always jump at the chance to do so.  Those elements really help guide the eye around the image and add a sense of tension or energy to images.  You can do this with arms, legs, or the elements in the environment.  Of course if you don't have any at the time of the shoot, you can always add some later :-) 

I asked the model (Jaci), to take up as much space in the hall as possible.  So, all of her poses are wide and full of energy.  Sure, she could have stood there and looked pretty, but in this case I really wanted to use all those leading lines and pump up the energy in the entire image.  The top shot is to be reminiscent of someone stopping in the middle of a hallway to suddenly check behind them, as if they were trapped.  The bottom was more of a spider like pose to really play with the fact this is a small tunnel (and I also needed her to block the light in the back with her body).

Lighting The Image
Because I am working in a remote location, I decided to travel as light as I could and use only speedlights. I had 3 Nikon SB-800s and one Nikon SB-900 speedlight and a few different modifiers with me.  I am using the SB-900 mounted on the camera to trigger the Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System), but it is set to not contribute to the exposure in any way.

In the shot above I am using a single SB-800 with a small Speedlight Grid mounted to the front of the light with Velcro. This of course was done to control the spill from the light but the model asked me about it so I removed the grid to demonstrate to her how this little tiny grid can do so much (see inset at the right for the shot with no grid).

In the shot at the bottom of this article I am using the same SB-800 on a stand with a grid in the front and in the back I am using another SB-800 bare with a blue gel over the top.

Photoshop & Post Production
All of these images are very close to what came out of the camera.  The image at the top has the most work done with an aggressive curve to increase the contrast.

I also used the clone stamp to remove any little bits of the ceiling that survived the grid and also pushed the saturation up on the slats to really make them almost surreal in appearance.  Her hair also has another curve to pop the highlights and help bring it out of the darkness a bit.

I also added a slight reflection onto the floor to help balance the image, as a bunch of black at the bottom was kinda silly and would normally have led me to crop the image.  However, I really felt the low angle would benefit from more floor and just needed an excuse to keep it there.

The image at the left has a tiny curve for contrast (as I think all digital images are a bit flat) and nothing else of note.

Hope you have enjoyed this article.  Please tell your friends, use the "Like" button on the side for facebook and comments are always good motivators for me, so please keep them coming.


  1. It is always a good idea to remind people you don't need the big expensive lights and a studio.

    The lead image looks like a good base for a movie poster. The 13th before Halloween in Texas on a Friday?

  2. That's such an awesome shot. I'm glad to see you're back with these great tutorials! :)

  3. I am happy that the two of you are reading this and thank you for the comments.

  4. I'm glad to hear you're going to continue, as I'd only recently found your blog. For someone like me, new to photography, reading analyses of how to light situations is both fascinating and informative. Thank you!

  5. Good to see you doing this again Scott. Thanks...helps motivate me.

  6. Hi Scott, please do keep blogging! I have just discovered your stuff and I love it! I can take a decent photograpgh but I am just getting my head around all the lighting stuff and PS techniques to make things "interesting". Your work is very cool and inspiring and your instruction is fun! BIG plus.....keep doing what you do :)


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