Last January when I sat for the written exam portion of my professional certification there were many, many questions pertaining to lighting ratios for portrait photography, all of which referenced strobe light systems. These lights are an important tool used in the craft of capturing portraits within the studio. I use a variety of light boxes, directional grids and umbrellas within my studio set-up, combined with three Alien Bees strobes. The system is trusted and true, delivering quality results.
But the portrait lighting technique that sometimes produces the best results is the simplest – natural, subdued light through windows. I’m fortunate enough to work in a home studio where I have access to a bank of large windows – all facing southward – within a room with a very high ceiling. Not only that but there’s also a skylight directly above that allows for even more use of natural light for indoor portrait photography.
The week following Christmas I had a session scheduled to photograph Stephen Emerick and his daughter, Shawna. Both were in need of portraits and studio shots to use for a book project they are working on to promote the retreats and workshops they present in Hocking Hills, Ohio, titled “The Nature of Life: Inner Voice Inner Light.” This portrait session provided me with the perfect opportunity to finally take advantage of the pleasing light within the central living area of my Centerville home. In the past I have completed portraits and head shots in a downstairs area near my office. What was catching my creative imagination this time was the indirect, soft light of mid-winter. The furniture was moved out of the way and my backgrounds brought upstairs. I also included a strobe or two, but only as a secondary light source. In the video tutorial below I discuss how to implement various tools for “fill light” on the sides of the subject that are facing away from the window light.
The photo shoot was a great success. The only problem is that the window light tends to fade fairly quickly during this time of year, especially if it is a longer photo shoot scheduled in the afternoon. Nonetheless it wasn’t long following that session that I had another portrait client scheduled for head shots, so for now – and probably for the next two months of winter – my backdrops, posing chairs and reflectors will remain upstairs.
My most recent release via the Blurb.com bookstore – “Renewal,” featuring spring photography of landscapes in both Hocking Hills State Park of Ohio and Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee. This volume is available in both softcover and hardcover formats as an 8″x10″ coffee-table style book, perfect for office lobbies or home. In addition to presenting stunning nature and landscape photographs from these scenic areas of Appalachia the book also includes an introspective essay titled “Life’s Lessons Learned on the Trail to Ramsay Cascade.” This was an article I drafted shortly after my May excursion to The Smokies and provides some insight on how life experiences are often paralleled in the most simple journeys through the natural landscape. The price for the soft-cover version is $29.95, not including shipping.
I’m also pleased to announce the first issue of what I hope to become a regular series of self-published magazines, titled “The Poet’s Eye.” This 24-page, 8.5×11 publication includes a brief introduction about the work presented and select images representing a particular subject, location or photographic technique. This, the first issue, features my recent work with converting high dynamic range photographs to monochrome – black and white – fine art images. The cost per issue is $7.84.
If you’re a regular user of Facebook there is a group page for Jim Crotty Photography. I often post new images and information regarding published images, commercial photography assignments and my photography workshops to this interactive group page which also allows followers to post their information and comments. Check it out.