the structure of light / 23 March, 2010 [click for previous image: lighting diary #1]
the structure of light / 23 March, 2010 [click for next image: pipeline]
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Title • the structure of light

As I mentioned yesterday, one of the things that I'm going to be concentrating on this year is working with artificial light – using small strobes, light modifiers, and so on – to change the light within a scene prior to taking a shot. My reason for this is a simple one: it's something I'm not especially good at, particularly in terms of working out what I need to do to create the effect I'm aiming for.

What I'm much better at is working with light during post-production. In other words, shooting an image based on its potential to be modified after the shutter has been pressed. To my mind, both these approaches are driven by the same concerns – shaping the appearance of the world to match a specific creative vision – and both are equally valid ways in which to carry out this thing we call photography, they just occur at different points during the photographic process.

If you take a look at the original image you will see why this one falls squarely within the 'shoot now, modify later' category: it's a dull, flat shot that seems to lack any intrinsic merit.


Following two related sets of adjustments though (selective contrast enhancements and global toning) it has become a lot more striking. The trick, such as it is, is being able to imagine how a scene could look once adjusted in post, and then shooting it with these adjustments in mind. In this sense then it's much the same as using artificial light: you just need to be able to imagine the final image. With practice, everything else will follow.

If you're interested, I'll be looking at this particular image in a lot more detail in Creative Workflow #4, my latest tutorial. It's not finished yet, but will be published before the end of this month. Further details regarding our this series can be seen here:

focal length
shutter speed
shooting mode
exposure bias
metering mode
image quality
RAW converter
2.23pm on 27/2/10
Canon 5D Mark II
EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
aperture priority
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