Restricting Light


The setup
The Setup

A few days ago I was reading about restricting light on your subject to highlight a specific aspect of it in your photo and thought I’d try my hand at it, so I enlisted my “willing” and “interested” daughter as my subject. This exercise falls handily into the practice category and wasn’t intended to be the end all be all of timeless portraits. So with that caveat in mind, I thought I’d share the results of the handful of pictures taken before my “model” found something better to do than to be irradiated yet again by my speedlights.

Since my goal was too really limit and control light as much as possible I opted not to use an umbrella as a modifier since it shotguns light all over the place, which I generally like, but would be the wrong tool to use here. Instead I opted for a small softbox aimed away from the wall behind the subject as much as possible to avoid light spilling onto the background.

The second light was another speedlight with a small grid on it with the intention of lighting up just her face that had 1/4 CTO gel on it to add just a little warmth which I thought would be apropos with all of the wood in the frame. I initially started with the light on a stand but since my subject was looking down I was only lighting the crown of her head and not her face so I yanked it and tried propping it up on a nearby Easter basket and finally punted and just held the thing exactly where I needed it.

The ultimate goal was to have enough light in the image that there would be detail everywhere, but just enough, and to call attention on my subject’s face only with the gridded speedlight. To that end I dropped my shutter speed from my camera’s 1/180th of a second sync speed to 1/60th of a second to allow a little more ambient light to burn in and help keep some detail in the rest of the frame.

So after a few shots my daughter grew weary and headed off to find something more interesting to do, but I was able to get what I was after. I do really like the control the little grid gives me and the nice fall off it provides as opposed to a snoot. I am looking forward to pulling this little technique out of my bag of tricks some time when I want call attention to something specific in my photo and/or create a nice dramatic effect. Have a snoot/grid and a willing subject? Then give it a shot!

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