Several people recently expressed interest in how I set up my shoots. I was flattered because I generally feel like I'm flying by the seat of my pants. Recently I was doing some shots of dogs in an office environment for my company's website/stock photos. Thought it would be a good introduction to my "process" (which sounds soooo pretentious of me).
Here's the thing with photography. You can make any shoot REALLY complicated if you want to. You can haul in multiple lights, have reflectors, bounce cards, diffusers, assistants, astrophysicists, and a dancing monkey. But walls and ceilings make great reflectors and you can use these to your advantage with even a single speedlite.
We wanted it obvious that the dog was in an office. We didn't need all the clutter desks usually have, but we didn't want it so spartan that the look was cold and sterile. The first task was minimizing clutter and distractions. The next was finding which office dog was going to work the best. Casting call time!
These next three photos are completely unedited and purely for reference so you can see the process (and giggle a little).
Ellie was a little suspicious of our motives and she blended into the desk too much to stand out. Next!
Zoe clearly wanted off the desk despite repeated entreaties of "Cookie? Zoe want cookie??" She wanted cookie all right. On the floor where nature intended.
My pug, Sophie, is usually content anywhere she can see me. She was having none of it today.
Ugh, what were we going to do?
The nervous chihuahua. Super photogenic Pam. The unexpected super model Pam.
What's more, her coat and the wall were complementary colors. Now we're talking!
With all that settled, it was just a question of getting the composition right and dialing in our lighting.
How did we light it? The only modifier we used was an 18" white beauty dish with a sock. It was pointed at the ceiling and wall using the height of technology: a voice-activated light stand named Diana!
Why did we light it this way? You've all seen photos where the flash is firing directly off the camera. It's obviously a flash and one dimensional. By firing the flash into the ceiling and wall, we've magnified the light source and created three dimensional, wrap around light. In addition, light falling on a subject from above looks more natural to us due to our position relative to the sun. It's also why it's so obvious to us when we see a photo of someone who had the flash fired at them at eye level. Light from above is better light and more natural in appearance.
Combine all these elements and you will begin to create images like this:
EXIF info: f/4 1/160 ISO 200. One light bounced off wall and ceiling, a cute dog and the offer of "COOKIE!?"
You can take this simple principle and apply it in any number of situations. In the photo below, I placed the light stand on a table and fired the flash in the beauty dish directly into the ceiling.
The trick is using what you have available. You don't need the best, most expensive equipment in the world. Thinking resourcefully and making the best use of the resources at hand is the key to creating great images.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, feel free to message me. Cheers!