Photo Life is proud to partner with Seneca students to document their journey through the school curriculum. This week Wilson Ma shares about planning and split lighting.
Class: Photography III
Assignment: Create a public service announcement ad.
Student: Wilson Ma
Professor: Ray Steinke
Assignment guidelines: Use one of six lighting patterns and create a PSA ad.
Background: This assignment was about learning how to use one of six lighting patterns (short, butterfly, loop, split, Rembrandt and broad) learned in class to create a PSA. It was our job to find a suitable location and props and to select the appropriate lighting to suit the mood. I knew right off the bat that I didn’t want to do something too serious and I wanted to make an image or campaign that teenagers my age could relate to and that I could make multiple images of. The idea I settled on was a girl sneaking into the kitchen for a late-night snack (something most teenagers are guilty of) to find some cookies and milk. However, the milk was in a jug where the stout was too narrow to dip the cookies. I went with split lighting (think two-face light where half of the face is dark and the other half is light) for a more dramatic look. I began to sketch and decide on my composition, where to place what lights, and the right lens and modifiers for the job.
Process: I set up the lights and began to experiment. I knew exactly what I needed to do because of the all of the conceptualizing and planning I did prior. I tried to put a strobe with a blue gel inside to get the room to have a slight blue glow to simulate a midnight look, but it wasn’t working. I fiddled around with it until I ultimately decided to settle on something else.
I decided to get the split lighting on her face correct. I set the strobe (to the right) to TTL and went +1 as it was looking too dark. I then added the backlight (strip box) to give the other side of her face some definition and light (to the left, 45 degrees from the model). I was using an ND filter at 2 stops to cut out a majority of the ambient light and so I could shoot at F/2.8. My shutter was at 1/125 s, cutting out as much ambient light as my camera could.
In the first revision I gave the photo a blue colorcast through colour balance to simulate the midnight look. During this time I also added placeholder text and logos and showed my teacher. The criticism I received was that the image could be cropped further and that the blue tint wasn’t working. I made the changes and was quite pleased.
Conclusion: Pre-production is just as important as the production itself. Planning ahead can save you valuable time and help develop your ideas. Since a bulk of the work was done prior to the shoot, I was able to socialize with the model and keep her comfortable, which, in turn, made the entire project stress free.
The Seneca @ York Independent Digital Photography Program is a two-year diploma course that prepares students for a freelance career and provides them with the necessary skill set to work in a multidisciplinary studio.