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Thread: Low Key Still Photography Using Flash

  1. #1

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    Low Key Still Photography Using Flash

    Has anyone got any examples of large format low key still life photography where they have used flash as the main light source.

    I am struggling to achieve the look I am after

  2. #2
    SE Penna. chassis's Avatar
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    Re: Low Key Still Photography Using Flash

    Gregg Obst is a member on this site; his Flickr has a nice low key 5x7 film image of a rose. What aspect of low key are you working on, Ian?

  3. #3
    Tim Sandstrom
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    Re: Low Key Still Photography Using Flash

    one the best I remember seeing around here was christropher broadbent, hard to find now, but very much like the dutch masters, i.e. as good as it gets, imho

    http://www.cardcard.it/en/portfolio/...roadbent-2015/
    http://wird.com.ua/archives/208153
    http://www.largeformatphotography.in...-to-16-January
    http://www.largeformatphotography.in...-Life-Lighting

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    Re: Low Key Still Photography Using Flash

    Quote Originally Posted by chassis View Post
    Gregg Obst is a member on this site; his Flickr has a nice low key 5x7 film image of a rose. What aspect of low key are you working on, Ian?
    I am trying to produce some still life with low lighting. I have done a fair few on digital with no problems using just a small Nikon SB900 flash on 1/128th power.

    Trying to recreate these on 5x4 is giving me a hard time mainly because until the film is developed, I cannot see the results. I am either getting to much light where I dont want it, or just not enough light causing the backgrounds to drop into a big black hole

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    Re: Low Key Still Photography Using Flash

    Quote Originally Posted by dasBlute View Post
    one the best I remember seeing around here was christropher broadbent, hard to find now, but very much like the dutch masters, i.e. as good as it gets, imho

    http://www.cardcard.it/en/portfolio/...roadbent-2015/
    http://wird.com.ua/archives/208153
    http://www.largeformatphotography.in...-to-16-January
    http://www.largeformatphotography.in...-Life-Lighting
    Now these are vey nice indeed

  6. #6

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    Re: Low Key Still Photography Using Flash

    Quote Originally Posted by IanBarber View Post
    I am trying to produce some still life with low lighting. I have done a fair few on digital with no problems using just a small Nikon SB900 flash on 1/128th power.

    Trying to recreate these on 5x4 is giving me a hard time mainly because until the film is developed, I cannot see the results. I am either getting to much light where I dont want it, or just not enough light causing the backgrounds to drop into a big black hole
    In the past photographers were using Polaroid instant film to preview a result, today we have DSLRs. I'd suggest you take an SLR loaded with your film and you make extensive bracketings with exposure and light parameters (distance, light modifiers...). With 2 rolls you are done.

    If you take a DSLR shot for each SLR shot then you will learn how to preview the film result from the DSLR image. It is very worth to explore film possibilities with 35mm film, then you also should realize what effect will add +/-N development on the sheet.

    If your postprocess is digital then, as always, you just need to ensure you are not to lose the shadow detail you want, while if you want to make optical enlargements extreme care should be taken to ensure that you are to obtain a negative that will be easy to result in the print you want. At the end, for a pure traditional workflow, it is very important having a clear previsualization and knowing how to obtain that. As I'm learning, I find very useful testing the same sheet emulsion with 35mm. I specially used that to learn metering for Velvia.

  7. #7
    SE Penna. chassis's Avatar
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    Re: Low Key Still Photography Using Flash

    Pere makes some good points about previsualization and the use of polaroids or digital previews. I like to work on previsualization for quite some time before I expose film. Then it is a process needing time and experimentation to arrive at the goal, if the arrival ever comes! This winter I plan to use digital assist for a still life series I am previsualizing. This is the start of the project and it won't surprise me if it takes years to bear fruit.

    If you are committed to large format still life, it would be helpful to invest in studio lighting to give more flexibility in f/stop. Unless of course your intended aesthetic is generated by the size and power output of the SB900.

    I found a well outfitted Speedotron black system for a reasonable price. One powerpack with multiple outputs is the foundation of the system. Lots of images can be made with one strobe unit. Grip (stands, modifiers) can be found pretty inexpensively. Not sure what is available in the UK.

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    Re: Low Key Still Photography Using Flash

    Putting the flash to one side for a moment. Would it be better to do incident metering rather than spot metering if using say a continuous light behind a soft-box

  9. #9
    SE Penna. chassis's Avatar
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    Re: Low Key Still Photography Using Flash

    Ian, in my opinion, yes. A spot meter for studio still life does not have a small enough spot for meaningful measurements on a subject the size of a person or smaller. Incident measurements are a different technique to be learned, and I think this is needed in one’s toolkit. Incident metering with the dome facing normal (away from) the subject is a way to map and understand the light on the subject. Readings should be taken on the highlight and shadows sides of the subject, to understand the full lighting range. This metering method is very achievable with studio still life images, while in comparison is difficult or impossible to do with many landscape images.

    Exposure can be decided upon, knowing the full range of highlight and shadow lighting. The chosen exposure may indeed not be the one recorded using the more conventional reading, found when the dome is placed at the subject position, facing the camera. Lots of recent discussion (debate/arguing) on this. In the end the exposure is the aesthetic choice of the photographer and is neither correct nor incorrect.

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    Re: Low Key Still Photography Using Flash

    Quote Originally Posted by chassis View Post
    Incident measurements are a different technique to be learned, and I think this is needed in one’s toolkit. Incident metering with the dome facing normal (away from) the subject is a way to map and understand the light on the subject.
    With the dome pointing away from the subject, will the light meter give a reading for light falling where the dome is to a middle grey value on film.

    So for example, if I have 1 stop difference from where I have the dome to say a few inches to the left, then that area would be in theory zone 4 (Ish)

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