Yellow daisy, oh yellow daisy - please tell me about fills and
flags! How does one use them effectively?
Good question sighs my daisy. An answer or two...
One can shoot anything straight without flash in good daylight
and get okay results. I've read a load of articles in the last
few months saying that bright sunshine is bad, bad, really
bad, for color saturation when shooting flowers or anything
for that matter - true often, but not always so.
One needs to consider all sorts of things - purpose, time
of day, result required, etc! Dawn and dusk produce warm, shadowy
light and if one wants to take a landscape photograph of note,
this would be the ideal time to do it...using a tripod of course!
Shutter speeds slow down in order to get the depth of field
required, f16 or even f22, so one is often shooting at ¼ or ½ a
second. I've met a few people who can handhold shutter speeds
that slow but most of us...never in a million years! In the
landscape world tripods rule okay!
I know, I know, ironic considering that I spent a bit of Mild
Obsession #2 justifying my desire to shoot unfettered by a
three legged monster. I did say in my defence, though, be consistent.
Part of that consistency is recognition of the tools needed
in each particular situation. Life is a balancing act, no more
so than in the world of photography.
Another natural lighting situation to consider is sunlight
mid-morning to mid-afternoon (harsh front light, but often
awesome backlight), tricky at the best of times but even this
light can be used well and effectively if one knows how to
A really good way to learn lighting in controlled circumstances
is to use angle poise lamps and a small subject on a plain
background. For my subject I chose a yellow daisy...not the
same one plucked from a faraway field, no, a yellow painted
tin daisy, beautiful nonetheless, which I stood up on a piece
of white A3 card!
What about color balance you cry? At the risk of being boringly
repetitive...digital technology...white balance (WB)... All
hail the little tiny green men inside one's camera, running
around changing the color gels so that we can shoot color corrected
images no matter what the light source. Incredible stuff!
Grab a plain backdrop, a cotton sheet, piece of white card
or anything that detracts as little from the subject as possible.
Take your subject, place it on your backdrop not too close
to the background, set up an angle poise lamp to the left side
of the subject and point the light directly at the subject
(preferably slightly above). You should be producing huge,
harsh shadows. Interrogation time!
Now grab a piece of white card and line it up side on to your
subject on the other side from the lamp and move it around
until the shadows on the subject are softened to some degree
.i.e. fill...The more one can soften the light on subject the
better, so next step is to soften the source.
Turn the angle poise around pointing away from the subject
angled 45 degrees up, then place a piece of white card in front
of it reflecting the light back toward the subject - hey presto
softer light -much softer. Soften things even more by playing
with more fills on the other side of the subject too. A good
soft result, not so dramatic perhaps, but eminently flattering.
I hasten to add at this point that I have done fashion shoots
in the past using just harsh direct light, emulating movie-lighting
of the 30's, and achieved gorgeous results. It all comes down
to control i.e. positive decision making rather than negative.
Play with this studio lighting setup in miniature until you
get a feel for it. There are so many possibilities...
Try this too...
Shine two lamps at the center of your background, one each
side, angled at 45 degrees to the plane of the background.
Make sure that your subject is flagged to stop any light falling
directly onto it. How? Place black card (flags) on each side
of the subject (slightly back of the subject) showing the background
clearly but not allowing light from the lamps to spill onto
the sides of the subject. Now place two pieces of white card
in front of the subject facing the background. Leave a small
gap to shoot through.
A subject only lit by backlight and reflected light from the
card in front. It's a really good way to produce a backlit
daylight feel. I use it all the time with studio shots of people.
It can be fantastically flattering, if done well.
Play! Play lots. Light control is very satisfying when you
get the hang of it.
To learn how to translate this lighting control to daylight
conditions and to find out more about flags, scrims and other
goodies, keep a lookout for Flower Pictures - A Mild Obsession
Remember always - good lighting is good lighting period. Sounds
obvious, I know, but real easy to forget.
See the beauty!
Copyright 2005 Patrick Heathcock