I had the pleasure of working in my studio last week with one of the artists from the Cirque du Soleil show “Love.” Delphine is a powerful young woman who works on the trapeze – aka a “flier.”
She has amazing red hair. As we were shooting, I realized that in some of my images, her hair was photographing more brown than red. This was fine for some of my shots, but I also wanted to make sure to really capture the fire red of both her hair and her personality in some of the images.
I made a few exposures, checked my LCD, and realized that the problem was simple” There wasn’t enough light on her hair. To show color you need light. But yet, for a minute or two I kept on shooting. Rookie mistake time folks. I knew better. I stopped and heard the words of one of my very first mentors in my brain – newspaper shooter Jack Russell used to say to me all the time. “If you don’t like the light kid – change it. It just isn’t rocket science.”
It’s funny how those lessons we learned sooooo long ago can escape us. While it’s no big deal to burn digital pixels, there’s also no need to waste time. I just wasn’t happy with what was going on. So I remembered Jack’s words and changed the light. I added a strip light in the form of a bare bulb against silver reflector in an uncovered soft box. I moved this very close to her head – and just out of the frame. This allowed me to add some real pop to her hair.
I also remembered the rest of Jack’s words said to me that very first day he worked with me.
“If it isn’t working. Stop – reset – change everything. Go back to step one. Zero everything out and start over.”
I’ve heard great ones say the same thing my whole career. Whether it was Rocky Gunn, Dean Collins or modern day photographers like Joe McNally – I’ve heard this stop – reset – change advice. It’s good advice and even I should take it some times!
I did just that. I stopped. I changed everything. I realized this young woman needed to move. She needed to flow WITH the camera. She wasn’t good at sitting still. So I started moving her. I changed the pose. I changed the angle of the light. I brought in more specularity. I moved the hair light closer. And I love the resulting picture which you see at the top of the page. If you knew Delphine for 15 minutes, you’d realize this shot captures at least one side of her personality perfectly. Were it not for those who went before me giving me that simple advice – “If you don’t like the light – change the light…” I wouldn’t have gotten this shot.
It’s my turn to pass it on and hopefully save at least some of you from the same frustration. If things aren’t working. Stop what you are doing and just start over. Maybe you’ll end up with an even better idea!