This is the second set RE member Paul McRope shot on day two of our one-to-one bondage photography tutorial, which he has kindly allowed us
to share with fellow RE members!
Having shot outside and experienced the issues that strong contrast from direct sunlight can cause, we moved indoors - as we usually
do when the sun gets close to the zenith and the outdoor lighting becomes harsh and unflattering. Up to the bedroom, which has a nice
big window for available light but which at this time of day gets no direct sunlight. How does one shoot in such a situation?
Well, there are a few challenges to bear in mind. The first is that the overall light level is low- this is not like the direct sunlight
outdoor situation where one would be looking at 1/4000th of a second and ISO100 if one wants shallow depth of field. Now shallow depth of field
is kind of forced upon you - if you want to get your subject head-to-toe sharp you're going to be fighting against the sheer lack of photons.
Fortunately, turning a necessity into a virtue, it's possible to shoot at around f/3.2 and 1/125th of a second, at ISO1000, and get pretty
clean and sharp detailed results. That's not a claim you could have comfortably made even ten years ago- digital sensors have come on a long
way (and way surpassed film in some respects- low light level clean response being one of them).
With this sort of lighting, there are three basic choices.
- Daylight as key, little to no fill. The totally "natural light" look.
- Daylight as key, substantial fill. The "editorial" look.
- Daylight as backlight, another source as key. The "Hollywood glamour" look.
With a single photo or when shooting an unbound model, you can choose the lighting and aim at one of these looks, then
fine tune a little. For example if you find that the totally natural light look is a bit too dark or contrasty, you can pep up
the shadows a bit with a teeny little bit of fill to supplement the natural fill from light bouncing around the pale walls of the room.
Or you can put up black cloth to soak up some of the bounce and make it more contrasty. And you can put a little light source quite near
the camera to make sure you have got sparkly catchlights in the model's eyes.
That's not really practical for a bondage photoset, where one is having to move around to find interesting angles and different shots,
because your model has much more limited mobility. We get used to the idea that we (as the photographer) are going to be moving around A LOT
compared with traditional studio photography, so we tend to design "broader" lighting patterns that will work from a lot more angles than
a tightly-constrained set-up for a traditional one-angle one-shot photograph.
This has advantages and disadvantages. On the minus side, you don't get the chance to micro-tune the look. You have to shoot fast if someone
is tied up and you can't be faffing around with the lights for hours. You can't do really tightly-focussed pools of light or bring in back-light
with lights on stands if those stands are going to spoil you shots from most other angles.
On the plus side, it gives us freedom to move and discover lovely serendipitous lighting patterns with our eyes and feet, rather than having
to painstakingly design them inch by inch in static studio set-up. And it lets us shoot 100 shots rather than one or two, and rely on our
photographer's eye to find "the shot" if we really are aiming at a single stunning photo. I've actually always worked and shot this way,
even at the beginning when I was aiming at stunning single shots from which to draw. Frankly, I'm not good enough at visualising exactly
how the lighting set-up is going to look in advance, and prefer to have the ability to discover great looks and effects on set rather than
tying myself down to a strict lighting plan. I'd rather the model was tied down than me- I need to move!
So over the years I've just about managed to let go of my guilt and impostor syndrome at not doing single-angle studio lighting patterns
like the pros who write all the lighting books.
What can we do instead?
We can plan for serendipity.
Planning for Serendipity
If we are going to discover fantastic photos and lighting looks on set, we need to allow both model and photographer space to move.
We do that by designing "broad" lighting patterns. That's not the same as just shoving loads of light into the scene, which is what a lot
of bondage producers do. The light can still be quite directional and quite contrasty. It's just that you need to think how one light can serve
multiple purposes in the scene as we move around.
For example- the daylight in this scene. If we shoot from the window side, it's going to provide a key light, unless we totally overpower it
(which we could do with flash, or with continuous light). But in my experience it often looks a bit unnatural to do that, because we're so conditioned
to daylight providing the key in day-to-day life.
So let's stock with the daylight as the strongest light. If the model's facing us and we're standing by the window, she's effectively in a big soft
spotlight. She'll have catchlights in her eyes (from the window). There won't be much light from the reverse angle, and no hairlight. That suggests putting
in some light from behind her to one side might give a bit of extra lift to these images, especially if we can get more of the light onto her than onto the
walls and bed. That'll make sure that the shadowed side of her face and her hair have a bit more light on them than say the headboard and bedside cabinet,
which will make everything look subtly more three-dimensional and make sure Ariel pops out of the background better. res_26062018_DSC07098.jpg shows the result.
What if we now move around a bit? We'll get side light from the window, and cross-light from the second light source we've just put in the corner. (See
the lighting diagram for where we placed that light, which was a big soft LED panel). That sounds like quite and attractive light pattern too- cross lighting is
usually interesting. And depending on which way Ariel is facing, we should get catchlight either from the window or the LED panel. If we don't, we could
have added a little light panel turned down low around where the camera is drawn on the lighting diagram- either a fixed panel, a little hot-shoe mounted panel, or something
like a ring-light turned down low around the lens, which still allows us freedom to move. We didn't think we'd need it for this set, and res_26062018_DSC07096.jpg shows the
result- spot on, and good strong catch-lights. It's a more dramatic pattern, achieved just by moving around with the same lighting pattern.
What if we come further around again? Now the daylight is going to turn into a rim-light or back-light, and the key will become our LED panel. We'll probably
have to adjust exposure, but this is one instance where we can semi-automate it. I think we left the camera locked on aperture and shutter speed and let it
choose the ISO to give a decent exposure. I dialled in a little bit of exposure compensation before handing the camera over to Paul because I know how my
camera tends to expose in these situations. (If you are curious, I underexposed by a third of a stop to protect the highlights. A bit of noise in the shadows
is way better than clipped highlights on skin). The result is res_26062018_DSC07078.jpg. Again we have good strong catchlights because we are using the LED
panel, we have the daylight doing good stuff as a hairlight, and Ariel is nicely popping out of the background because the LED is much closer to her than it is
to the bookcase in the background.
So while it might look like a careless or thoughtless set-up, just plonking a big LED panel in the corner of the room, it's actually quite a scientific and
analytic process of bringing together a broad lighting pattern to ensure we have nice light showing shape and flattering the model, good catchlights, and
ensuring the model is the most prominent thing in the scene and gives it attractive "pop". And it does so from almost 180 degrees of shooting angles- rather than
the one static position that a lot of lighting books will have you thinking about.
The remaining bit of art vs. science is deciding how to set the LED panel once we've decided where to put it. How strong should it be? Not stronger than the daylight
(that look weird and unnatural). Not the same as the daylight (flat lighting is horrid, see previous tutorial). So - it should be at least half a stop down on the
daylight, and could probably stand to be three or four stops down if you're after a very contrasty look, or maybe one or two stops down for a less natural but
more editorial or glam look.
The only other variable we had was the colour temperature of the light. The easiest thing to do would have been to push the button on the back
and get it to analyse the light colour in the room and match to it as best it could. But that rarely gives the nicest result. Skin tones look nice warm,
and our eyes are used to seeing cooler light from outside and warmer light indoors, as we've mostly grown up with tungsten lighting in our houses and
public spaces. So unless you are consciously going for a completely different effect, I'd say the second light should be a little bit warmer than the daylight.
A tiny bit warmer will look natural. More exaggeratedly warm, as I chose here, will look more editorial and stylised, but should be good and flattering.
The final fly in the ointment was a common complaint of mine with variable colour temperatures. You can get the "blue/orange" balance right, but you often
need to fine-tune the green-magenta colour shift. One of my big LED panels allows me to do this, but the spendid super-big one which gives the lovely soft
key effect here does not. You can see in some shots that balancing for the warmer skin tones from that light can throw a bit of a blue-magenta colour
cast eg on Ariel's legs in shot res_26062018_DSC07103.jpg. It is possible but very laborious to fix in post and generally I don't have the time to do that for
every shot in a sequence of 100+. So I live with the risk, which in any case is exacerbated by shooting in a room with a pink carpet, green walls, and a certain
amount of greenery and trees outside the window, all of which can give subtle green-magenta casts to some parts of the image.
I'm chuffed with how they turned out and how they allow several different, but recognisably consonant, lighting effects to co-exist in the same photoset.
Slim, tall, leggy, elegant, blonde, nude, barefoot, hemp rope, rope web, crotch rope, box tie, cloth gag