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Anatomy of a Shot

I had some questions about this shot I took during a recent wedding so I figured that I would talk about the creation process here in another installment of Anatomy of a Shot.

As you may probably know I never use on Camera flash. I just hate the quality of light I get. So whenever I am using flash I always use it off-camera. Using this kind of technique during a wedding can be a bit tricky, and lots of people think that you don’t have time to be creative with light during these events. I tend to disagree. Yes it is a bit more difficult to setup your shots because of time constraints. During a wedding, you are expected to be fast and efficient. But it is doable, you just have to plan more for it.

When we arrived on location with all the party, I immediately started to scout the area to look for great places to shoot. When I came across this small barn I immediately fell in love with the setting. It had great warm colors which would contrast naturally with the costume and the dress, it would give me a superb background, I definitely wanted to come here to shoot: I knew I wanted to get a shot of the bride and groom kissing here.

So the first thing I did was to take them someplace else!

There was logic behind this decision: the barn was by far my favorite location, and I knew I would need to setup some lights and to get my couple to “play” in front of the camera. I needed them to trust me, to feel at ease. So we started shooting someplace else. It would give them time to warm up to the idea of having someone posing them and taking pictures of them.

Rule of thumb: if you spot a place you really want to shoot at, come there in the end!

We did an amazing couple session during half an hour and when it was time to get back, my couple was aware of how I was working, they weren’t intimidated by my camera, my stupid jokes or my light setup anymore. I knew I could now get this one shot I wanted to get.

I suggested we go into the barn for one last set of pictures, and they went in with a big smile. I quickly setup my rig. I wanted to have a cross lightning so I put my main speedlite with a small sofbox on my camera right at 1/8th of power and I put another bare on a stand behind them at 1/32th, I didn’t want this one to be too strong as I still needed to keep a nice mood. I positioned it so I would get a diffusion of light and I was aiming to get some lens flare too.

I took a quick test picture and I was all set.

I said something stupid and then suggested they kiss. They were not big on the PDA so I never asked them to kiss before this instant. They laughed, it felt natural, it was like they were alone. They forgot about me. I positioned myself to hide the lightstand behind the groom’s head and I snapped.

The rest is history.

Pascal Tran Binh Aoshi Studio Photographe Mariage Portrait Lifestyle Paris France International

Pascal Tran Binh Aoshi Studio Wedding Portrait Lifestyle Photographer Paris France International

Anatomy of a shot

I was asked by one of my client how I decided which photo I wanted to edit in Black & White and which I wanted to edit in color. So I figured out that for this second entry in the Anatomy of a Shot series, I would focus on my thinking process into delivering a Black & White (B&W) shot.

Generally when I capture a photo I always know how it is going to look in the end. I am a strong believer in capturing as much as I can in camera and in reducing the post processing as much as possible, because let’s be honest I can’t spend 15 minutes or even 5 minutes on every image if I have to process 400+ shots for a wedding.

I could  put in this effort but as I am lazy bum, I don’t want to =D. So my goal is always to make sure that the image I capture on the moment is as close as I can to what I want to achieve and could even be delivered as is, out of camera. In order to do this I need to have a clear vision of what I want, but I also have to master all my parameters and my lightning to be the most efficient and more importantly to be as consistent as possible on a series of shots.

I apply this exact thinking process when I want to shoot B&W.

Let’s have a look at these three shots of Jessica I recently posted.

jessica-photoshoot-web-resolution-0351

jessica-photoshoot-web-resolution-0361

jessica-photoshoot-web-resolution-0371

As you can see the result is consistent. The lightning, the mood, is the same for the three pictures. And this is what I want because if what I capture is consistent, that means that I can replicate the exact same settings in post processing for all the pictures without thinking twice (Remember, as I said I am a lazy bum!).

Back on the thinking process.

Jessica had a superb white dress, very glam, very sexy. The place we decided to shoot had this amazing brown leather couch with dark grey walls and a gorgeous french door. I knew this door will let light spill just enough to give me a nice fill for the hair and a nice overall mood.

Taking all of this into account when I walked into this room, I knew I wanted a very sexy B&W series. By very sexy I meant high contrast with nice, strong and balanced shadows, but also lots of details, and finally a very directional light on Jessica’s face because I didn’t want to spoil the ambient light the door was giving me on her body and her dress.
All this would dictate how I would setup my shots.

First I wanted directional light and I didn’t want it to spill on the couch or on the mirror behind my model: so I went with a 30° Grid Spot as my light modifier because a softbox would give me too much spill. The Grid Spot would let me light only her face and part of her chest would be perfect. I posed Jessica on the couch near the french door and positionned my light on my camera right at a 50° angle from her face to have a strong directional light on her features and nice shadows.

I setup my camera at 1/160th in terms of speed because that would let me control my ambient a bit if I wanted to (for flash photography, the ambient light is only impacted by speed and not aperture). My ISO was 100 and my aperture was f/2.8. Why? Simply because I have to start somewhere and I would adjust my settings from there. It happened that this setting was perfect for the ambient I wanted to get. I cranked my flash to 1/4th of power and we where good to go.

And here is my test shot with these settings while Jessica was getting ready.

jessica-002

So with only two test shots I had the settings I wanted and I kept them throughout the series because they would give me consistent results and I would use the same post processing in the end, which meant 5 seconds on a pic during editing (remember: lazy bum).

Here are the shots I showcased previously prior to B&W processing: these are straight out of camera. The only thing I edited was removing this damn fire alarm and I only applied a B&W processing action without thinking twice.

jessica-003

jessica-photoshoot-web-resolution-0351

jessica-004

jessica-photoshoot-web-resolution-0361

jessica-005

jessica-photoshoot-web-resolution-0371

If you read until this point, the key from all this is that I am lazy. I think you all understood that. This then forces me to be very aware of what I want to achieve and to master all my technical settings to support my vision. In the end, it helps me save tons of time in post and also it makes me look professional as I don’t have to spend 10 minutes to setup my lights and look for my correct settings in front of my client, moreover when I show a preview, all the images are good straight out of camera and not all over the place.

I hope you enjoyed this second post of Anatomy of a Shot. Stay tuned for more.

Pascal Tran Binh Aoshi Studio Photographe Mariage Portrait Lifestyle Paris France Intesettingsrnational

Pascal Tran Binh Aoshi Studio Wedding Portrait Lifestyle Photographer Paris France International

Anatomy of a shot

As some of you, faithful readers, have been asking about how I take some of my pictures, I decided to start a series of regular post describing the entire process and techniques involved while I’m shooting. I hope you will find this interesting!

Let’s have a look at this picture of Morgan (you can see more pictures of this shoot here).

anatomy-008

What you have to know about this shot is that this is a shot I have been seeing during the whole time we were shooting. I have been preparing this picture the whole afternoon. I knew I wanted to get that shot exactly like this.

This shot was taken in Shanghai on the pedestrian part of Nanjing Road, the lights there are amazing, so I knew they would give me a great background. I knew I would get a nice contrast between the dark clothes of Morgan and the pink mood of the streetlights. I wanted to keep the global mood of the street so I knew I had to let enough ambient light in. But I also knew that I had to be fast. This is a very crowded area so I didn’t have a lot of time to do this.

As I said, I have been preparing this shot the whole afternoon on a technical aspect but also, and more importantly, on a human aspect. I have been running the settings I would use in my head but I have also been working on the development of the relationship with Morgan. As the area is really crowded and as it can get very intimidating, it is important to build the trust and confidence of your model / client.

Just so you see here is a shot I took to test what I would get if I shot ambient light only while metering my subject.

anatomy-001

Iso 4000 – f/2.5 – 1/30 sec

This is not bad, it could work if it was what I was aiming for, but it wasn’t. As you can see the exposure on my model is perfect but my background is totally blown out and this is not what I wanted.

So I metered for my background and dialed down my Iso as this has direct impact on my global exposure.

This was more like what I had in mind. This is the kind of mood I was aiming for.

anatomy-003

Iso 400 – f/2.5 – 1/40 sec

My background is correctly exposed but my model isn’t. Morgan is underexposed by at least 2 stops of light. So now I knew I had to setup my flash to give me light at f/2.5 Iso 400 (when you are shooting flash, your flash exposure on your subject is not impacted by your shutter speed). I am always using off-camera flash. This time I had a small softbox which would give me a nice soft and directional light. I set it up at 1/4th power on my camera right about 1 meter from my subject and took this last shot to check that my exposure was correct, while Morgan was getting ready.

anatomy-007

Iso 400 – f/2.5 – 1/40 sec

My subject exposure was perfect but I wanted to have more ambient light so I dialed down my shutter speed. Doing this only has impact on my ambient light and not my flash exposure: as you can see in the final shot the flash exposure on my subject wasn’t affected but my background is more luminous. I then only added a camera shake while shooting. The flash was enough to freeze part of the action while providing a nice blur.

anatomy-008

Final settings are : Iso 400 – f/2.5 – 1/10 sec

So as you can see lots of thinking in preparing this shot, I knew I was going to take this shot before coming to this place. I more or less knew what kind of settings I was going to use and in the end it took me less than 30 seconds to nail my exposure.

And as my flash exposure is set, I can use it infinitely to get the same consistent results from shots to shots.

morgan-photoshoot-web-resolution-047

This is only a quick recap of the process involved in creating a shot. There are obviously more explanations that could be given regarding flash exposure but I didn’t want to get too technical here.

In the end I think that it very important to master your techniques but this shouldn’t become more important than your vision. It should help you and support what you want to achieve and not the other way around.