Village Jester owner Nigel Chisholm may have been jesting when he commented on a photo I posted on Facebook: “I want Dean to make me look that good.”
I explained that I don’t make anyone look good – I just know when to open the shutter. He suggested I open the shutter for him, and I liked the idea. I’ve gotten very comfortable making headshots and portraits in my studio, but I need to practice environmental photography, so why not start in one of my favorite environments: a bar.
I came into the session with two goals: 1) compose images that show/suggest the environment but keep Nigel as the point of interest, and 2) try to capture a serious expression.
The first goal is self-evident, as that is the goal of environmental portraiture, but why a serious expression? Quite simply, a serious expression seems more interesting than a smile. When we see a photograph of a smiling person, we’re less inclined to wonder what’s going on in the person’s mind. Naturally, if we were making images to promote the bar, we’d be all smiles. But I want to learn how to make photos that stand on their own as interesting documents.
Managing Ambient, Fill, Key, and Accent lights reminded me that I’ve learned a lot about lighting, but I still don’t know what I like. Some of the lessons from this session include:
- I need a softbox or two to better control spill. I used a shoot-through umbrella for key light, but the spaces were too tight to prevent spill onto the background.
- I need more practice with my super-wide lens. None of the images made with my 11-16 were usable. I either need to learn how to make distortion work for me, or learn how to conceal it.
- I need to experiment with contrast ratios in my lighting set-ups. Nearly all of the photos looked more dramatic when I boosted the contrast during post-processing. In color, the higher contrast versions look better at small sizes and the lower contrast versions look better at large sizes. In black and white, the higher contrast versions look a little better – to my eye – at any size.
All that said, I think I’m off to a good start, and I’m grateful to Nigel for his patience and comradeship during the shoot. There are a lot of interesting spaces I didn’t use at The Village Jester that could make it an excellent second studio!
Techno-Fun: Nikon D300, Nikon 17-55 f/2.8, Nikon SB-800, Nikon SB-600, umbrellas, snoots, grids, diffuser domes, and who knows what all. I was at a bar, you know.