They say practice makes perfect. I’m attempting to do a 52-week photo challenge and the first assignment was a self portrait. I would normally do a standard head shot on a white backdrop, but that’s not the point of doing this type of challenge. It’s about learning and self discovery, so I wanted to do something a bit more dramatic and have a bit of fun.
For this setup I have a softbox with a Canon 430EXII flash inside. The box is positioned so my face is just on the inside; when the flash is fired the light clips my face and body giving a nice dramatic shadows but just barley lighting me up. The camera is positioned at waist level angled upwards with a small reflector at it’s right – I found without the reflector my left arm got lost in the shadow so it needed something to cast just a bit more light onto the coat.
Now for the black background – it’s actually my white backdrop that I always use. Now I bet you’re thinking I used Photoshop to get it black, but I didn’t. Knowing a bit about the inverse square law and how it affects light helped me to get the background really dark. There’s a good write up of the concept at Digital Photography School, however you don’t really need to know the math to do this successfully. All you need to know is when you are using a flash its power falls off dramatically the further away it is from the subject – faster than you think. For this photo I’m standing 6 feet from the background; when the flash fires it is pointed 45 degrees away from the backdrop. Even though there is light spillage from the softbox the background almost comes out totally black.