I just received a question in an email and I want to answer it on this blog since I believe a lot of people may have this question. The photographers question was, "for separation, do I use contrasting backgrounds or a light"?
I have always been a huge fan of using one light and putting all of my energy into focusing on the subject. All to often those who are just starting or are new to photography want to use as many lights or props as possible and get caught up in that aspect of photography. I feel this is a mistake and that it's more important to focus all your efforts into getting the subject relaxed and pulling that special something out. Look at some of the first images of Annie Leibovitz or any of the greats. Study great paintings and the images that have made you stop in your tracks. It's not always about the lighting, lens, cameras etc. Yes, it is great to have all those things when you need them, but when you are starting out it's best to learn to master simple lighting and concentrate all your energy in getting something special from your subjects. Many of my images even today have one light and all of my energy is spent on getting something special out of my subjects.
If you're heard me speak then you know how big I am on research. Here a story on how my research has paid off in the past. Before this shoot I had my interns researching everything we could find on Gregory Hines. In this process we found that whenever he found himself alone in an elevator he liked to tap dance because he like the echo in an elevator. Okay, fast forward to the shoot. Gregory comes to the studio and one minuet after walking in the door tells me he loves photography and that he loved the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. Then he tells me that Bresson walked about Paris with one lens and one roll of film and believed if he couldn't get a shot this way it wasn't worth getting then asked if we could get the shot in one roll of film! He was totally serious! He wanted to shoot one roll of film and walk out the door.
So I'm shooting Gregory and each frame he starts counting down and I'm getting nothing. Then as we get to the last five frames I say, for the last few frames do me a favor and close your eyes and imagine your in a elevator tap dancing. He stops and says, "how did you know I like to do that"? Then bent down, took his shoes off and proceeded to give me two hours of the best images and moments I'd had in a long time. We connected at that moment and the entire room changed at that instant. Later when I interviewed him for my book Sepia Dreams, he allowed me to interview him on his birthday, Feb. 14th. It was a moment I will never forget and I have repeatedly learned how important it is to research your subject no matter how well you think you know them. Research and keep it simple!
Lighting gear: Profoto 7A pack with Octabank
shot on grey seamless
Camera: Mamiya RZ with 140 lens
F stop: F 11.0 @125
Film: Kodak Tri X Professional
I now had the pressure of ge