Soft Light for Black & White: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace


Hi everybody, welcome to another episode of Exploring Photography right here on AdoramaTV I’m Mark Wallace in Tactic Studios in Madrid Spain, hanging out with Diana Tobar… she is an awesome model here in Madrid, and today we’re going to be shooting some black and white portraits. Now about 10 years ago or so, I was able to hang out for a few days with a really awesome photographer named Greg Gorman and he showed me a few secrets to shooting black and white photos. Specifically to shoot with very hard directional light, and so that is what we’re going to be doing today. Now normally you get hard directional light shooting with hard light modifiers like this. This is any kind of a light modifier, usually they are metal, and so I’ve already set up one of my favorite hard light modifiers. The Profoto magnum reflector. Behind us, that’s where we’re going to start, because it just almost always works. Now what you want to do with this really hard directional light is, you want to have it contrast in, so you don’t wanna have it straight on to the model. You want to have that to the side, so that you get some contrast, because black and white photos love contrast. So let’s start there. So Diana, if you can go back, we have this already marked marked out. I’m gonna put this down really quickly, and the first thing we want to do is meter our light. Now we know because this is a very hard light modifier, it’s going to really have some punch. So we’re probably going to be shooting around 10, or 11, f/10 or 11, but let’s start by metering our light. So I’m gonna meter this right here, and sure enough that is metering at f/11, and so we’re just going to start with this basic set up and see exactly what we get. So Diana and I are looking at these images, and they’re okay but they’re just not the kind of photos that I was hoping to get. I need to make some changes and so I think let’s do that next. So we’re going to try something different, we still want to keep our directional light. So we have high contrast, but instead of that hard light reflector that I always love, well we’re gonna use a soft light. A strip light. So this is what we have right here now notice though that I have it to the side of
Diana. So normally Diana would be facing this way, what we’re gonna have for her face this way, and that will give us high contrast light. So what we’re gonna get is, we’re gonna get nice light on this side of Diana, but this side is going to fall into darkness. That’s going to give us some contrast. A little bit of this light is gonna spill on that white background, so it’ll be a darkish gray, but that’ll give us enough to give us a silhouette on the other side of Diana’s body. So we’re gonna start there. I’m gonna meter this… will shoot some tests, and see how it looks, and then we’ll tweak and go from there. Well I want to meter this, I want to meter this this at f/9, because that’s about where I want to be for proper depth of field, for these images. So this is sort of a tricky lighting setup, I want to meter to the light. Cuz I’m metering for the highlights, not the shadows. So normally I would meter to the camera, but this only has one light, so I’m metering to the light, and I know that I want this to be consistently f/9, and because this is because of the inverse square law, the lights gonna fall off really rapidly. So it’s a little bit finicky. So I’m gonna help direct Diana to be at the right place. So I’m gonna make sure I meter this, so I see f/9, and it’s about right there. Okay, perfect so she’s in the right place. If she wasn’t, she would just walk to where the meter is, and then we would know that she’s in the right place, as we’re shooting. I’m gonna keep metering this, just to make sure that she hasn’t taken a couple of steps to the left or to the right, and then we’re falling too far under the shadows, or too far into the right, messing up our exposure. So that’s a tip when you’re shooting with high contrast light like this, make sure you’re coming back, metering, check the position of the model, make sure that things haven’t changed, when you’re having a lot of fun shooting these images, because you will! Okay, now that we’re metered, let’s take a few test shots. Well I’m seeing when I’m looking at these images, we have one issue that I don’t like. So these are very contrasting, that’s exactly what I wanted, but when I’m looking at it now, it just looks a bit too contrasty. So what I could do is add another light, and make it complicated, but we don’t need to do that. Let’s keep it simple, and so to fix that and to fill in some of those shadows, I’ll just add a reflector. So lucky for me I happen to have one right here, so I’m going to put this right over here. This light stand will work just fine, All right, so now what we’re doing is we’re bouncing light from this light, it’s hitting this reflector, it’s going into those shadows on Diana’s face, and that should fix things just perfectly. So now, let’s shoot a couple more. So same exact thing, look right at me, or just like that, yeah, now you can see how that’s just filling in that other side. Now that that’s fixed up, we can start playing with the posing, and really dig into this shoot. So let’s do that, well I think that the final images that we shot, were just really what I was looking for, but the lesson to learn here is, even though you’ve shot something a million times and it’s always worked the same way, sometimes it just doesn’t work that way. You have to be willing to experiment, and try new things, and so our soft light worked better than our hard light, and we got some spectacular results. So thank you so much for joining us. Thank you Diana, you can follow Diana on Instagram @DianaTobbar, Perfecto. We have it right here, so you can see that and then also you can follow me on Instagram. Make sure to do that, so you don’t miss all of the behind the scenes images, and sort of the fun stuff that we post out there. Also subscribe to AdoramaTV, it’s absolutely free, and then make sure you turn on the bells so you get notifications! Thanks again for joining us and I’ll see you again next time!

17 Replies to “Soft Light for Black & White: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace”

  1. wow those shots came out great, don't think I could ever take one like that with all the gear in the world. studio is my weakness

  2. I love hard light, and high contrast, but with a young model with perfect skin it is easy, whereas it would create huge post processing problems for a model with skin issues or for a model with wrinkles who is not yet ready to embrace her ageing skin. The soft box a fair distance back will still give high contrast, but may be kinder to the model. The place where the light is falling off is where most imperfections are revealed, like the view of the light boundary region of a half-moon, with a pair of binoculars you get a great view of all the craters and hills there. I made the mistake once with a beautiful model whose face was badly marked with acne, I shot my favorite (till then) image of a gal-under-a-streetlight, and I was working for hours to recover. Next time, I shot her with a softbox a few inches away, and I had little trouble in post production. My lesson learned was to pay closer attention to my model's skin, wardrobe, everything, before deciding how to shoot. Fit the lighting to the model.

  3. Great lesson as always. As a beginner, i'm always watching YouTube videos on photography and i promise you, you're one of the best photographers/teachers around. I'd have loved to see you working on the final image though. Spectacular image, really. Thanks for sharing. Cheers!

  4. I usually see color bending in dark backgrounds of the images while watching tutorials. Is it my screen/graphic card or happening while uploading them to the internet?

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