Recently, Chris Chrisman guest-blogged on Strobist.com about a type of lighting he called Reductive Lighting. Basically this means approaching your photographic lighting situation not from a standpoint that it is a black canvas to be painted on, but to fill in the areas that need a little push using your strobes.
I was contacted a little while back by Donna Vitasovich, who wanted a few frames of a dress she had picked up at Seoul Fashion Week. I decided that I wanted to play with light on this particular day to achieve as many different looks as possible. I was particularly intrigued by this new thought on lighting that I had read about and decided to compare the two extremes in one scene.
So, for the first frame I started at white and worked my way down to a very high key, but still shaped image. I used my 135mm lens wide open at f/2 with an ND8 filter to knock the light down 3 stops, giving me 1/250 of a second, my sync speed. This left Donna a little two dark, so I brought in my Einstein at 1/64 power through a shoot through umbrella to bring her back up to correct exposure, and give a little shape to her face. As she was backlit by the sun, this would otherwise have been a very flat portrait of her.
Next, I wanted to do the exact opposite and start from black, so I stopped my lens down to f/22 and pumped the flash up to full power. We moved about 5 meters down the road to change up the composition a little and ended up with this.So, there we are. Two vastly different looks out of the same scene. Personally I prefer the first look in this case as it does a better job of showcasing the dress, but the second look has it’s place, and with a couple of fill flashes could become a really interesting image.