In The Studio With Steve Hiebert

There is a driving force that is unstoppable within the heart of an artist. Live eyes wide open. Fujifilm X-Pro2 / XF56mmAPD / ISO 200 / Main light: PCB Einstein + 48" Softbox / Fill light: various positioned pocket flashlights / ACROS Monochrome.

There is a driving force that is unstoppable within the heart of an artist. Live eyes wide open. Fujifilm X-Pro2 / XF56mmAPD / ISO 200 / Main light: PCB Einstein + 48" Softbox / Fill light: various positioned pocket flashlights / ACROS Monochrome.

In the process of creating art and portraiture, we discover many hopes, dreams and passions of those in front of the camera. Today is no exception as Steve Hiebert of Personal Expressions joined me in the studio. He brings dedication to his own craft of family, wedding and fine art photography. However, digging deeper and knowing Steve for more years than I can count, his passion for art within photography takes him into a world of beauty through nature, macro, wildlife and abstract photography. Many a time, we have been laying on the ground in a ditch or on a side street capturing life from a different perspective; one that is void of judgement and where only beauty exists. This is how an artist sees the world. We see beyond the visible, the known and the expected. We see the beauty in the ordinary and the inspiration in the forgotten.

Fujifilm X-Pro2 / XF90mm / ISO 200 / PCB Einstein + 48" Softbox / Provia.

Fujifilm X-Pro2 / XF90mm / ISO 200 / PCB Einstein + 48" Softbox / Provia.

Along with this comes the desire to experiment and push our understandings and expectations of our surroundings and techniques. Not all light is equal, yet all light is. In the spirit of trying new things, we stepped out of the studio for a moment and entered a darkened hallway with no exterior lighting. Our only tools were two Duracell flashlights from Costco and the walls around us. It was a very simple exposé into shaping light with ordinary flashlights and creating that studio look.

 

Scenario: A dark hallway with no lighting and only handheld flashlights to create our portrait. Fujifilm X-Pro2 / XF56mmAPD / ISO 1600 / ACROS Monochrome.

Scenario: A dark hallway with no lighting and only handheld flashlights to create our portrait. Fujifilm X-Pro2 / XF56mmAPD / ISO 1600 / ACROS Monochrome.

One flashlight is directed against the wall beside him as he points the other to the wall 10 feet behind him. Fujifilm X-Pro2 / XF56mmAPD / ISO 1250 / ACROS Monochrome.

One flashlight is directed against the wall beside him as he points the other to the wall 10 feet behind him. Fujifilm X-Pro2 / XF56mmAPD / ISO 1250 / ACROS Monochrome.

In the end, light is all we have. It is what shapes us and gives us perspective. Variations in direction, distance and intensity can create vastly different looks of the same subject in the same space. Our only source of light in the above and below portraits was the two small handheld flashlights that Steve is holding. In order to create that large window or softbox look, we bounced the flashlights at full intensity off the nearby wall. His face was less than a foot from the wall, since light fall-off is follow the Inverse Square Law (example: if the wall behind him is twice the distance from the flashlight as it is to Steve, it will receive one quarter (1/4) the illumination, not half as you may expect. If the wall is four times the distance, the illumination will be an eighth (1/8) what it is at the subject which will create a dramatic darkening of the background). This ratio of diminishing light allows the artist to control the brightness of the background in relation to the subject with ease, once understood.

One flashlight is directed against the wall beside him to create the key light while the other is used to bounce and act as a general fill. Fujifilm X-Pro2 / XF56mmAPD / ISO 1600 / ACROS Monochrome.

One flashlight is directed against the wall beside him to create the key light while the other is used to bounce and act as a general fill. Fujifilm X-Pro2 / XF56mmAPD / ISO 1600 / ACROS Monochrome.

It is also important in portraiture to control the direction of light in order to shape the subject. If the light is square to the subject, the resulting portrait may be too flat and lifeless. Lack of light shaping is much more evident when you convert to black and white, since there is no colour information to create the illusion of depth and variation. Light that approaches the subject from an angle will help to create wrap-around features and punch in your images. In a future post I will discuss shaping and chasing light to create better works. 

Portrait of an artist. Fujifilm X-Pro2 / XF90mm / ISO 1250 / Main light: PCB Einstein + 48" Softbox / Fill light: various positioned pocket flashlights / Provia.

Portrait of an artist. Fujifilm X-Pro2 / XF90mm / ISO 1250 / Main light: PCB Einstein + 48" Softbox / Fill light: various positioned pocket flashlights / Provia.

Yes, you may have noticed that Steve uses a Nikon D750 and I use a Fujifilm X-Pro2. And yet, we are still friends. All lightheartedness aside; it isn't the camera in your hands that makes you an artist or a professional, yet it is a tool that can cause inspiration to come from within, unleashing your talent as you are connected with your subject. Just shoot.

Check out his new website and follow him on Instagram.