The instruction book that is. Yup, I've been in a camera rut, shooting with the same settings all the time, and not always getting the results you'd hope for. So on the advice of my friend Sarah Minkiewicz I dusted off the camera's instructions. Wow, I'd forgotten quite a bit about the features of the cute little peashooter (a four-year-old Pentax Optio A30). A couple of obliging mules were rounded up for a much needed practice session.
In a studio lighting workshop last year I learned that studio photographers often do not point a light directly at their subject. Yes, that's counter-intuitive, but you get a softer lighting effect using the edge lighting from a parabolic reflector. Two separate lights give you a tremendous range of lighting effects and control.
The beauty of a digital camera is that you can watch the way the light changes in real time on your camera's screen. Often I'll hold a light in my left hand, move it around the set area while watching the camera screen to find those lighting sweet spots. The tricky bit is focusing and shooting one-handed -- do you remember the childhood party game, Twister? Yes, it feels just like that.
Here's a series of light experiments:
Single source of light from left; ambient light from the right.
Same single source of light from left; second source from right directly behind Iko, but pointed about a 90º angle away from him.
Same single source of light from left; second source from right and brought to the front a bit and pointed at a greater angle away from Iko.
Same single source of light from left; second source from front left, elevated.
It's interesting to see how positioning the lights differently can make such a big change in how you perceive the piece. Now to be bolder in experimenting with camera settings (and more diligent in taking notes about those settings!)