Last night, I attempted my first ever night time portrait session. I’ve had shoots that ended around dusk/night, but this one didn’t even start until about 11pm. I had the homie O come through and be the guinea pig for the shoot. Real quick, before I continue, he has a blog as well. Check it out here http://www.o-get-whitted.blogspot.com/ , and while you’re at it, follow him on Twitter as well (@Detroit_O).
Anyway, the shoot itself took place in the middle of the street – a street that still had fairly high traffic at midnight. The most obvious issue with shooting at night is how you’re going to light the subject. Surprisingly, this was the LEAST of my problems. I figured out my lighting on the sidewalk before we started shooting. Once I knew what setup I wanted to use, when traffic was clear, we’d run out in the street and take the shots. We’d run out of the street when cars were coming. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
The lighting setup wasn’t too difficult to figure out. For starters, I knew I had to factor in those funky orange-colored street lights throwing off my white balance. So I threw a full CTO gel on my light and set the white balance to tungsten, or as I like to call it, “light bulb.” I shot into a reflective 60″ umbrella, at *I believe* 1/4 power. The umbrella was probably about 4 feet or so from O, camera right. I upped my ISO slightly to 400 in camera, and shot wide open at f/1.4. To get a proper exposure on the background, my shutter speed was at 1/10. As complicated as all this sounds, I worked all this out in my head quickly and easily.
The most difficult part of this shoot, aside from dealing with the cars, was getting my camera to focus! I spent a large part of the time too far away from O, and the camera simply could not find him in the darkness. Once I got close enough for the AF-assist light to find him, things smoothed out.
Another technique I tried for the first time was stacking my gels. The full cut of CTO that I placed on my light was to balance the light with the street lights. Basically, it just made everything look “right.” However, to me, “right” started to get a little boring. So I stacked a 1/4 CTB gel (blue) on top of the CTO, which helped cast a nice blue light onto O, as you’ll see below.