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Lighting Masterclass - Stuart Wood on Lighting - part 1 of 1 2

by Stuart Wood Published 01/12/2013

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My article for this issue is going to be very different. Not only am I featuring an image that was mostly created through Photoshop, which is unusual for my photography, but I am very proud to announce that we are launching a really fun competition for the members, to run alongside all my articles from now on, where you get a chance to win a great piece of Elinchrom lighting equipment.

The image that I want to tell you about this time, is a very seasonal picture that I took featuring my children for our annual Christmas card.

Since our son was born in 1997, our children have featured on every Christmas card since then and each with a different seasonal theme. It would be true to say that, after using most festive ideas over the years, we are now having to be more creative and inventive in an attempt to bring something different to the series. As the card is also sent to all my clients, it is important to not repeat myself and, considering it is usually the clients that regularly say how much that they like the cards and wonder what my children will be up to next Yuletide, it is proving increasingly difficult to either come up with new images or indeed to stop the project altogether!


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So, a couple of years ago, I decided to create an image with a similar feel as the Christmas favourites 'The Snowman' and 'Polar Express' and decided on an image of Alan and Amelia posting their own Christmas cards. As I needed some sort of snowscape as a background and had fortunately already shot a winter wedding in Austria, I decided to use a part of one of these pictures for the postbox and my children to 'sit' comfortably on.

The children were then shot in the studio with the sledge and sack of mail against a white backdrop.

When making composite images such as this, all the elements need to look like they are meant to be together, so it is vital that they are all shot with the same lens, same aperture, same lighting, same exposure, same distance away from the camera and at the same height, so that the perspective and tones match.

I had already taken the dimensions of the postbox so that I knew exactly where the slot for the letters should go, and this was duly measured and marked on a spare lighting stand and placed in front of the children so they could accurately imagine where the letters were meant to go!

They were lit with 2 x RX600 Elinchrom lights both with 1 metre soft boxes and blue gels. The light that was placed to the right and above of the image was increased in power and had a stronger blue gel so that the dark side edges, top and back of the children, sledge and letters were all lit with a 'cold' light as if from the night sky. The other light was placed to the left of image and reduced in power to act as a fill light only. Then another RX 600 was placed close to the children with a small soft box and warm gel on it. This would be the main light for Alan and Amelia and was placed to create a painterly 'Rembrandt' lighting effect while being close enough to produce a nice warm spot-lit area that swiftly 'dies' around them to resemble the light from the hand-held lamp, which quickly becomes the lovely dark areas that I wanted, so that we end up with a warm circle around the lamp.


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1st Published 01/12/2013
last update 06/11/2019 11:08:40

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