This handsome young acquaintance of mine, and namesake too, gave me one of my most challenging portrait sessions recently. Paradoxically, I am delighted with the the results; challenges and constraints often get us our most interesting results I suppose.

Due to our meeting arrangements slipping, we actually met to do the photographs after darkness had fallen, and I don’t mean it was dusk, it was fully dark other than the streetlights. As we had scheduled the evening, and we were finally in one place with my camera in hand, we decided to try to do something anyway.

I have to confess that my love affair with my Olympus OMD-10 is continuing unabated, and since I have a remote off-board flash to go with it, I was keen to see how it could penetrate the darkness to provide even illumination over some whole-body portraits. Typically at this point I realised that my exciting new flashgun was actually still at home; so no Olympus. Thankfully I had my Canon 5D (Full frame sensor) camera and a 580 EX flash with Pocket-Wizard remote triggering. In principle this should be a far better low-light combination anyway, although my chance to experiment was gone! I had a kind helper holding the remote flash through a diffusing umbrella, so it was easy to quickly reposition the flash. TTL metering doesn’t get perfect results all the time, and manual flash power adjustment isn’t quick enough for a relaxed and responsive session. Having an assistant quickly increase or decrease the distance to the subject, is a quick and dirty way of changing your subject brightness. The Canon was working at a respectable ISO 2500, really well within its noise capabilities.

This next one was partly an attempt to reduce the number of distracting background streetlights. The tree concealed most of them as well as giving Matt a prop to relax against. (Am I the only person who thinks Matt should be wearing Keanu Reeves’ long black coat from the Matrix)!

In this one, I was trying to use the doorway behind as a framing-device. The unusual angle of shooting from below has really accentuated Matt’s jawline and given a strength and dominance to this image that I love. I think it is like a movie-still.

This final one is another attempt to frame Matt using a doorway. Fitting in this doorway’s columns threw up a regular constraint when using architectural or other tall background features; the need to fit in the whole height of the columns dictates the position of your subject. The effect here is to draw the eye to Matt, but for subjects less brightly lit compared to the whole frame, it might not always work.

The final challenge of a session like this, is in the post processing. The colour of the flash is something like a daylight-white, the colour of the streetlight is, well, not daylight and considerably warmer in white balance terms. No matter what you do, either the background or your subject has a colour cast; at that point your refuge is so often the only one available, reduce or remove the colour content. Black and white is the answer. In this case I think it has worked really well, and lent a sculpted, elemental quality to Matt’s portraits.

Thanks for a fun session Matt; can’t wait for the next one, with natural light though…

Apology: This session was only posted today, however the photos were taken on the 27th of March; I have been a little bit wrapped up in updating my site.

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