Wednesday, February 4, 2009

web-cam portrait

A camera is a camera and light is light. Monday's video and my new profile picture were both captured using my MacBook Pro's built in web-cam. The diagram below outlines how I set up the lighting for the shot.

Now before the native's rise up in rebellion - let me clear this up. The dynamic range and detail captured by a web-cam are significantly inferior to that of a point and shoot camera and aren't even in the same conversation with a dSLR. I understand this - I simply wanted to see how far I could push the device. I wanted to see what kind of quality I could get out of it. And I was pleasantry surprised. All I did was set the computer up so I was positioned within the rule of thirds and then I got to work on the light. I opened the vertical blinds to my left (camera right) and aimed them at the sofa (soft directional light). Then I did a few tests. The right side of my face (camera left) was WAY to dark. A decent camera would have been able to reign in the range of highlight and shadow - but it was too much for this web-cam to handle. I rumidged around in my colset and pulled out a 36" 5-in-1 reflector. I popped it out of its compressed holster and used the silver side to fill in some of the shadows. I literally jammed it inbetween two sofa cusions. Next thing I knew - I was snapping photos in photobooth and making a video. After I finished recording I pulled the images into Lightroom for a closer look. Much to my suprise I was able to get some great results out of the test.

It just goes to show you - lighting is everything. Great lighting can make ANY image better. Great lighting can make ANY camera better. And great Lighting can make ANY photographer better. Stop spending so much time worrying about the gear and start looking for the light. Look for simple ways to manipulate it into a directional light source that will flatter and enhance your subject giving it depth and dimension.

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