Exploring the dark and the light with high contrast photography
I love soft and dreamy photography as much as the next still life photographer. Dark and moody photography, absolutely essential! Especially in winter. Although, when I am flying through my Instagram feed, what catches my eye the most? High contrast photography. Posts such as this one by Fiona Tan makes me stop, and stay, for a long while, studying it. This kind of work evokes the deepest of emotion.
In the space I am working in right now, either in my home (which basically means my kitchen) or at the Art Loft, I have either bright sunlight or gray light. There are no dark corners with luscious navy walls or gunmetal gray cement. Can I pull it off anyway? Without an artificial light source?
The discovery came when I was away at mom’s house. The strong afternoon sun was streaming through the living room directly illuminating the flowers my aunt brought to cheer her up. The light created strong shadows. With a few minutes to distract myself, I set out to capture this scene, fiddling around until I got what I was looking for. I lowered my ISO to 200, set the F-stop to somewhere between 2 and 3.5 and played with the shutter speed, getting darker and darker until I could barely see the background.
This image was shot with a 50mm lens, at 200 ISO, F 3.5, 1/3200 sec. “Not bad,” I thought. Lowering the ISO to 200, rather than my usual 400 or 800 indoors, gave me more shadow. I pulled up the highlights just a bit in Lightroom. That’s it.
I rather liked this image with a Kim Klassen Lightroom preset applied, kk_hazed, one of my favorite.
Now to try this in my space. Among my first picks from the garden center is this show stopping begonia. The window at the loft is north facing but large. It was a grayish day so all that was available was soft, muted light. I pulled the set up away from the window a bit, still allowing for some sidelight. I used a dark grayish blue backdrop board that I painted myself.
I shot with the same 50mm lens at 200 ISO and F 3.5, the shutter speed was at 1/100 sec. I did not spot meter, I let the shadows fall where they may.
This is the shot out of camera.
Couldn’t decide which edit I liked the most so here’s a few.
A few more detail shots of the same scene. And a vintage version.
I have a feeling this will not be my last shoot with the intention to create high contrast photography.
I think I might be in love with it!