Salsa Lessons & Studio Lighting

February 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Left: Tatiana Fernandez thinks of the sun and her home in the Dominican Republic as she poses for her portrait on Sunday Feb. 12, 2012. Fernandez moved Columbia, Mo. after being awarded the Fulbright Scholarship that allows her to study photojournalism at the University of Missouri. Right: After taking ballet lessons for eight years, Tatiana Fernandez says she still has a passion for dance. Since arriving in Columbia she regularly attends three different dance classes, including swing, salsa and blues.

Tonight, after wandering helplessly for 45 minutes through the bowels of Lee Hills, then up to the Missourian and back down again, texting, calling, searching for that Good Samaritan with the power to open a very  secure studio door Naveen came to the rescue and Tatiana and I were finally able to complete the half-finished photo shoot we began this past weekend.

I never thought I would enjoy studio photography as much as I did composing Tatiana’s portraits.  Prior to this experience I had lived somewhat as a lighting “purist,” opposed almost entirely to any unnatural light.  However, it was a surprising relief to be entirely in control of the environment in which I was shooting; a place where I could practice photography more as a science experiment than an art project.  Of course, what resulted was a beautiful combination of the two. To prepare for my first studio shoot I researched what type of lighting I would use to evoke the essence of “Tatiana” through my pictures.

For those of you who don’t know, Tatiana is from the Dominican Republic, which means she’s not a fan of this Missouri cold.  For the first of my selects my intent was to take her back home to the “DR” by evoking warmth and sunlight through the use of a single light source and reflector.  The diagram here shows exactly where I placed the light, camera and reflector.

Single Light Diagram

Only after testing my set up and playing with the equipment for a while (to use a snoot or to not use a snoot?) was I able to achieve the look I wanted.  And, honestly, the light falling behind her head on the background was a fluke.  I’d like to say I planned that, but…well…okay I did.

The second photograph demonstrates my use of multiple lights.  Here’s the diagram.

Multiple Lighting Diagram

For this select I ended up using the beauty light to create a high key portrait that I wanted to emphasize the color of her hair and her vivacious spirit.  Tatiana and I both love to dance and I really wanted to bring that out in the pictures.  So, after turning on the salsa music and a few awkward/embarrassing moments that ended with both of us in hysterics, I had some portraits that were more active and natural.  The one I chose has less movement than others but her expression and the light won it over for me.

Overall I really enjoyed this assignment, learning about an untapped area of photography that will actually earn me money someday (my parents will be so pleased), and made easier by the fact that Tatiana is incredibly photogenic.  So thanks, to my beautiful model, and if there was only one lesson I could take away from this project it would be to learn the Lab hours by heart, or just have Naveen’s cell number on speed dial.


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