The Skill of Improvisation

From Lair of Sorrow

Sometimes an opportunity for a picture just finds you completely unprepared. Would you miss that opportunity?

In a previous entry I talked about observation and how crucial it is to see more. Today's post follows with my ramblings on another skill useful in picture taking - improvisation.

Back to the Light

The pictures you see today are the result of a non-planned, non-organised photoshoot that lacked any serious technical backup. To be precise, the photoshoot was a result of me agreeing to take a few photos while being completely unprepared to do so.

I had to come up with an idea for the photos. It was quite late at night already, so I thought of taking a few low-key shots where part of the model is lit and the rest is covered in almost absolute darkness.

Why low-key, you may ask. There are a few reasons, one of them being their ability to positively surprise the model - pictures look artsy and have an intimate feeling to them. Also people tend to think that those photos are more professional. Another reason is that they are surprisingly easy to shoot. In most cases you need a source of light, ideally with a softbox. You then take a picture with the light turned off and adjust the camera settings so that the picture is completely dark. The next step is to turn the light on and take photos.

Low Light Shadows

My situation, however, was not one of those most cases. I did not have any studio equipment - only the camera. Fortunately, that is enough to take a picture.

My biggest concern was how to replace a strobe. And then I noticed a floor lamp. It was around 120cm tall, thin, white paper lampshade all around it and two bulbs. While not perfect, it offered a single source of nicely diffused light.

In Low Light

With that figured out it was time to thing about the poses. I tried a few sitting ones, as those tend to look good with low light, however the available chairs were far from visually appealing. The light was very weak, so lying down was not an option either.

That left me with standing poses and then I decided to focus only on a part of the body. Lifting the lamp up from the floor to a chair was a slight challenge, but it was neccesary to have the shadows at a correct angle. The bulbs produced nice, warm light which played very well with the model's skin colour.

As it turned out, the improvised softbox did its job, and everyone lived happily ever after.

I have learnt two lessons from this - you can always come up with something, and you increase your chances of successful improvisation with a bit of creativity.