If you are interested in photography at all, you are probably familiar with the name Joe McNally. His work is amazing and he is the brilliant author of The Moment it Clicks and The Hot Shoe Diaries. Diclaimer: I am in NO way whatsoever comparing myself to him; he is the best of the best! In these books, McNally wows his readers with an amazing shot, and then proceeds to explain how he used light to create it. Hopefully he doesn’t mind, but I am borrowing his style to explain how I achieved 3 images that were nearly perfect in-camera, not because I created light with strobes or speed lights, but because I recognized how to use ambient light to my advantage. After finishing this post you might realize that, despite the post title, these weren’t just “lucky shots” after all 😉
I took this picture of my daughter last week. I was super inspired by a shot I had seen on Clickin’ Moms, and hoped to achieve a similar effect using only the light from my husband’s laptop screen. After bumping my ISO all the way up to 1600 without getting adequate results, I decided I would need more light to illuminate my sweet cherub’s adorable face. My shutter speed was 1/100, already lower than I cared to go, and my aperture was 2, which is the lower limit to the “sweet spot” on my 50mm 1.4. Then I remembered the large window on the opposite side of our house! I thought I might need to draw the curtains a bit to control spill/direct the light on to Lydia’s face, but the curtain position turned out to be perfect. I love how “sneaky” this was on my part, because not showing the light source in the frame gives the illusion that the screen is illuminating her!
In this shot, I took advantage of the light reflecting off the wall (camera right) of our office. The paint in that room is fairly light (think khaki color), but in hindsight using my large white reflector (currently a large piece of white tile board from Home Depot that miraculously survived our move from Indiana) would have yielded much better results #facepalm!! Since I was more concerned about the rim light highlighting her sweet profile, I decided to just add some fill light in post. And yes, I did try to recreate this moment with the reflector, but it didn’t work 🙁
Flashback to 2011. I’m still shooting on my D90 at this point and it is mid-afternoon on a sunny day in the Notre Dame Stadium. This was my first “VIP-only” experience as a photographer, and I was exhilarated but also a bit nervous! How did I achieve the lovely clouds in the sky despite the blazing sun? I took advantage of the bleachers reflecting that lovely sunlight back on to my subjects. This reflected light allowed me to properly expose my subjects without “blowing out” the sky (a blown-out sky is just a plain white blob that, in my opinion, can make an image a bit “blah”. How did I get Easton to smile AND look at the camera? Well, that was a bit of “luck of the Irish” 😉
There you have it, my top 3 “Joe McNally” moments.