Last Updated on 05/15/2017 by Chris Gampat
Creating Low Contrast and High Contrast Light
As you read this article, keep this tidbit in mind: Acros will do what you tell it to do. If you’re a computer programmer or you’ve studied coding language, you’ll completely understand this.
Generally speaking, when working in a studio a lot of photographers tend to want to create high contrast lighting. High contrast lighting works in a very interesting way that puts a major emphasis on blacks. The science behind it: the deeper the blacks are in a photo, the sharper it will appear when looking at the image as a whole. The reason for this has to do with the fact that the brain and eyes tend to simply ignore the blacks and go for the brighter colors.
Think about shiny things…no, really…
Because of this there is usually a whole lot of blacks and deep shadows to make the eye focus on certain areas. In black and white, this can become more complicated because you’re sometimes incorporating a number of different colors. This is why the greats often try to keep their portraits to three main colors:
- The skin tone
- The background
- The clothing
And that’s all.
To create higher contrast lighting, it’s best to underexpose your photo a bit. So if you’re working with an off-camera flash, you should shoot at the maximum flash sync speed. This tends to kill all the ambient light in the scene without letting shutter curtain clipping happen. Then you simply meter your flash to the aperture and the ISO and work from there. Considering Acros’ ability to go medium contrast, high contrast, or low contrast it’s all just about what you do to make the scene work. In that way, it’s a true creator’s film!
Well, it’s not all THAT simple; but we’re going to get more into blending different lighting types in a bit.
Let’s talk about light modifiers. There’s a special rule that goes something like:
- The larger and closer the light modifier is in relation to the subject, the softer the light will be. The further and smaller the light modifier is in relation to the subject, the harder the light will be.
So what that means is that you’re probably going to want to use a light modifier that is specular and not incredibly larger than your subject. A six foot umbrella: probably not needed. A 48 inch octabank? Yeah, that can work!
Blending Light Types
We talked about the rule of lighting a little bit when it comes to shutter speeds, but let me go deeper into it.
When a flash and flash output is added to a scene, the following happens:
- Shutter speed ends up controlling the ambient light in the scene
- Aperture controls flash. If the flash is set manually then you need to meter the flash to the aperture. The more stopped down you are, the less flash output will affect the scene. But in TTL, the flash reads the ISO and the aperture and makes a decision based on that.
- ISO controls overall sensitivity
- Flash output comes from the flash. I typically recommend that you work with manual flashes.
So in theory, the slower your shutter speed is the more you’ll be able to get from the ambient light in the scene. Indeed, that’s correct but then you need to consider flash duration–which can often cut down on how much ambient light is in the scene. Before you buy a flash, you’ll want to check this. But the faster your shutter speed is, the less ambient light will affect your exposure.
To get that high contrast Fujifilm Acros look that we’re talking about, aim for a faster shutter speed, a lower ISO setting and metering your flash and diffuser to your aperture. Then shoot and figure it out from there. Sometimes you may even want to increase the power of the flash.
Working with Color Channels to Get More from Certain Areas
Now that we’ve talked about a number of the things that you can do in the studio, let’s talk about digital post-production. Once you’ve set your image to the Acros camera profile, you can work with various Acros filters. For example, the green filter tends to kill blue light and daylight. Red tends to sometimes make skin look brighter and healthier.
But if you want even more, then Adobe Lightroom and Capture One let you tweak specific color channels. You’ll be able to increase brightness to get more from a specific area. With that said, don’t expect a color image to look exactly how you’d want it to be when rendering in black and white. Instead you’ll need to do some tweaking.
One example: the photo adobe shows little separation between his jacket and the background. But in color, there’s tons of it.
Happy shooting folks!