Photo Challenge

LumiQuest Light Contest – How I took the winning image – By Bill Boswell

Bill Boswell1

As a member of the London Camera Club for 12 years, I enjoy entering competitions to expand my photography skills.  The competitions at our Club cover nature, open, monochrome, and portrait.  I find portraits are generally more challenging since they require a willing subject, a suitable location, and often more gear.

Barry is a family friend I have known for nearly 50 years.  He was always a bit of a character and I have memories of his bowties when visiting at Christmas.  He was an obvious choice when trying to think of a suitable subject for the portrait competition and best of all, he was enthused about the prospect of sitting for a portrait.

I arrived at his home and he had his trademark bowtie and crisp white shirt.  While we chatted, I set up the backdrop, a flash, and a 24 x 32 soft box.  I knew the short flash duration would freeze any movement so a tripod was unnecessary.  Since Barry was an art teacher, we discussed Rembrandt lighting and I thought it would give a classic portrait look.   I moved the soft box around until I found the lighting I liked and it gave a catch light in his left eye.

Looking at the camera’s LCD screen I noticed two problems: his jacket was blending into the background and the light on his right side (camera left) was a bit weak.  I added a second flash down low behind him and aimed it up to illuminate the background.  I wanted to ensure there was a visual separation between his jacket and the background.  I then used a 42″ reflector on the left side of the photo to bounce some of the light into the shadows.

Once I had the lighting the way I liked, I took a series of photos where he changed position slightly.  Some were looking at the camera and some away.  After a few shots, he showed me a variety of hats he had collected which included several beaver top hats, a matador’s hat, a fez, a chauffer’s cap, and a bowler.  I took a few more photos with each of the hats but selected the one without a hat for the contest because his hair was so dramatic.  It was only after I started to take the gear down that I found out Barry’s 80th birthday was in a few days.  I have since framed a print for him.

Retouching consisted of some dodging and burning and slight sharpening in Nikon Capture NX2 and Photoshop CS6.  I used a Nikon D800 with the Nikon 85mm f1.8 lens.  Camera settings were f/6.3, 1/200s, ISO 100.

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  1. Diane Lanthier says:

    This is amazing Bill! Thanks for capturing my dad in his 80th year. He has your photo hanging in the family room!!

  2. dennis mackinnon says:

    Wow…Love the lighting – and appreciate the details in your description of the process.