Deal 9: Hacking Photography mega-deal
You will notice that in the majority of good portraiture, dramatic lighting is often a key element. It’s not too often you’ll find ‘flat’ lighting in a great picture (not to say it can’t be done however). It will either result in the lighting that appears directly on the person or dramatic lighting between the subject and the foreground or background. For example, in the images of Bilbo and Thorin Oakenshield, there is dramatic, directional lighting on their faces. There are many ways that dramatic lighting can manifest itself or be achieved.
You may also notice in images created by someone who knows how to process their images, they’ll have excellent tonal range. The images from The Hobbit capitalize on this. Proper images have some deep blacks and some highlights as well. This is also another way to avoid having your image appear ‘flat.’ It doesn’t necessarily have to be a great deal of each, just so long as you’re touching on both ends of the spectrum. Some photographers like to use filters or they have a style of slightly muting everything which minimizes tonal range. This is fine. There are times when the photographer can make a decision not to have a high contrast image. They still produce a great image, however this style is to be intentional and purposeful.
Another element that can really enhance an image is including interesting foregrounds or backgrounds. These are two things that always need to be considered one way or the other. It’s very easy, especially if you’re new to photography, to forget about these and end up with distracting backgrounds or foregrounds. However, do not simply avoid them; they are useful tools to achieve a stronger image. Look at every example image from the movie. Don’t the backgrounds give interest, setting, and help tell a story? That’s what we’re wanting.
Don’t be afraid to try new angles. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of taking pictures from the same angle or height. Try spicing it up some; you may be shocked. Get high. Get low. Back away. Get close. This can add some variety to your shots and help you find a real keeper.
Be very aware of how your colors and image temperatures are telling a story. Are your colors too bright and vibrant or too muted? How does this affect the mood? Is the image temperature cold and moody or warm and cheerful? These are things that can be fined-tuned to help narrate your image. If you’re wanting a dramatic image like Gandalf’s photo, then a warm temperature would not be desired. Chances are you could put more thought into these details to improve your images. So often we take the picture concerned only with composition, lighting direction, and subject when the color can be considered more thoroughly.
If shooting outdoors, instead of allowing the sky to be a blown-out nuisance, view it as a resource, and use it to your advantage. Now, this may not always be possible due to equipment, desired effect, or setting. But there are ways that you can properly capture the clouds or the blue of the sky. You could either expose for the sky and light the subject with additional lighting, use HDR, or find a proper exposure with natural light that works for both your subject and the sky. But don’t always avoid the sky; learn to tame it. Notice the drama it adds to Gandalf and Bilbo’s images.
Using a very large aperture and creating a shallow depth of field can be a great affect for portraiture and many other types of photography. This doesn’t mean, however, that it is the only effective use of DOF. Use a large DOF every so often, especially if your background could amplify the effect of the image. Make the image sharp throughout the entire image. Play around with both and learn in what situations it works best.
David Wahlman is a wedding and portrait photographer from Redding, CA. He works all around California and is aiming to get into destination photography. You can see his best work at www.wahlmanphotography.com and follow his updates on his facebook page.
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April 24, 2013 12:27 pm
I read this article completely about the
difference of most recent and earlier technologies, it's amazing article.
January 22, 2013 09:10 am
thanks for the article... noticed they used lots of focus to direct the viewers eye. once not so well when a dwarf was eating in bilbos Hobbit hole. sound was on the crunch and they prematurely moved the focal point to Bilbo. point is to think about the audience or viewers eye movement in the photo.
January 18, 2013 10:42 pm
It is magnificent. how Ideas gets. so I am very wonder about knowing the Technics especially the movie shoots too ! My gratitude to this tutorials personals. I got new formula to capture new formula to take good pictures.
January 18, 2013 05:54 am
Thank you; good thoughts.
Unfortunately, as I watch movies and TV shows, it seems that we are creating another "formula" - albeit a more interesting one but still a formula. Most movies/shows I saw recently, use strong side-lighting for drama. Sometimes this is believable (for example, where the subject is next to a window) but in poorly lit rooms?!
January 18, 2013 04:07 am
It's more a matter of studying movies in general, not just one film. People today learn the bulk of their visual language from movies, so it's probably a good idea to learn and use that language in still photos. Each different film has a team of people with years of experience and trucks full of equipment just for giving the film a particular lighting look, making them good people to learn from. Maybe even take a film lighting course or two, if possible (it's very hard to learn lighting with strobes instead of "hot" lights). And for post, some of the books on color grading, while complicated, also provide some basic ideas that translate well to stills.
January 9, 2013 03:22 pm
Funny to read this article because I was just thinking about how the Hobbit film has finally put me off of the ridiculously over-wrought digital imagery it contains. This ruined the movie for me. Middle Earth is not in Hollywood people, the actual book is set in a pretty dreary place. Hopefully "Hobbit-like visuals" will become a slang term for ridiculously overproduced digital lighting effects that make a story suck. Very disappointing, my advice - stay home and read the book. And then delete the HDR software on your computer ;-)
Excellent article here though, thanks for writing!
January 7, 2013 11:56 pm
any literature review / discussion / conclusion on theories that generate such conceptual ideas on how to create great images?
January 7, 2013 08:17 am
Sorry to to tell you that most of the images and shots in The Hobbit are not original images but digital composites and manipulations of several images. That is not to say that they are not great images but no matter how well you light and compose many of these scene would not be able to be achieved without the assistance of some levels of post production work.
A movie is a production, however, of that which is unbelievable made real. No too many movies and t.v. shows are made today with out the aid of special effects and composited visuals. So its a good article but simply changing an angle isn't going to produce Hobbit-like visuals. You need a lot of tools both in camera and post production work to create stunning scenes like we see in this movie.
Solid photography skills allow you to create great images which can be further built on.
January 5, 2013 03:39 pm
Don't like #2. I hate clipped highlights/shadows. Midtones contrast or an S-Curve work.
January 5, 2013 04:19 am
Movies are great sources of inspiration and all of these are excellent points. And I'm sure I'll get in trouble for this but I don't think any of those examples are photographs. Yes, they're portraits in the sense that a painting can be a portrait but it isn't as if someone set it all up with lights and a backdrop and shot it and then made some adjustments in post. Sorry. I don't mean to hijack the thread. I realize some people may think differently, but to me they're really great, dramatic images, very little of which was achieved through photography.
January 3, 2013 12:02 pm
Good read! Movies are great sources of ideas and tips on how to shoot your subjects. If you have seen the classic silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari you will find that every still is a good photograph that you can frame and hang or you could turn into a poster.
January 3, 2013 07:34 am
I may be the only person who thought so, but I didn't think the highlights were very well controlled at all in some parts of the film. The earlier scenes in the film that were outdoors in the Shire were especially bothersome. The sky is pretty well blown out, which is something one would not expect to see in such a big budget film as The Hobbit. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
January 3, 2013 03:12 am
Isn't it amazing how angles create such different moods. If some of these angles would have been shot from the opposite direction you would have a different feeling and more importantly experience.
January 3, 2013 12:43 am
Oddly, one of the things that struck me most about "The Hobbit" was the heavy-handed use of depth-of-field effects. It may be part of the whole "3D experience", but there were a number of scenes - particularly early on - where the faces of two characters were in shot. One would be in sharp focus, the other - a little distance behind or in front - would be blurred almost beyond recognition. I found it very distracting and amateurish.
Rather than being a good example, "The Hobbit" was more of an Awful Warning of what happens if you don't obey point #7.
January 2, 2013 09:18 pm
I guess the best photography-related tip I got from this movie is the old "what you decide to cut is every bit as important as what you decide to include in the frame". But sadly it doesn't derive from the cinematography properly. It comes from watching a repetitive, videogame-like movie that made me feel like the author stretched a story that could be successfully told in an hour to extend the running time to three instead. And it wasn't to the benefit of the "art" nor that of the audience...
January 2, 2013 09:15 pm
You forgot to add, Spend a lot of time in Post production.
January 2, 2013 07:13 pm
A lovely article to being the year with!
January 2, 2013 06:24 am
A lot of the stuff is CG
January 2, 2013 04:42 am
Interesting thoughts. There were moments in the Hobbit where I found the images challenging and your thoughts help clarify them for me. In the early parts of the movie the lack of depth of field I found problematic and distracting - almost unreal; although, as the movie progressed that experience did change for me. In response to the comments on dramatic lighting the movie Lincoln comes to mind because of it's liberal use of relatively flat lighting to achieve the results that it sought. I'd respond to most of your comments by reminding myself that all of these factors play into what it is I wish to achieve with the pictures I take. Times when each element need to be considered. Thanks for the comments.
January 2, 2013 04:09 am
"Proper images have some deep blacks and some highlights as well"
Although I can agree with the principle, but what consitutes a "proper image"? And what makes it different from an improper one?
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