On the weekend I went to one workshop about taking pictures with one flash and getting the background totally black, this is called lowkey photography or lowkey portraits. So we tried to achieve this quite dramatically looking pictures with black background and lots of shadows. I never realized that those kinds of pictures were done using only one light and they can be done in any lighting condition and without any background.
What I am meaning there is that for taking lowkey portraits you don’t need any black background or totally darkness to achieve the result. This pictures can be taken in a garden at midday. How its done then?
The first thing you need to do is to make your camera get a black picture, why you want that? Because then you will add the flash to light up only the subject of your photo. So you can start by setting your ISO to the lowest possible (in my case a 100) and then making your shutter speed and aperture so you achieve a black picture. For example F11 and then depending on the light 1/400 or more. A good tip is to check the histogram to make sure that there is nothing but black in your picture. Sometimes the displays of the cameras are not good and you cannot realize the tiny bits of colors there.
After that you can place your flash (and if you want an umbrella or reflector) and then start tuning things up. In my case the flash always have to be quite close to the subject to get a good picture. And also the subject has to be away from any wall or reflecting object. But after you start taking some pictures you realize how to adjust the settings of your camera to get the magical result.
I started by taking some pictures just with a flash directly over the subject. There the light was quite aggressive and I can get quite dramatic pictures. It was quite interesting to get this looks, the light was not filling the face of the subject and it was really bright. Then I added an reflective umbrella and then later a shot through umbrella and the results were totally different. The picture was light more evenly with more soft light.
I like this way of taking pictures, it was quite a nice exercise to understand how light works. Also I like it as a way of taking pictures of men, usually I find it hard to take pictures of guys, but I think this kind of lighting make the picture much more interesting.
Here is a link to a video tutorial about lowkey portraits that I like a lot :http://ricknunn.com/how-i-shoot-lowkey-portrait