Idea Bulb

Chris Lane / photography, process / / 4 Comments / Like this

Here is a photo idea I had that didn’t quite pull through. I’d like to know what you, my dear readers, think (add your comments at the bottom). I’ll write my thoughts below.

Light Bulb Self Portrait © Chris Lane Photo

The Idea

My original idea was to combine at least two or more of my skills together into one shot, to show a little more of what or who I am. The lightbulb representing an idea isn’t the most original thought ever, but I thought I could update it and make it my own. The illustration of the idea represents me being an ideas man and that the light is what illuminates the image shows that my ideas are brilliant. That may be a little over the top, but it gives the right message. I also love being outside, so I showed this in the image as well with the leaves in the background. The light is strong from the idea bulb, with a fill light to outline the other side of my shape. This shows my preferred style of photography which has a lot of chiaroscuro, in the vein of one of my favorite fine artists, Caravaggio. The illustration is done in a rather quirky style to offset the strong contrast in the image.

The Process

Now that you understand the message of the photo, I will give you a brief explanation of the process involved. A lot of the work I do has a very DIY ethic, which goes to show how to think around corners. A lot of times I try to use what I have available and this case is no exception. The light bulb that is casting the light is simply a floor lamp with the shade removed with about a 40W incandescent bulb. This by itself gave too much contrast, so I have another tri-spot lamp about 10 feet behind and to camera right that gives off just enough light to create shape and fill in some of the shadows. The camera is on a Tiltall Tripod and I have a remote shutter release in my hidden hand. It was a rather simple setup, something that really anyone could do. There are times that call for more complex lighting setups and times that don’t call for any light setup beyond the ambient. So don’t think that you will always need a team of assistants as some things can be done entirely on your own.

For the post processing, the idea illustration was created in Adobe Illustrator and composited in Photoshop. I had to remove the visible floor lamp to sell the illusion that the idea bulb is actually the light source.

Why it went wrong

Besides the initial idea being a little cheezy, one of the biggest things I think is wrong with this photo is the lighting itself. I kind of got the effect I was going for, but the light that I use next to me is a little too strong. This resulted in blown out rim lighting on my face. The highlights are simply too extreme.

The other problem I have with this image is the noise. I worked on reducing it in post, but the problem stems from a couple things. I didn’t actually have enough light in the scene. Which is kind of funny because of that extreme highlight. I used a smaller aperture of f/7.1 since I was taking this without the benefit of someone focusing it. A larger aperture would have let more light in, but the depth of field would be smaller, giving me a much smaller margin of error for not being able to focus the shot. So, since I have such a small aperture, my ISO was at the high end of 1600. The higher the ISO, the more noise that is introduced. And even with this high ISO, I still had to shoot at a relatively slow shutter speed of 1/25. This reduced the sharpness because more than likely I am not super steady.

So that pretty much accounts for the ups and downs of this image. There is no way that every image idea can result in perfection and this is a prime example. I really wanted it to work, but as many writers often say, “You have to kill your darlings,” when editing. So now it’s your turn. Critique my work. Give me some honest feedback in what you think of the image above. Maybe I’m wrong and it’s better than I think, or maybe it’s even worse than I think. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

© This article is copyright of Chris Lane Photo and should not be found elsewhere.