Finding Patterns, Confronting Limitations: A Photo Shoot Narrative

Walking with Kayla a few blocks from Broadway, led us to a public playground with a basketball court, near W43 st. What stood out to me from that location was the shadows from a nearby tree. The afternoon light was making a warm, diffused pattern on a white wall, giving us a great backdrop to start making portraits.

For me, something like a cast shadow on a blank wall brings contrast to the shot, especially if the main subject is lightened flat! Knowing that reflections would make the shot more dynamic, I asked Kayla to wear her sunglasses and bring her face towards the sun, making these sequence of photos a lot of fun to shoot!

I got pleasing results from photographing portraits against a patterned wall from shadows with BW film some time ago, so I was eager to try it again! (click here to view those pictures), But, as I was taking exposures, I started playing with the idea of allowing enough filtered light on Kayla’s face, but I feel I began to lose it once I added flash to increase contrast even more; not having a modifier that’s large enough to spread even lighting on her face gave our subsequent shots an unnatural look.

I now see I had options to make it work. I should have asked Kayla to remove her glasses or deviate her eyes from the main light. Moving the light source farther from her was not possible since I was holding it with my left hand. These days, when I set casual shoots, it’s just me, and for that reason, the idea of carrying a broad modifier does not seem practical. Having the limitations of using only ambient light gives me lots of flexibility; I can respond quicker and travel light. So, excluding reflectors or light stands make the process of taking portraits in the street easier on my back, but it also reduces attention to what I’m doing, and that’s hard to compromise.

To find Kayla on Instagram, Searh @poetickayla