Less is More – Shadows tell a Story

Good day,

One thing I like to do is study cinema, and there is a documentary called “Cinematographer Style” that interviews dozens of these artist about their technique, style and craft. One of my favorite sections is from an award winning cinematographer talking about lighting. paraphrased¬†, it goes something like this

When things don’t work, it is usually because you have done too much of something or you made the wrong decision. Start taking things away, not adding too. Imaging a boat is listing, so you add sand to one side, then it list the other way so you add more sand and eventually the boat sinks. Less is always better.

While words like ‘Always’ are powerful, there is available lesson in there for use as photographers. In the following image I was wanting to create a clean, beautiful image of this couple’s new found love– That is their story. I used Translum as the background with a Profoto D1 placed about 10′ behind it. The entire diffusion panel needed to be illuminated. I then added a 3′ Octa Box in front and above to light their faces. The moment I took the image, I knew something was off and I remembered the above quote, “If it isn’t working, typically you have too much”


I then turned off the overhead main light, adjusted my shutter speed by a stop and fired again. Boom! There is the story! It was in the shadows. I still achieved a clean, beautiful image of this couple, but I was able to add more of the story by taking away. In my opinion, the latter works better.


I am in love with one light images, God gave us one light and it works pretty well, so perhaps one is enough and less is actually more. That does not mean, we never use more than one light and we need to have a variety of tools, however, many times it does the job beautifully. I want to encourage you to just use only one light next session, and when something isn’t working, remember, it may be because you have too much.

Happy creating, Cris.


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