Photography is composed of so many elements, especially at a commercial level. It includes everything from the Initial briefing kickoff, pre-production, schedules, production crews, art directors, clients, stylists, casting, auditions, talent, music, technology, creativity, performance, emotion and of course the lighting design. All these elements come together like the ingredients in a recipe. How well these elements are arranged, planned and engineered together determine just how delicious the dish is. But lighting, lighting is the ingredient that makes everything in the image sing. It ties the ingredients together and delivers the intended mood, context and messaging that will ultimately drive a campaign.
One of the most impactful ways lighting can affect the outcome of a photo shoot is to use low key or low light photography to sculpt an image. Low light instantaneously sets a dark mood of mystery and should be used with careful attention to detail. This lighting design can quickly set a tone for images in a campaign, and helps to craft what is reveled about the subject. To follow the recipe analogy – Think of low light as powerful spice use too much of it and the entire dish begins to taste only of that particular spice’s flavor.
The use of lighting, or where the lighting is placed within these types of images is paramount to how the story is told. Where light is placed within the frame is giving a voice to the image – it guides the viewer to look in a particular place or feel a particular way. Equally important is the absence of light within the frame. A dark area of the frame or regions where light is allowed to fall off allows the viewer’s imagination to wander within the image and question the intent of the subject.
Low light can be used to amplify the emotion of the subjects within the frame. In the commercial environment this amplification effect needs to be used with finesse so that the emotions feel intentional and authentic. Without intention low light can mute images by not showing enough detail or illuminating unnecessary elements within the frame. Scuplting a low light design without intention can also overly amplify the emotion – causing the resulting images to feel rushed and immature.
Because low-key lighting design is so powerful in its ability to guide the viewer’s attention, it’s often at the forefront of creative explorations. Working with the light at these low levels to bring a voice to the key themes. Creating these visual keys allow us to hone in on the critical messaging in the image.