Behind the Photograph

Ethiopia

Ethiopia

There are a lot of hidden stories in the still image. Rarely do they house one narrative. This is a chance for me to tell you about those stories. 

In the past on this series I’ve mainly featured personal work. This time I’m swinging the other way. To fund some of our work here in Ethiopia we often submit proposals to embassies, non-profits and other organizations. Oftentimes we need some images to spruce up these proposals. That’s where this image comes in. It was shot as part of an image library to have for the proposals.

I knew a few things about this shoot before walking into it. We would have some models, it would be in someones home (with no pre-scout) and it needed to focus on the use of technology (because we publish a lot of our content digitally). And I’ve got to tell you, when I walked into this scenario I was pretty nervous. The room had white walls without any decoration, a very busy carpet, and the couch and cushions reminded me of those Magic Eye images from the 90s. It was pretty busy and distracting. So what’s a guy to do?

lighting setup

Get crafty, that’s what! To minimize the impact of the couch and carpet I wanted to go dark. Thankfully we shot pretty late at night so ambient wasn’t a problem. With a friends wife as an assistant and translator I got to work. To light the women I would ordinarily put a white piece of paper on the screen and boom a gridded light overhead, pointed at the white paper, to produce a nice computer “glow”. But due to the back wall this wasn’t an option. Thankfully I was able to jack up my ISO and my 5d Mrk. IV was sensitive enough to read the computer as the key light. Problem 1 solved.

Problem 2 was it left the room as dark as a black hole (which, thanks to modern technology, we finally know how dark that is!). So I pulled a trick out of my bag from my assisting days. I NDed a light to my left and pointed it at a dark window drape to my left to add a kiss of fill light. A bunch of shutter clicks later and voilà!

I really like how this image turned out and it has served us well. The women were excellent at taking direction and it a culturally appropriate image for our audience. I hope to add more images to the library in the near future so stay tuned.