Creatively Speaking

Photography by Brian Rodgers Jr. Commercial Advertising Photographer

Hey guys! I know it’s been a while yet again. However, I promise you I’ve been busy, which is a good thing  Today I wanted to share a breakdown of a recent shoot; both technically and creatively. Having a background in design, I’m always subconsciously thinking about composition, color and the various elements & principles of design when I’m shooting. It’s all about seeing three dimensionally to compose a great shot. As photographers, we have to think on all sorts of different levels. We have to think about f-stops and shutter speeds. We have to communicate with our clients to help them really engage in the process of being photographed. And we have to think about the shots from a creative standpoint.

It’s important that you innately learn how to use your camera and gear to be a better photographer. You have to know what settings to shoot at without even thinking about it.  If you find yourself in front of a client and you don’t know what you’re doing, your client is going to pick up on that. It’s the difference between being an amateur or being a professional. If you find yourself guessing where your settings need to be, you need to practice. It’s the same way with the elements and principles of design. You need to naturally know them. How else will you compose your frame? You need to naturally know camera settings and use the elements of design without even thinking about it. The reason this is so important, is because you have to communicate with the person in front of your lens. As photographers we are in the business of not only making great images, we are in the business of customer service. When we naturally know our gear, when we naturally know the elements, we can naturally speak to our clients. We can free our mind from the technical aspects of the shoot and relate to our subjects on a more personal level. This will create “real” images. Remember that the camera looks both ways.

Light: The language of photography

If you look at the diagram below, you can see how I this shot up. I’m using 3 lights. A key light or (main light: large softbox with a grid), a rim light (strobe with a 10 degree grid spot; lighting only the hat) and a backlight (strobe with a 30 degree grid spot lighting the background: giving off a nice gradient behind the subject.) Here is a diagram to give you an idea of how the lights were set up.

Also note that I used only a white wall for this shot. You may ask yourself “why isn’t it white?” It’s not pure white because that’s not the look I was going for. I wanted the background to compliment the subject’s skin tone as well as the colors of the clothing that she was wearing. I wanted it to look warmer, so I chose a warmer white balance. It’s important to note that photography is a form of art. So when you are photographing your subject it’s important to keep the elements of design in your the back of your mind and subconsiously use them.

Now, since we are in a studio, I’m not really worrying about distracting elements in the background simply because I’m using a white wall as my background. So i know that I don’t need to at f 1.8 to blow the background out of focus. In terms of the background, the only thing I’m worrying about is where my backlight is falling behind my subject, and I want it positioned right behind her to give off a nice glowing gradient. Sometimes a solid color is ok for a background as well, but adding some light helps give the image some dimension.

The reason this shot works: Knowing the elements

Composition is key when creating a compelling portrait. You have to creatively find the frame. Notice the top of the hat is cut off? This was done purposefully. Had I put the entire hat in the shot, the frame would not have the same vibe. Color plays a role in your images because it helps set the overall mood and tonality of your image. Texture can help create contrast which can be pleasing to your viewers eye. Take a look at the texture on the fabric of the sweater and hat, and compare it to the smooth texture of the subjects skin. This contrast creates a tactile quality to the image. Lastly, I use my lighting to create value (a relative degree of lightness to darkness). This helps create shape and form in your photograph. This is very important because after all, photography is all about light. Without light, you have no photograph.

These are all things that I’m not even stopping to think about. It’s all happening naturally. It has to because you have to build a trust with the person that’s in front of your lens. The lens looks both ways. If you don’t know what you’re doing, the subject will pick up on that and you will see it in your images. If you are using both the technical aspects and the elements of design naturally, it frees you up for conversation with your client. Doing this will produce better images. It will be the difference between a snapshot and a great shot.

This shot was taken at F13 1/200 ISO 100

Until next time!


Brian Rodgers Jr.

Commercial Photographer/Digital Artist, USA

Brian Rodgers Jr. is a commercial advertising photographer based in South Bend Indiana. Brian has a wealth of commercial photography experience photographing everything from commercial portraits, RVs, large commercial vehicles, product and food photography, to multi-million dollar mansions. Furthermore, he has created brand images for national companies and his work has been published in various national and international publications including Photoshop User Magazine, Dentaltown Magazine, Incisal Edge Magazine, and the popular web based show "Photography Tips & Tricks" produced by Kelby Media Group to name a few. Brian’s overall body of work demonstrates a real cultivation of skills behind the lens as well as a wide array of cutting edge post production techniques. He provides his clients with exceptional images and ensures customer satisfaction through his relentless work ethic. Brian is not just a photographer, he is an artist. Retouching his own work allows him to deliver a product that reflects his vision as an artist. And his clients are never disappointed in his abilities to produce consistent, compelling images. Fun Fact: He shot his own portrait