Constructing an image from an idea

An idea came to mind while my daughter was practicing her piano. I envisioned a cozy little space where she’s reading quietly, with a color palette that overlapped cool and warm colors. I wanted to show her as a little person that was almost ready to have her own space.

The problem is that there is no space like that in the house-walls are mostly off white, the furniture in her room is off-white… not exactly what I had in mind. So I challenged myself to construct this cozy, intimate space for her, and then bring her in and make the portrait.

One more thing I wanted to do was to experiment with props in the foreground - I was really impressed with how Mark Robert Halper uses the foreground plane as a creative element - this image is a good example. So I used her blue lava lamp to bring the cool color palette and also the foreground element. I moved her night stand to bring the lava lamp closer to the camera.

In order to achieve the cozy space idea I took a hand-woven orange patterned blanket we just bought in Peru and threw it over her bed’s headboard. Christina was also going to sit on this blanket, which would bring the warm colors to the composition.

The lighting was straightforward. I placed an SB-800 flash with a 20 degree grid on a light stand to camera right, in a near-butterfly position. Because I wasn’t using a modeling light, I instructed my little model to spot correct placement of the grid on her face, and to help me position the light. In order to get the blue very blue, and the orange more saturated, I decided to put 2 cuts of full CTO on the flash. When I adjusted white balance in post, I went for a warm tone that made the blue bluer.

And the only thing left was camera placement to have the lava lamp well present but without dominating the entire frame. It took a few trials - I used a tripod even though I was shooting at 1/160 or so. The lens was 85mm f/1.4.

My little one was an excellent model, patient with light placement. I like the results - hope she does too when she sees her portrait in the morning. I think I got pretty close to the image I previsualized.

Click on the thumbnails below to see a larger image:

Reading moment

Reading moment


Lighting diagram

Lighting diagram

Category: Technical

3 Responses to “Constructing an image from an idea”

  1. Milind Kothare

    Hey Paco, love your experiment results and thanks for sharing the lighting diagram. Here is something I thought I’d ask you about this picture.

    Visualizing this picture as if it was something you were to perceive when you walked into your daughter’s room. She has a blue lava lamp near her and some 100 to 150W reading light, say, lighting her and the book she is reading. Assuming you never popped the flash what would that look like? Would the low level lava lamp cast a few blue highlights on her? Wondering if thats what you actually saw and if that aspect could be somehow introduced into the picture.

    That may not be waht it looked like. Just wanting to know your thoughts on this.

    Thanks, Milind (mskothare on TPF)

  2. pacoromero

    Hi Milind.

    That’s a good question. Actually I “previsualized” the feeling and the colors. I knew I wanted cold and wam colors together, and I wanted her reading. I didn’t visualize “photorealistically” what the image would be exactly like - and I didn’t want to necessarily approach the work trying to emulate reality. I wanted to present a credible reality, but filtered thru my vision. The camera would capture more than I see, if I were photographing her with a reading light and the java lamp really close to her; I didn’t wan the camera’s “vision” of the scene, with color casts and mixed color temperatures. I wanted the image to reflect more the feeling and the idea in my head than any possible reality - yet, I wanted it to be credible enough.

    Hope this makes sense!

  3. Milind Kothare

    Thanks for elaborating. Answers my question. Helps me look at it more expansively. My take away is dont always have to mirror reality (without crossing into the realm of not credible).

Leave a Reply

Back to top