It's All A Balancing Act
(Singer Seal demonstrates balance)
by Walter Graff

I do lot of those celebrity interviews you see on such channels as The TV Guide Channel. I recently found myself doing a few that I would like to
discuss here. One was with the pop singer, Seal. These are great things to discuss here because they show how I think and how I overcome obstacles in a world that is never perfect. This was going to be in a chic hotel downtown. Normally I never know what I am in for. That doesn’t mean I take everything I own just in case. Rather I work with less and get used to having less and doing more. I see lots of folks often taking
the kitchen sink, but I teach folks to learn to do more with less and you’ll get better at your craft. Hint!

We got to the hotel. It was small. I found out we were in a bar in the lobby. The bar was closed. It was a typical downtown spot, minimalist. When we walked in the room another crew was already set up for a two-camera shoot for BET. And low and behold whatever was in the room, they had as props in their two angles, leaving me with some wood tables and a few candles. But as I always show, no fear, we’ll make it work.

So I had the other boring corner of the room. I tried to squint to see what would work and then said to myself, why do I have to imagine so much
going on? Can’t things just be simple? I acknowledged that I don’t always have to build incredibly elaborate backgrounds, so minimalist was the theme. A few tables together in the background made a dark texture with the plain walls and the corner of a huge painting that would be in the shot. I would have used a desk lamp but at the last minute a BET guy took it from the table in our area, and only after taking it did he turn back to ask if we needed it. I said no. I looked over at their set-up. It looked like an auction compared to mine with stuff everywhere.

But that was fine with me. In fact since minimalist was my theme for the shot, I kind of laughed at their set-up thinking it had too much going on.
So what next? First I figure out which way the room is leaning. Leaning? No not literally but figuratively from the aspect of picture weight.
Look at the illustration below:

If I asked you which way the weight of the picture above was leaning would you say to the right? In other words, if I wanted to balance the background with someone in front of it, which side would the talent work on better on, right or left? Let's look:


Above: Room weighted left and me left

Above: Room weighted left and me on the right for balance


Okay, I just realized it’s not the best demo I could come up with. In fact, the photo is of me from high school.

When I look at a room I see natural lines that create weight in a picture. These lines are created not only by real lines that might exist in moldings, etc on walls, but lamps, and pictures. Imagine having a car you load up with objects. If you put all the weight on the right side of the car, you would need something on the left to balance out the weight. I see that weight visually. So if the room leans left as it does in my original example above (illustration 1), I would want to put the person on the right for balance as I did in the second example of me in high school above. If I put myself on the left, there is lots of clutter as I have a room weighted left and my talent on the left leaving allot of area to the right that offers no visual balance. I almost feel like I am fighting the background when my talent is on the left and feel more balance when it's on the right.

In this interview I decided that the room naturally leans to the right slightly when I look through the lens so I wanted my talent, Seal on the left. Since I was going minimalist and had nothing to use to make it
anything more in the way of setting, I gathered around some tables and a few candles before the BET guys got them too.

And in terms of lighting it was as usual, as little as possible, but with the goal to get as much effect as I could muster. Knowing Seal has some facial marks from a childhood disease, I thought keeping him keyed from
one side would do me well. I used a Chimera with a 600 Watt Lowel light from the right side of frame. This would be the direction he was looking toward. I used a 100 watt LTM pepper Fresnel on the opposite side
behind him for some rim light. It wasn’t too high as to be a backlight but enough to shine a bit on his dark side.

I also added a slight fill on his dark side by simply opening up a flex fill and placing it along the bar so it reflected some of the key light back at him. It’s very subtle.

And finally for the background I used my trusty homemade
cukaloris with a 600 watt omni light. I like blue with black skin. Just works best for me to have such color contrast so I used half CTB on the
background light and 1/4 CTB on the kicker light on his head.

So I am using three lights as seen in the photos below. #1- 100 watt LTM Fresnel, #2-600 watt omni with CTB, #3 Cukaloris, #4- Chimera with 600 w omni.

The reflector on the right (above) has one purpose, to block the Chimera (not seen in photo) from spilling onto the background wall. Cuckoldries which creates the pattern on the wall can be seen on the left (above behind talent). The Rim/Back light is hidden from view behind it.

Similar shot as shown in first photo above also showing the Chimera also in the photo. Talent is behind make-up girl bending over on the left.

And for clarity here is the lighting plot:

#1- 100 watt LTM Fresnel
#2-600 watt omni with CTB
#3 Cukaloris
#4- Chimera with 600 w omni.

Here is the finished shot. The blue in the background is soft and I think
works well against his skin. Two candles offer some style and make it look
kind of ‘clubbish’ in what would be a stark setting and offer elements that create weight on the right side of the photo. Funny how much the
candles help as small an element as they are in the setting. In addition, the tables on the right offer balance to him on the left. Notice I tilt the camera slightly so the horizontal lines on the wall go up towards the right a bit making the shot less symmetrical and forcing a direction that compliments the direction he is looking. The rim light with 1/4 CTB touches his head telling us it’s three-dimensional. And finally, the key light does it’s job. No direct backlight in my set-up because I don't think he needs one, but the rim light is enough to separate him. Simplicity at it’s best, set, lighting and tone. It works well.

Copyright 2013 by Walter Graff. This article may be circulated and shared as long as the following reference is made:
'This article appears courtesy of Walter Graff-'

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