“Swag” by Brian Day


"Swag" by Brian Day

Since Brian Day started contributing to the Shutter Photo @ Flickr Group, he has earned my respect as one of the most interesting self portrait photographers I’ve discovered on Flickr.  Does Brian’s name sound familiar?  It should .  We shared one of his self portraits, Boomtown, with you back in April, and he’s contributed dozens of self portraits to the group since.  The photo you see here, Swag, is just one of his many great self portraits.

Swag draws our attention this week because of the unique use of light.  The key light is is plainly designed to illuminate the fedora, revealing the many great textures on its surface.  But Brian himself is hidden in shadow.  If you’re monitor isn’t calibrated correctly, you may need to boost the brightness.  It’s subtle, but Brian’s Chin and lip is just barely showing through the darkness.  The obscuring of his face is Brian’s signature.  If you piece together all of his self portraits, you still wouldn’t know what Brian looked like. But perhaps it’s the obscurity and mystery that makes his portraits so intriguing.  What we don’t see is just as important as what we do see.  The subtle suggestion of a person present in this shot is haunting – because we don’t have all of the information.  It’s a clever way to create such a powerful image.

So lets get back to the lighting.  As we know, the primary light is up and to the left.  Allegedly, according to Brian’s notes, there is also one up and to the right with the same power.  If the power is the same, then the one on the right must be further away, as it does not seem to have the same impact as the primary light source.  The directionality of the primary light source is important for establishing texture.  Both light sources create a hard shadow underneath the lip of the ribbon.  Though such a subtle detail, the ribbon is given a great deal of depth by the way Brian has controlled the light.  To quote his own description, a setup like this “…is more about directing shadows than controlling light.”  A keen observation on Brian’s part, and some great advice when it comes to lighting. Or, should I say, when it comes to creating shadows.

If you’d like to be more inspired by Brian’s self portraits and other works, be sure to check out his flickr pool.


About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father’s Nikon N2000, he’s been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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