Emulating Rineke Dijkstra's Lighting

Last week I was studying different lighting techniques from different artists. The one that I really liked is the lighting used in Rineke Dijkstra Beach Portrait Series.

 If you are not familiarized with her work, check it out here: Rineke Dijkstra Beach Portraits (SAATCHI Gallery)

The mayority source of light used in her photos is natural light. Most of them look like they were taken on a cloudy day, which is perfect because the light is soft and even. The look I was hoping to achieve is a little bit more bright because the light in California is really hard (Summer over here!).

My first 2 subjects were very easy to photograph. They are really small (20 cm tall), even with a lot of hard sunlight the speedlight was enough to bright them up, to get a well balance light in the photograph. By looking at the shadows, you can tell that the sunlight it's brighter than the speedlight (you can see a very hard shadow in the left). I love the overall result, it's not to bright and the exposure is spot on. 

After that I tried the same configuration with a taller subject, but I had to make a few adjustments on my lightning. Using the same configuration I used with the Chihuahuas, got me this:

I had two problems, I didn't have enough light from the speedlight to bright him up, and as a consequence everything on the left side it's on shadow. At this point I realized that I need a stronger source of light. Since I don't have another speedlight, I changed two things. First I made my subject smaller, so instead of being stand up, he sat down; and second, I added a new source of light, a silver reflector (Seriously! get the bigger foldable reflector you can find, best investment ever.)

This is the configuration I used:

Finally I got what I wanted

The three images have almost the same exposure, but the third had a extra source of light. This is really important to understand, the same configuration for lighting not always will give you the same result. This is why I try not to use textbook configurations. Learning how to read the light is the key to get better photographs because this skill will help you to achieve the look you want. 

After working in this little project, I tried to find the real lighting configuration for Rineke's photos and I found this great blog:

It's not official, but at least I know that my instinct was pointing in the right direction.

If someday I do this again I will definitely try to get a few more speedlights and reflectors to capture  my subject standing like the original serie.


Canon 6D EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM
Altura Photo Professional Flash Kit for Canon DSLR with E-TTL Flash AP-C1001
Neewer 43-inch Collapsible Multi-Disc Light Silver Reflector


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