This week I had the opportunity to do some indoor photography in the house of a friend. The idea was to snap a quick photo of him, as I need to have one more photo for an article I was about to submit to digital photography school on the creative use of rim light.
He is deeply in love with Japanese culture, so was without a surprise that he had a Katana hanged around: what better prop to use for rim light?
If you don't know what rim light is, while waiting for DPS to publish my article in a couple of weeks, think at rim light as the opposite of a silhouette. In the silhouette, you have the shape of the subject, in black, against a white background. In rim light, you hide the flash behind the subject and instead of aiming to the background, you turn it towards the subject and let the light spill over the edges of the subject shape. Below, a typical setup is shown: the bare flash is often used between full and 1/4 of full power and a black background is used to adsorb any stray light.
If no other light sources are used, the resulting image is very dark and it has a moody and a mysterious feeling, as only a hint of what is going on on the set is readily shown to the viewer.
This natural mysteriousness character in rim light is, to me, the reason why I do this kind of photography. This, and the fact that it is really simple to do and requires very little space and equipment. In fact, the photo session at my friend's apartment was done in his tiny living room, between the couch and the TV set.
While the idea of using rim light in combination with a katana pop immediately in my mind (just think at that tiny hard light running along the metal blade of the sword....), the wanted effect was much harder to obtain, as I was using only a single flashgun. Finally, after a quite long trial&error process, we were able to get something decent.
I also had the idea to use his guitar as prop but, having understood that one light was too little to properly lit the guitar and the player, I decided to transform my Samurai into a rock singer on stage thanks to a vintage-look microphone he had around.
The setup was the same as for the rim light, but this time the flash was placed behind the mic and somehow visible, so to lit my friend's face and long hairs while throwing some nice flares around in the attempt to imitate the reflectors used for concert stages. The final touch, was that the flash highlighted dust particles flying around, making the shots more alive.
An advantage to shoot in such teeny tiny place is evident in the photo above: thanks to the white walls, in fact, light was scattered and diffused around enough so that I could lit the hands and forearms of my friend, while holding the mic.
If you are stuck in the house because of crappy weather and you don't know what to do, why not give rim light photography a try? Have fun!