Beyond the Selfie - Combining Natural Light and a Speed Light for a Dramatic (self) Portrait

Being November and living in the Pacific North-West you get rain, a lot of rain, like cats and dogs... and elephants for that matter. A Torrential downpour doesn't make for great outdoor photography, so I had to find something inside to shoot. 

This week I've been watching a few videos and reading some articles about portraitures/head shots and how to properly light them. I don't have a great amount of experience with using several light sources to shoot portraitures. Usually I stick with outdoor natural light. One of the articles I read was using natural window light in a dark room to create a dramatic contrasty effect. This inspired me to recreate something similar with the tools I have on hand. 

One problem I faced right of the bat is a lack of having a proper 'model' so I had to work with what I had on hand, yours truly. Not the prettiest model around, but it had to do for now. The idea for this portrait is to create a dark scene with a strong soft key light to illuminate one side of my face and a dark/black background with strong contrast and shadows. 

In order to create this scene I darkened the room by closing all blinds except for the window that formed the key light. Placed the subject, me, right next to the window with the light coming in on almost a 90 degree angle, turning the body slightly towards the light so the left shoulder turning more towards the camera. As for the camera it was set up on a straight angle to the wall of the window. 

Due to the dreary weather outside, not a great amount of light came in so I had to dial the camera in at f/2.8 with a shutter speed of 1/13 of a second at iso 200 to get enough light in. I zoomed in at 50mm. Normally I wouldn't advise such a slow shutter speed, but being stable enough on the tripod it worked in this case. 

Soon enough I found that just having the window light (key light) was throwing too much of a shadow on the other side of my face. I had to find a way to fill that side of my face as well. I set up my speed light facing the window at the same hight as my face, about 2,5 meters away from the me, but placed slightly behind so the light came in on an angle. It only needed to fill in the shadows, so I set it at the lowest power.

Here is the result right out of the camera:

In post production I mainly focussed on creating contrast in separating myself from the background, especially my face in order to direct the eye to the main subject of the image. By darkening the background and adding some light to dark parts of the face I was able to creating this separation.

I experimented with changing the fill light by moving around the speed light. Here I moved the light further away and more on a straight angle. This Black and White edit and black background give it a bit of a different feel as well.