It’s amazing how great results you can get with simple and inexpensive gear, when you know how to work with light and use the camera you have.
The image below shows his lighting setup. You can pick up a reflector like that one for 20 bucks on Amazon, Adorama or, B & H photo. He didn’t spend much time shooting it either. His daughter only let him get off about five shots before she ran away. I personally like this image way better than many of the images I’ve seen photographers use six lights to set up. You can hear about it in Ryan’s own words below.
I pulled a few props from the closet, giving their snow hats and scarves the only action they’d see that week. One Russian-style fur hat stood out in particular. When I tried it on my daughter, I knew I had my prop. I wrapped a scarf around her neck, working quickly in order to get the shot before she too began to groan. I placed her next to a large Southeast-facing window, which illuminated the left side of her face perfectly. However, the right side of her face was slightly underexposed, so I pulled out my large, 5-in-1 collapsible reflector to brighten up the side of her face away from the window. Initially, I tried the gold reflective surface, but the results were too warm. I knew that I was going for a ‘cold’ photo, both in terms of the overall theme, and the white balance. So, I slipped on the silver covering which gave me the same punch-up in light, but kept the scene relatively cool.
Since I virtually never remove it, my D700 was already wearing the lens I wanted to use: my Nikon 85mm 1.4G. This lens gives me decent scene compression, excellent contrast and sharpness, and the 1.4 Aperture allows me to work with a razor-thin depth of field for subject isolation. I knew I wanted the eyes and face to be sharp, with everything else fading into blurriness. I quickly made sure I was working at a low ISO (200), and set my Aperture to f/2. I then asked my model if she could tell me what color my eyes are by looking through my lens—a trick that still seems to work after about 8,000 uses. Ellie sat still just long enough for me to knock out 5 frames, before tearing off the hat to go play.
When I pulled the image up in Aperture, I was surprised how close to a finished photo it was straight out of the camera. The soft light coming through the window had done its job, as had my beautiful subject.