‘You don’t know the power of the dark side!’

Thought I would end the week with a look behind the scenes at the creative process behind my latest image.

I take a deliberate approach to my LEGO photography and consider four fundamental things before I even pick up my camera:

  • Light
  • Subject
  • Composition
  • The Idea

(for background reading on this framework, check out Ming Thein’s article The Four Things, redux)

The Idea

For this image I wanted to explore my earliest impressions of Darth Vader as a character: dark, powerful, and mysterious.

Light

I am partial to low-key images with soft lighting – placing emphasis on only specific areas of the frame using light, otherwise dark coloured tones, and with a smooth transition between light and shadow. My goal is to create a dramatic atmosphere with a little bit of mystery.

This was my setup:

  • A single LitraPro LED with softbox, mounted on a Platypod Ultra with gooseneck arms
  • A DIY diffusion panel made from parchment paper, held in place with a pair of Wimberley Plamps
  • A black ceramic tile as a shooting surface
  • A piece of black foam core as background
  • A pair of 2×2′ subfloor panels as a base (to which the Ultra is screwed into, and the Plamp clamped onto)

I placed the light centred high and to the rear of my subject to create rim lighting, exposed for the highlights, and let the shadows fall where they may.

Subject

When it comes to visual storytelling, I’m influenced by Stephen King’s book On Writing. After all, the word ‘photography’ was created from Greek roots and literally means ‘writing with light’. His advice: take out all of the things that are not the story.

And so I have a Darth Vader minifigure prominently in frame, with nothing else to distract from him. I isolated him as a subject from the black background with the rim lighting, as well as with the contrast between his cape and the surface immediately behind him. I added a vignette in post to further emphasize the central character.

Composition

To help visualize my composition choices, I’ve overlaid two grids here: rule of thirds in green, and quadrants in red.

You can see that I chose left/right symmetry while keeping my subject in the middle horizontal third of the image. I placed the horizon at approximately the top third line and the bottom of the cape at the vertical centre of the image. I used a reflection to help fill the frame, without introducing any new element to the scene to distract from the subject. (Plus, I enjoy shooting reflections. Don’t know why, just do!) For me, these choices resulted in a combination of symmetry, balance, and negative space that I found aesthetically pleasing.

The Idea

And so back the final image and the idea: the dark, powerful, and mysterious Darth Vader. It works for me. And you?

Full disclosure: At the time of writing, I have no affiliation or commercial relationship with any of the brands named. 

Published by Scott Murphy

Photography for the love of it.

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